Liberal elites almost by definition fancy themselves as intellectual sophisticates, in contrast to the rubes who populate fly-over country. They practice “nuance” and do not give way to conservatives’ base emotions (“triumphalism” was how President Obama sneered at the reaction to the Iraq war success). Their ideas are “progressive” (although they bear an uncanny resemblance to 1930s Keynesianism).

But, in fact, the most liberal man ever to hold the presidency has not a single “new” or creative (i.e., “Third Way”) idea. For the economy: Spend more, raise taxes and hire public employees. For the budget: Slash defense and raise taxes on the rich. He has made no effort to innovate on entitlement reform, take risks on immigration reform or embrace tax reform as a way out of the partisan standoff on taxes and the debt.

He is running, quite bluntly, on a serious of gross distortions about his opponent and his predecessor. He claims 90 percent of the debt was inherited from President George W. Bush. Wrong. He claims his opponent wants to raise taxes on the middle class. Wrong. (Yet another study demonstrates Mitt Romney’s plan to lower rates for everyone and take away deductions and credits for the wealthy can be tax-neutral without adversely affecting the tax code’s progressivity). In fact, Obama has already raised taxes on the middle class via Obamacare, as a new Romney ad points out:

Moreover, a new study demonstrates that to sustain the level of spending Obama wants, he’ll have to raise taxes on middle-class taxpayers, not just the “rich.”(Matt Jensen and Aspen Gorry of the American Enterprise Institute finds, “Under the distribution of the tax code implied by current law, households with cash income between from 10-20 thousand dollars will bear $69 per year of the interest payments on today’s stock of debt. Households with cash income from 50-75 thousand dollars will bear $1,366 of annual costs and households with cash income from 200-500 thousand dollars will bear $9,586. Under a current policy distribution, these income groups would bear $33, $1,390, and $9,707of the interest costs, respectively. Under the administration’s budget, these income groups would bear $36, $1,309, and $9,656.”)

Obama also claims that Romney wants to go back to the Bush policies that caused the recession. Wrong . . . on two grounds. Of all the arguments this is the most sophomoric and dishonest.

First, Bush pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, private spending accounts for Social Security, domestic spending increases and tax cuts that preserved the intricacies of the current tax code. Romney is not for any of this (for better or worse).

Second, no economist liberal or conservative actually believes the Bush tax cuts or much of anything else Bush did “caused” the financial meltdown sparked by the collapse of the housing bubble.

As for the notion that “deregulation” caused the housing mess, it should be noted Bill Clinton passed Glass-Steagall while the Bush administration pushed for reform of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the government-supported mortgage lenders who helped fuel the housing bubble), which lawmakers such as then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) blocked.

I find it hard to believe that if it were a Republican campaign run on such flimsy falsehoods the media wouldn’t have torn the candidate apart for serial dishonesty. But frankly, Romney hasn’t done a very good job puncturing the Obama’s falsehoods.

The debates might be the place to do it. However, a word of caution is in order. A lot of persuadable voters don’t want to think their president is a liar. They might, however, recognize that he doesn’t have any real solutions to problems that we face. They might be willing to admit that his criticisms of Romney don’t really hold up. (Maybe he is, you know, “confused” about them.)

If Romney can get only one thing across to voters in the debate tomorrow and in the final five weeks of the campaign, it should be that there is no there there when it comes to Obama. His ideas are trivial (hire teachers to kick a 1.3 percent growth rate into high gear?) or nonexistent, and his attacks just aren’t true. Put differently, there is an intellectual lightweight in the race, and it’s not Romney.