The Romney camp's massive media ad campaign of character assassination against Newt Gingrich, over charges on which the Internal Revenue Service exonerated Gingrich after a lengthy investigation, was by no means Romney's finest hour, though it won him the Florida primary.
This may well have been payback for Newt's demagoguery about Romney's work at Bain Capital. But two character assassinations do not make either candidate look presidential.
If Romney turns his well-financed character assassination machine on Rick Santorum, or Santorum resorts to character assassination against either Romney or Gingrich, the Republicans may forfeit whatever chance they have of defeating Barack Obama in November.
Some politicians and pundits seem to think that President Obama is vulnerable politically because of the economy in the doldrums. "It's the economy, stupid," has become one of the many mindless mantras of our time.
What Obama seems to understand that Republicans and many in the media do not, is that dependency on the government in hard times can translate into votes for the White House incumbent.
Growing numbers of Americans on food stamps, jobs preserved by bailouts, people living on extended unemployment payments and people behind in their mortgage payments being helped by government interventions are all potential voters for those who rescued them -- even if their rescuers are the reason for hard times, in the first place.
The economy was far worse during the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt than it has been under Obama. Unemployment rates under FDR were more than double what they have been under Obama. Yet FDR was reelected in a landslide. Dependency pays off for politicians, even when it damages an economy or ruins a society.