EARMARKS? SERIOUSLY?…. I find this completely bewildering.

John McCain and Sarah Palin are criticizing Democrat Barack Obama over requesting money for his home state of Illinois even though the Alaska governor’s record is mixed.

At a rally, the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate accused Obama of requesting nearly $1 billion in earmarks.

Now, there are plenty of substantive ways to approach this. One could note, for example, that the McCain campaign is lying, and that Obama sought $311 million in earmarks last year, not $1 billion, and didn’t seek any earmarks for Illinois at all this year. One could note that Sarah Palin hired D.C. lobbyists to secure millions of dollars in earmarks for Wasilla while she was its mayor, and during Palin’s gubernatorial term, she’s requested nearly $750 million in earmarks, easily the largest request in the nation, per-capita. One might even be tempted to note that McCain has been misstating his own record on earmarks for quite a while.

But stepping back, I have an entirely different question: who on earth cares about earmarks?

I mean, really. At what point did the McCain campaign decide that earmarks — seriously, earmarks — are the single most important issue in the campaign? I’d love to hear from the voter, anywhere in America, who’s willing to say, “I was going to base my vote on healthcare, job creation, global warming, and ending the war in Iraq, but this earmark thing trumps them all.”

It’s one thing to attack, it’s another to attack dishonestly, and it’s something else to attack dishonestly on an issue that doesn’t really matter.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.