Let’s stipulate that Harry Reid is pond scum and a political fabulist not fit to be Senate majority leader. But let’s not forget what else he is: a hit man for the Obama campaign.

Reid’s smear of Mitt Romney, accusing him of not paying taxes for 10 years, on the Senate floor no less, wasn’t a case of going rogue. His attempted character assassination was fully consistent with the incumbent’s re-election strategy. David Axelrod probably wrote the script.

The incident, part of the nonstop barrage on Romney, reflects how little confidence Team Obama has in their candidate’s standing. The polls say the race is tied, but most show Obama topping out at 46 or 47 percent. For an incumbent, that’s the danger zone.

The dismal economy, the entitlement debacle, the unsustainable debt and deficits — the president would get laughed at if he pretended to care about them. So he doesn’t pretend, saving all his energy for trying to destroy Romney. If Obama has a conscience, you wonder how he sleeps at night.

Even the timing of Reid’s attack was not coincidental. Coming on the eve of the July jobs report, it was designed to get the media and voters talking about something other than rising unemployment.

That it succeeded should be a red flag to Romney. He is up against not only a determined, unscrupulous opponent, but also an unhappy electorate that can be distracted.

The elite assumption that, sooner or later, the focus of the race will turn to the big issues could be false. As long as one side has something to gain by avoiding them, and a willingness to jeopardize America’s future for a chance at victory, nothing is inevitable.

To continue reading Michael Goodwin's column in the New York Post, click here.