Accentuate the positive

Presidential campaigns shouldn't tear down opposing candidates

Mitt Romney has an opportunity. Barack Obama has an obligation.

Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has a largely unprecedented opportunity to cast himself as the second “Morning in America” candidate, after Reagan.

Following the failed, malaise-filled presidency of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan promoted a more optimistic, can-do, brighter vision of America. It was precisely what the country needed. And it worked.

That, and a lower-tax, pro-growth agenda.

Romney hinted at such a campaign Tuesday night, in a de facto acceptance speech in New Hampshire on a primary night with zero suspense.

“To all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance,” Romney said, “to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.”

The slogan already was used in 2008 by his 2012 rival, but Romney’s message appears to be one of hope and change.

Meanwhile, the official candidate of hope and change, it would seem, should be obligated to be just as upbeat. That’s how he packaged himself four years ago.

Yet, he has spent much of the past three-plus years promoting divisive, partisan legislation, bitterly and sarcastically nipping at the opposition party, demonizing prosperity and trying to blame everyone else and everything else for America’s problems – including ATMs. What happened to the man of hope?

As that man, Mr. Obama has a special obligation, self-imposed, to provide a positive way forward – not a jaundiced eye in the rear-view mirror.

We call upon both men, both campaigns, to do just that. Show us how your America will be better, stronger, more prosperous and more secure – not how awful the other guy will be.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use the other guy’s record to draw distinctions between you. That’s just politics. But Americans don’t want to watch the Ultimate Fighting Championships all summer and fall. Bloodying the other fellow’s nose won’t put gasoline in our tanks or food on our tables or restore the confidence in our hearts or in our financial markets.

Give us something we can believe in.

This is the road less traveled in American politics today.

A hungry, fitful, yearning nation asks to be taken there.

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