In the 2012 presidential race, voters have recently been treated to a series of character attacks. President Barack Obama's campaign suggested that Mitt Romney may have committed a felony. The Romney campaign accused Obama of being a liar and purveyor of dirty politics. Neither candidate, however, appears willing to talk about their own record or their plans for the future if elected president.
In a Thursday conference call with reporters, Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, said that Romney either committed a felony when he signed SEC documents for Bain Capital or he lied when he said he was not working for Bain at the time.
On the same day, the Romney campaign released a new ad saying, "when the president doesn't tell the truth, how can we trust him to lead? ... Candidate Obama lied about Hillary Clinton."
The ad then cuts to a clip of Clinton during the 2008 campaign saying, "shame on you, Barack Obama," and ends with, "Obama's dishonest campaign: another reason American has lost confidence in Barack Obama."
On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Cutter said she would not apologize for the charge and advised Romney to "stop whining" about the attacks. On ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, gave the same advice. (During the Republican primary, Romney also used the "stop whining" line against Newt Gingrich after Gingrich complained about Romney's attack ads against him.)
On Sunday, Ed Gillespie, senior adviser for the Romney campaign, appeared on two talk shows, CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" and NBC's "Meet the Press," to defend Romney against the charges, but probably made matters worse when he claimed that Romney "retired retroactively" from Bain.
"People think that looks funky," Crowley said about Romney's explanations regarding his Bain Capital experience, "we're coming off a time ... where people feel that Wall Streeters, investment bankers, get away with everything. Doesn't this add to that?"
"He took a leave of absence, Candy, and in fact, ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February of 1999 as a result," Gillespie answered.
The Romney campaign argues that the Obama campaign is raising these issues to avoid discussing Obama's record as president. When asked about that, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said the issue is legitimate because Romney has said his Bain experience would make him a better president.
"He's told us that his business experience is a lens through which he's going to look at these decisions. Well, we're getting a look at that experience and people need to judge, is that the kind of experience we want in the Oval Office," Axelrod said.
ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that "the interesting thing about both [campaigns] is neither side wants to run on their record.
"Barack Obama doesn't want to run on his record which is why he's doing everything he can to tear down Mitt Romney, because ... the majority of this country thinks we're off on the wrong track. ... Mitt Romney knows he doesn't want to run on his record. He doesn't want to run on his Massachusetts record ... because there's not anything great there. Now Bain's a problem."
Dowd also said he fears that an election where both sides are focused on attacking each other will be harmful for the nation in the long run because "whoever wins this election is going to have no mandate or no vision of where we want to take the country."
Larry Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia, said on his Twitter feed Sunday that most of the discussion over Bain Capital will be irrelevant by the time of the election. He also mocked pundits who expressed surprise at the negativity of the campaigns.
"Rip Van Winkle pundits are shocked, SHOCKED! that harsh negative ads are airing," Sabato tweeted.
He later added that the election will be "about economic reality as it appears" in the Fall.
"Winning a week in July is a hundredth (sic) as important as winning a week in October," Sabato later added.