Has the 2012 presidential campaign jumped the shark?
Today’s Florida primary will mark the fourth early-state race to date, with 52 states and territories — or 93 percent of the 56 total — yet to hold their primaries or caucuses.
And yet, it seems possible that the 2012 presidential race is already on track to be one of the most hyperbolic in recent memory.
(Yes, we realize that statement itself borders on the hyperbolic.)
Consider these recent remarks by candidates and others on the campaign trail:
— Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday compared President Obama to Francesco Schettino, captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia who faces charges of manslaughter, shipwreck and abandoning ship.
— Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) went up over the weekend with both English- and Spanish-language TV ads in Florida featuring footage of communist Cuba and claiming that the United States “is starting to look like” the Castro regime.
— Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) on Friday issued a critique via her Facebook page in which she accused members of the GOP establishment of engaging in a “Stalin-esque rewriting of history” by taking aim at Gingrich’s record as speaker.
And that’s only the past 96 hours.
Of course, the political hyperbole in recent months has been bipartisan — see Rep. Andre Carson’s (D-Ind.) claim in August that tea-party-aligned members of Congress see African Americans as “second-class citizens” and would like to see them “hanging on a tree.”
Or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) charge in July that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “chose to go to the dark side” by reworking the House’s version of a debt-ceiling bill in order to make it more palatable to conservatives.
And Monday, Obama strategist David Axelrod joined the fray, tweeting a picture of Obama riding in a car with Bo, the family dog, and the caption, “How loving owners transport their dogs.” The tweet was an apparent shot at Romney, who in 1983 drove 12 hours from Boston to Canada with the family dog, Seamus, riding in a carrier atop their station wagon, a story that nearly three decades later has managed to become campaign fodder.
Is Romney really a dog hater? Is the GOP establishment really behaving like Soviet dictator Josef Stalin? Has Boehner actually gone over to “the dark side”? And is the United States really on its way toward becoming an authoritarian regime like Cuba under Castro?
To take a brief step back from the heat of the campaign is to ponder these and others — including whether the incendiary rhetoric that has marked national politics over the past several months is the new normal or just a momentary detour on the way to November.
We’d like to hear your take; the comments section is open for business.