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2012: 'The guardrails have disappeared'

Dan Balz: “What is most striking about the campaign at this point is not just the negativity or the sheer volume of attack ads raining down on voters in the swing states. It is the sense that all restraints are gone, the guardrails have disappeared and there is no incentive for anyone to hold back. The other guy does it, so we're going to do it too."

More: “Mock outrage has long been a part of every campaign’s toolbox, but there is a sense now that the outrage is genuine, that the disrespect that the Chicago and Boston teams feel for each other has escalated and becomes the justification for ever harsher attacks… This campaign will end in November. Then it will be either Obama’s or Romney’s responsibility to try to govern. Both sides have turned the contest into an all-or-nothing battle and hope to claim a mandate on the basis of the outcome. But it will take time and great effort for the winner to drain the poison from the system if the campaign continues on this course.”

Obama leads in Pennsylvania, 44-38%, according to a new Franklin and Marshall poll, Political Wire notes. He was up 12 in June.

There won’t be any political ads on 9/11 for the third straight year.