For anyone paying attention to the avalanche of character-assassination attacks from Team Obama and its surrogates, today’s Politico analysis hardly comes as a shock.  Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter accused Mitt Romney of being a felon, former White House aide Bill Burton’s group Priorities USA linked Romney with the death of a woman whose spouse had been laid off years before from a Bain Capital-owned company — when Romney no longer ran the firm.  The campaign itself has launched numerous attacks on Romney’s wealth, his foreign investments, and success at Bain — the latter two of which got attacked from the stage of the Democratic National Convention last night. John Harris and Alexander Burns simply report the obvious, which is that character attacks dominate Barack Obama’s strategy in 2012:

A crabby, negative campaign that has been more about misleading and marginal controversies than the major challenges facing the country? Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can both claim parenthood of this ugly child.

But there is a particular category of the 2012 race to the low road in which the two sides are not competing on equal terms: Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign.

With a few exceptions, Romney has maintained that Obama is a bad president who has turned to desperate tactics to try to save himself. But Romney has not made the case that Obama is a bad person, nor made a sustained critique of his morality a central feature of his campaign. ….

To make the case, Obama and his aides have used an arsenal of techniques — personal ridicule, suggestions of ethical misdeeds and aspersions against Romney’s patriotism — that many voters and commentators claim to abhor, even as the tactics have regularly proved effective.

Have they?  Obama spent more than $100 million over the summer making those attacks, trying to toxify Romney before Romney could put his money advantage into play in the general election.  Here’s what Gallup’s daily tracking poll shows from the beginning of May through yesterday:

So far, that strategy has been a big bust.  In fact, the Rasmussen tracking poll in swing states now shows Romney at a +4, 47/43.  It’s not been effective at all.

No, the fact that Barack Obama likes to sling mud doesn’t come as a surprise.  The fact that the media has begun to notice it? That’s a different story, as Carol Platt Liebau writes at Townhall:

Politico is generally known to lean left, which makes this story running today all the more damning: “Verdict is in: Obama levels more personal attacks.”

This is a dazzling statement of the obvious — can anyone recall the Romney campaign, like Obama’s, refusing to repudiate a false story that the candidate was responsible for a woman’s death?!

Nevertheless, it is a significant development that an “inside the Beltway” publication like Politico would (1) be disenchanted enough with Obama to run such a piece; and (2) would feel “safe” enough from any fear of other elite media criticism to do so. …

In fact, President Obama and his surrogates have done plenty of negative campaigning, as John McCain pointed out in 2008. It’s just that, up to now, he’s never been desperate enough to have to go personally negative — or had a press that was willing to report it.

Maybe that’s the actual Hope and Change for this election — a press finally willing to look behind the facade they helped erect to report on the reality of Obama’s bare-knuckled politics, and the hypocrisy of his pretenses.