President Obama's reelection effort isn't the toughest, or most aggressive, in American history.

It only looks and feels that way compared with the gauzy memories most have of the lilt, sunshine, and post-partisan pixie dust of 2008.

Never mind that Obama was tough in the clutch during his primary cage match with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and unstinting in his criticism of John McCain as a heroic but nevertheless remanufactured jalopy off the George W. Bush assembly line.

Obama did trade in 2008 on aspirations of a political world without petty partisan differences, "tit-for-tat" haggling over wedge issues, or real or imagined flip-flops. Now it often feels as if Obama's reelection talking points strain to rise to tit-for-tat seriousness. What they undoubtedly lack, according to senior advisers to GOP candidate Mitt Romney, is a conviction that limits exist and that the brutal work of attempting to disqualify Romney is just that. Brutal.

Here’s but a short list: accusations that step right up to labeling Romney a felon; supportive super PAC ads that imply a decision by Romney’s former private equity firm (Bain Capital) to close a steel mill led to the death of the wife of a laid-off steelworker; sharp but unsubstantiated allegations from a surrogate that Romney might not have paid federal income taxes.

All in bounds, Obama said on Monday from the White House.
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