The lieutenant-governor of Tennessee, a candidate in this year's gubernatorial election, says he doesn't know if President Obama is a citizen of the United States.

In arguing against making President Obama's citizenship a political issue, Ron Ramsey told a meeting of Nashville Republicans, "I don't know whether President Obama is a citizen of the United States or not. I don't know what the whole deal is there."

The lieutenant-governor continued: "But I'm going to tell you something. When you walk out on the street ... people don't really care about this issue. "

Ramsey's comments, first reported by Jeff Woods at the Nashville Scene News Blog, came in response to a comment from Maclin Davis, a former Tennessee Republican Party lawyer who is pushing the state legislature to pass a law requiring the state to bar any presidential candidate from the ballot unless they provide "positive proof they are a native-born citizen."

"It seems like it would be really good if somebody would file a suit against our present president to get back all the money he's been paid as president on the grounds he's not a legitimate president since he's not a native-born citizen," Davis said, in contravention of available evidence.

The Tennessee Republican Party has had a stormy relationship with the US's 44th president.

In 2008, as Obama campaigned for the presidency, the state's GOP put out a press release entitled "Anti-Semites for Obama," in which it tried to link the president to four prominent figures it said were anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, including Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and former Weather Underground member Bill Ayres.

In late 2008, former Tennessee Republican chairman Chip Saltsman stirred controversy when he sent out a CD of the infamous "Barack the Magic Negro" song to Republican National Committee members.

Saltsman was a candidate for the chairmanship of the RNC at the time. The job went to Michael Steele instead.

Ramsey announced in February, 2009, that he would run for governor in the 2010 election.