It’s official: The 2012 presidential campaign has hit rock bottom.
* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes in a decade, but refused to name his source.
* President Obama referred to the Republican presidential nominee as “Romney Hood” because he allegedly robs from the poor to give to the rich.
* Romney dubbed Obama’s alleged exaggerations about his record as “Obama-loney.”
* A Democratic super PAC ran an ad that not-so-subtly suggested that Romney’s actions led to the death of a woman.
* The Romney campaign released an ad accusing Obama of working to “gut” welfare reform, a claim that independent fact-checkers found highly questionable.
To be clear: This has not been a campaign that, to date, has brought out the best in politicians — or the people who cover them. But this week feels as though we have passed from the sort of occasional hijinks that define almost every political campaign and wandered into a downright mean-spirited smallness that seems uniquely ill-suited to the dire situation facing the country. (Fiscal cliff, anyone?)
Put another way — with a hat tip to Outlook editor Carlos Lozada for the idea — the campaign has come to resemble a 3rd grade insult fest at a time when people seem to be yearning for some adult supervision.
So, what gives? Why does this week seem so much worse than the weeks that have come before it?
Theories abound — most of them (surprise, surprise) with a partisan tinge.
Democrats insist that Romney is panicking amid national and swing state polling showing him falling behind Obama. “Obama has his foot on Romney’s throat and might finish him off this summer,” said Democratic consultant Jim Jordan. “And Romney is, therefore, desperate.”
Republicans argue that Democrats started it — did we mention the 3rd grade-ization of the race over the past week? — and that they are now simply responding in kind.
We tend to agree with Matt Bennett, a veteran of the Clinton White House, who suggested that August has traditionally been a time when the smallness of political campaigns comes to the fore.
“August is a bad month for politics,” said Bennett. “Voters aren’t really paying attention, especially during the Olympics, and the campaigns are just vamping as they prepare for the conventions and the fall.”
The campaign has been in what amounts to a holding pattern since the start of the Olympics, which blots out the sun in terms of media coverage (and voter interest) and doesn’t end until Sunday.
Add to that Olympic blackout the fact that we remain in a holding pattern regarding the identity of Romney’s running mate, and you have lots of antsy campaign operatives with nothing better to do than take potshots at one another while almost no real voters are paying attention.
Things should change — hopefully for the better — soon. Romney’s vice presidential pick could come as soon as today and the Republican National Convention starts in just 17 days. We are only 54 days away from the first presidential debate and just 88 days away from the election.
With the days before voters render their decision dwindling, neither party can afford another week like this one. Or so we hope.
Signs of economic progress?: Don’t look now, but the long-stalling economy is showing at least some signs of recovery.
The Post’s Zach Goldfarb and Michael Fletcher report that housing prices and new home construction are rising, hiring increased last month, exports have picked up, and those seeking unemployment insurance has dropped significantly.
Of course, all of those measures generally take a back seat to the jobs report, where the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent last month and the number of jobs created continues to fall shy of where economists say it needs to be to jumpstart the economy.
The other measures, of course, could help Obama make that case that progress is being made. But they are significantly harder to explain.
Chicago Tribune says Obama should denounce ad: Obama’s hometown paper editorial board, the Chicago Tribune, is calling on him to denounce the controversial Priorities USA ad featuring Joe Soptic blaming Romney for his wife’s death.
“The right tactical decision by the White House might be to keep its distance,” the board wrote. “But the right ethical decision would be to call out the people working on the president’s behalf for this dishonorable message.
“Mr. President, lift the campaign. Call this ad what it is: a disgrace.”
The White House and Obama campaign have distanced themselves from the ad but haven’t weighed in on whether it’s appropriate. The Tribune joins an increasing media backlash against the ad.
The Democratic National Convention will feature some Republicans.
A new Obama TV ad fights back against the Romney campaign’s welfare charges.
Newt Gingrich does Romney another (ahem) favor, saying “I don’t particularly dislike him as a person.”
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s (D-Ill.) staff says he will seek reelection and will return soon from a depression-related absence.
Rep. Michael Grimm’s (R-N.Y.) problems mount: he failed to disclose a privately funded trip to Cyprus. The trip was funded by a group whose CEO was recently arrested on federal corruption charges.
Rep. David Cicilline’s (D-R.I.) primary challenger, Anthony Gemma, says his jobs plan “will be remembered as the opening engagement in a New Industrial Revolution for the 21st century.” And an intern for the GOP candidate in the race, Brendan Doherty, got caught requesting campaign materials from Cicilline’s campaign.
Former Minnesota state senator Tarryl Clark debuts a new ad featuring the endorsement of Bill Clinton in the Democratic primary to face Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.).
“Sen. Sherrod Brown targeted by U.S. Chamber, outside conservative groups” — Paul Kane, Washington Post
“Obama the candidate emerges on Colorado trip, with political ferocity” — Scott Wilson, Washington Post
“Romney Faces Pressure From Right to Put Ryan on Ticket” — Michael D. Shear, New York Times
“Tim Pawlenty waits to see if his campaigning will lead to vice presidential nod” — Michael Leahy, Washington Post
“In Real Estate Deal, Romney Made His Loss a Couple’s Gain” — Mike McIntire, New York Times