The bilious fight between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is only getting nastier: With Reid sticking to his unsubstantiated claim that, according to an unidentified Bain Capital investor, Romney didn't pay any taxes for a decade, Romney surrogates are calling the Nevada Democrat a "dirty liar," threatening to dig into his own financial past, and accusing him of playing the heavy for the president. David Krone, Reid's chief of staff, shot back that it's the GOP critics who are "a bunch of henchmen for Romney," as well as "cowards." Amid all the seething and name-calling, Obama is trying to stay above the fray, with White House press secretary Jay Carney insisting Monday that Reid "speaks for himself." But will Team Romney's attempts to draw Obama into the fire burn the president?
Yes. Reid's "gutter politics" make Obama look cheap: We already knew that Reid "is a jerk," but Obama is being "tarnished by this episode," too, says Richard Cohen at The Washington Post. Even if the president isn't telling Reid to dubiously attack Romney's finances — an open question — he's not telling him to stop, either. Obama's appealing 2008 promise of a "different kind of politics" has now painfully and irreversibly "come to ground in the mud of Harry Reid’s latter-day McCarthyism."
"Harry Reid's gutter politics"
No. The only real heat is on Romney: Reid's hackery might "embarrass himself and his party," but everybody knows the real loser is Romney, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. "He can only disprove the charge by releasing his tax returns" — something he should have done "long ago to put the matter to rest." Reid can't prove his wild claim, but Romney won't prove that Reid is lying. In the meantime, everybody is talking about Romney's taxes instead of Obama's economy.
"Stay classy, Harry"
Roping in Obama is Romney's only hope: Reid "will almost certainly win" his battle with Romney, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Neither politician is very popular, but 44 percent of Americans don't even know who Reid is, or don't care, so "trying to turn him into a figure of derision almost certainly won’t work." That's why Team Romney "has begun to pivot from attacking Reid into suggesting that it’s the Obama campaign that is, in fact, behind this" attack. It may or may not work, but you can see why they're trying.
"Why Mitt Romney is fighting a losing battle against Harry Reid — in 2 charts"