DIGNIFIED…. A couple of weeks ago, Mitt Romney, a leading McCain campaign surrogate, appeared on CNN and asked whether he believes Sarah Palin is ready to lead. “Well, that — that’s something which I — I believe the American people will, uh, assess individually and say, uh, yeah, she’s got the kind of executive experience that you’d hope to find from a person who’s been a governor and a mayor,” Romney said.

It was hardly a ringing endorsement.

Romney was similarly flummoxed this morning when asked about the dignity, or lack thereof, of the McCain campaign. Specifically, “Today” show host Meredith Vieira referenced a University of Wisconsin analysis, which showed that McCain’s television ads have been more negative, more often, than Obama’s.

VIEIRA: So, let me ask you, would you characterize John McCain’s campaign as dignified and honest?

ROMNEY: Well, what I’d characterize the entire campaign as is extraordinarily negative on the part of Barack Obama. […]

VIEIRA: So you think his campaign was dignified?

ROMNEY: Well, I think it’s going to come down to this, and I think that is, who is going to be able to keep America safe and who is it that’s going to add jobs. […]

VIEIRA: Governor, not to beat a dead horse here, but once again, do you believe that the campaign was dignified?

ROMNEY: Was it dignified? It was presidential.

Romney just didn’t want to answer the question. He’s been spinning furiously for McCain for months, but even he wasn’t prepared to describe McCain’s obviously sleazy campaign as “dignified.”

My hunch is, Romney holds out hope that he can, once again, be a credible candidate for national office. He’s already learned quite a bit about how embarrassing it can be to have to deal with videos of previous remarks, and Romney probably figures, why get stuck going on record defending the most offensive campaign in modern times?

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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.