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A reputation Romney can't afford to earn

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson picks up today on a thesis that will probably seem familiar to Maddow Blog readers, but that carries a significance that can't be overstated.

There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there's Mitt Romney.

Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable -- it's surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics -- but it's something we've all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there's a kernel of veracity in there somewhere.

Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.

Robinson offers ample evidence to support the argument, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist deserves a lot of credit for using the "l" word that many of his colleagues shy away from.

But to reiterate a point from April, what's especially notable about columns like these are their existence -- Romney's frequent and unnerving dishonesty is starting to get noticed in ways that had gone largely overlooked for months. In other words, concerns about the ease with which the presumptive Republican nominee misleads the public are going mainstream.

This matters. We're at the point in a presidential campaign at which media "narratives" start to stick. Romney can live with mockery of his out-of-touch patrician elitism; he can tolerate talk of his role in orchestrating mass layoffs; he embraces his lack of leadership experience; and he's confident he can overcome talk of his flip-flopping and cowardice.

But if political observers start to see Romney as a man who frequently lies to advance his ambitions, it's a character flaw that's awfully tough to live down.

As Rachel explained in March, "Some dishonesty in national American politics is frankly routine. It's too bad, but it's true. Romney-style dishonesty is a sight to behold. It's different. He's bending the curve."

Or as Robinson's column concluded, Romney "seems to believe voters are too dumb to discover what the facts really are -- or too jaded to care."