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Candidates, open your checkbooks

If you haven't been paying much attention to the U.S. presidential election, here's a quick update: Mitt Romney has locked up the Republican nomination and will face President Obama in November.

The former governor of Massachusetts picked up a win in Texas on Tuesday to place him over the threshold for clinching the GOP nomination, which he will officially receive at the Republican national convention in a few months. Romney on Wednesday had a total of 1,191 delegates, 47 more than he needed to claim the mantle for the GOP.

That led to a phone call from Obama on Wednesday congratulating Romney for being the party's nominee-select. Obama's campaign aide said he told Romney in the phone call that he "looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America's future." Romney's campaign aide described the call from Obama as "brief and cordial."

Given the stakes, it's a safe bet that it will be the last brief and cordial communication between the two camps until after the Nov. 6 election that will decide which party will occupy the White House, and which party will lead either or both houses of Congress. Plus there's always the chance that the next president will have an opportunity to appoint a U.S. Supreme Court justice to the court that has sported a razor-thin majority on a number of decisions over the past few years.

It's also a safe bet to assume that the cordiality of the conversation was based on a skill all politicians seem to master -- fake sincerity. In fact, it's a good thing the conversation was electronic in nature. Had they actually shaken hands, each would have found the other's covered with a thick coating of political mud.

While the telephonic good cheer was being uttered, the Obama campaign was in the process of opening up a new line of political attacks against Romney designed to rip his economic record during his time as Massachusetts' chief executive, pointing to lagging job growth and increased debt for the state.

Romney's campaign, meanwhile, was taking Obama to task over failed stimulus fund projects such as the hundreds of millions given to Solyndra, which was touted by Obama as an example of the fulfillment of his promise to move America toward green energy, then went bankrupt. And you'd expect Romney to saddle lagging job growth and increased debt on a national scale on Obama.

Indications are neither candidate is intent on promoting why he should be in the White House as much as why the other guy should not, lest the republic certainly fall.

And both campaigns will spend millions to get their respective messages across, while independent Super PACs add millions more, making political spin control the only segment of the U.S. economy that is truly excelling.

Perhaps one day Americans will quit being led like chattel by whomever has the most successful spin doctor. Maybe one day, we will require those running for the highest offices of our nation to battle in the realm of ideas, not pithy slogans, derogatory claims, fake smiles and empty promises.

Maybe, but not likely. In business, it's performance that counts. In politics, unfortunately, it's the performance that counts.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board