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Opinion: From 'Chains' to 'Class Warfare,' 2012 Gets Ugly

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The choice of Paul Ryan and Romney’s wealth and continued refusal to release his tax returns has added new flammable material to the 2012 campaign. It has now made “class warfare” a more prominent.

 Vice President Joe Biden’s claim in Virginia that Romney has promised to deregulate and “Unchain Wall Street” (and favor big banks over consumers) and his remark to an audience of many African Americans that “they gon’ put y’all back in chains” is remarkable for the massive ripple effect it caused. Of course it was a far reach to equate Republican tax and economic policy with slavery. Was it over the top? Hey! It’s politics! And it was Virginia, a crucial swing state this year.

Romney shot back that “Obama is angry and desperate.” He said Obama is degrading the highest office in the land and “demagogy” the campaign. He also said that Obama will do anything to remain in power including lying. He added "Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago," in Chillicothe, Ohio. Ohio? Sure another of the nine swing states (Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada.)

Obama’s campaign shoots back saying “Governor Romney’s comments tonight seemed unhinged.” Obama has been in Iowa. Yup another battleground state!

As the chain of events spread I saw the headline, “Rudy Giuliani Questions Whether Biden Has ‘Mental Capacity’ to Handle Presidency.”

The second front of the latest negative campaigning centers on Medicare the healthcare program for older Americans. The Ryan nomination has given Democrats the opportunity of slamming the Romney/Ryan ticket with “killing Medicare,” a proposition pushed in Florida (another swing state) and Iowa, which has one of the oldest populations on any state. The Republicans have responded with powerful pushback.

Republican party leaders in Florida shot back saying that Obama is “trying to scare seniors.” The website headline screeches, “It Begins: Democrats Repeat 'Lie of the Year' on Medicare.”

Scare tactics are an integral part of every political campaign so we should not be shocked that we are now careening into a deep morass of negativism.

The negativity permeates such issues as subsidies as well with a dangerous rift happening for example on the issue of wind energy tax subsidies which are very popular in Iowa even among Republicans (Iowa GOP Senator Charles Grassley, a true conservative supports these tax breaks) and Romney’s position against these tax breaks may hurt him in Iowa. These differing positions have also produced some nasty TV ads attacking Romney for his opposition to wind energy. Romney led a pro-coal cheerleading meeting with Ohio coal miners ridiculing wind energy.

Obama slammed Romney who had said, "You can't drive a car with a windmill on it. ..." Obama continued, "I don't know if he's actually tried that. I know he's had other things on his car," obviously referring to the Romney family road trip with their dog, Seamus, in a carrier strapped to the roof of the car.

The alternative energy debate includes biodiesel, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric power all of which the Obama administration has supported. Previously the most negative campaign eruptions on energy revolved around some brutal ads by the GOP on the failed Solyndra solar panel fiasco which cost the US taxpayers half a billion dollars before the company collapsed.

According to the Guardian another “particularly controversial ad, produced by the Obama-supporting SuperPAC Priorities USA Action, features a man claiming his wife died of cancer after losing her health insurance when his factory was closed by Romney's former firm Bain Capital.” This claim has been proven wrong (the death happened many years after Romney was with Bain.) Nonetheless the ad has run in many states including Ohio. Romney is furious and had tried to push back hard against the ads run by Super Pacs, which candidates can walk away from as Obama has done.

Another brutal issue is Mitt Romney’s tax returns and the claim by Democrats that Romney has not paid taxes in the ten years that he has refused to make public. Until Romney releases his taxes Senator Harry Read’s claim to this effect (which caused a fire storm among Fox and Republican leaders and punsters) will continue to weigh very heavily on the GOP campaign.

Negative advertising and down and dirty campaigning will continue and possibly intensify between now and November.

Hang on to your hats.