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Candidates meet 'natural-born' test despite rumors

Friday, October 10, 2008

WASHINGTON —  As John McCain and Barack Obama vie to become president, certain fevered voices persist in saying they should not even be allowed to try.

In an argument popular on the Internet and taken seriously practically nowhere else, critics of the candidates argue that each does not qualify to run for the White House because he's not a "natural-born citizen" as the Constitution requires.

Obama plainly is, because he was born in the U.S.

McCain qualifies, too, although the circumstances of his birth _ on a U.S. naval base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 _ were unusual enough to merit a review.

In California, U.S. District Judge William Alsup threw out a lawsuit seeking to remove McCain from the state's ballot because of his birthplace.

Alsup ruled in September that McCain was essentially a qualifying citizen two times over _ first, because both his parents were U.S. citizens, which satisfied eligibility rules of the time; and because a law passed a year after his birth retroactively recognizing people born in the zone as natural-born Americans.

McCain's father was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone with the U.S. Navy.

The Constitution requires that only "natural-born" citizens hold the presidency. But the Founding Fathers did not elaborate on the term, so bloggers and others have had a field day.

Theories abound that Obama actually was born abroad and that his birth certificate, proving he was born in Hawaii, is a fake.

Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961, two years after Hawaii became a state. He is the son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas, who met and married in Hawaii. After the marriage failed, a 6-year-old Obama left Hawaii to spend four years in Indonesia with his mother and Indonesian stepfather. In 1971, when he was 10, Obama's mother sent him back to Honolulu to stay with his maternal grandparents.

In response to the allegations, Obama's campaign in June posted the Illinois senator's birth certificate on his campaign Web site, http://fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate.

The nonpartisan Web site Factcheck.org examined the original document and said it does have a raised seal and the usual evidence of a genuine document.

Even so, a lawsuit challenging Obama's candidacy was filed in August in a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania and is still pending.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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