So you'll recall the big question last week was whether it makes any difference when the news media calls out political lies, either through a "fact check" feature or just by writing a story that starts out, "So-and-so wasn't telling the truth last night when he said..."
The answer is, yes, facts matter.
Remember the claim by Team Romney that the Obama administration is gutting welfare-to-work requirements? It was the focus of a major pro-Romney TV ad, -- and when every major fact-checking crew and several major news orgs said the allegation was bogus -- they continued to make that claim. It was even the main talking point of a speech at the GOP convention by ex-Sen. Rick Santorum.
That just seemed over the line. I wrote a story emphasizing that the Santorum speech was built around a falsehood -- so did the Los Angeles Times while others were aggressive in reporting that the speech was dishonest. What happened next may surprise you:
Sahil Kapur reported the other day that Romney, in his convention address, chose not to repeat the lie, and the claim wasn't included in Paul Ryan's convention speech, either. When I checked the transcripts for Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Condoleezza Rice, and Jeb Bush, not one of them made even the slightest reference to the welfare lie.
But wait, there's more. Romney has given three speeches since his convention address, delivering remarks in Lakeland, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati. The combined total of references to welfare in those speeches? Zero.
Also, I spoke this morning with a Democratic source who confirmed that the Romney campaign's television ad featuring the welfare lie is not currently on the air.
So, over the course of about a week, this one transparent falsehood went from being the most potent attack in the Republican arsenal to a lie Romney and his team suddenly didn't want to repeat.
There is a such a thing as a law of diminishing returns, and so it's hard not to imagine that the Romney campaign decided that it just wasn't worth it to be called out for lying, again and again and again. Words matter. So does the truth. It's reassuring to be reminded of that, once in a blue moon.