The president can’t run on his legislation; it isn’t liked. He can’t run on the economy; it’s terrible. Pivot to something sunny and big? Too late. And so the early indications from the Obama campaign are that it instead intends to go past Romney caricatures and straight to character assassination.

By late Thursday morning, Obama adviser David Axelrod had his new talking points, which hinged, as he revealed in a conference call, on casting Mr. Romney as a liar and a flip-flopper who will say anything to get elected. The Republican’s debate performance, said Mr. Axelrod, was “devoid of honesty,” and full of “serial evasions and deceptions.”

Mr. Obama—that great uniter—was up with the same theme at his first post-debate event, telling a crowd: “The man on stage last night does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he’s been saying for the last year.” And the Obama campaign went up with a new ad called “Trust,” accusing Mr. Romney of snowing the public on his tax plan.

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