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How low can the 2012 campaign go?

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The 2012 presidential campaign is degenerating rapidly.    

Neither side is addressing the issues facing America.  That much is sure.  

But what is equally clear is that both sides are competing to see who can do the most effective negative ads.

The Romney team is hoping they can win the 2012 election with an entirely negative campaign – attacking President Obama over and over.  

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign -- understanding that if the 2012 election is entirely a referendum on the president, they will probably lose --  has made the demonization of Mitt Romney the central organizing principle of President Obama’s reelection campaign.   

Virtually all of President Obama’s recent campaign speeches and ads have focused on the source and scope of Romney's wealth, his tax returns, and his tenure at Bain Capital.  

And so far, this attempt to position Romney as someone whose life experience and interests lie with the wealthy, whose policies will benefit only those who are most well off, and whose policies will further increase the gap between rich and poor in the United States  has been working. Governor Romney’s favorability rating is now at 40 percent with 49 percent of voters saying they view him unfavorably --   according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.  And among independents, the Washington Post/ABC poll found that his favorability is down to 37 percent.   

Both President Obama and Governor Romney must talk about the future – each making a case for what his re-election holds in benefit for working people.

But now they  have gone further.  

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated on the record during a Huffington Post interview that “ [Romney] didn't pay any taxes for ten years"   -- an allegation that he even acknowledged that very same interview that he was “not certain” was true. Reid has refused to back down or to identify the “very credible” source of the allegation, stating:  “I don't think the burden should be on me…The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes.”

Harry Reid’s unsubstantiated attack on Romney was pretty outrageous to be sure, but it pales in comparison to the unsubstantiated allegations against Mitt Romney issued by the Obama campaign and its surrogates this week.   

Indeed, it was not until this Tuesday– when the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA released a television ad suggesting that Mitt Romney’s actions at Bain Capital indirectly contributed to a woman’s death -- that we learned just how far the Obama campaign is willing to go.

What the ad – which features a steelworker who said he could not pay for his wife’s cancer treatments after his company was bought by Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney, and closed – fails to acknowledge is that  is that the steelworker's wife actually died in 2006 -- years after the GST Steel plant was shut down.

While senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs insisted that he had no control over an “ad by an entity not controlled by the campaign” -- when asked to address the ad’s accuracy which has been called out by numerous media watchdogs during a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" – he refused to condemn the ad.  

The purpose of my commentary here is not to just say Romney bad, Obama worse, in terms of campaign techniques.

Rather it is to say that because there has been no focus on the real issues that matter most to people: growing the economy, promoting job creation, balancing the budget, reducing debt and taking on entitlements – and because of the unregulated nature of the campaign, it is out of control.   

Put simply, rather than looking backwards, both President Obama and Governor Romney must talk about the future – each making a case for what his re-election holds in benefit for working people.

What they should really be talking about are competing plans and different visions, not personal attacks.  

Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live. He is the author of 11 books. His latest, co-authored with Malik Kaylan is "The Russia-China Axis: The New Cold War and America’s Crisis of Leadership (Encounter Books, September 2014). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.