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The same idea is in the Democratic playbook.

“How do you spell hypocrite? Toomey,” read the headline of a recent Democratic attack on the Republican running for the Senate in Pennsylvania.

True, not everyone may wish to engage in this type of name-calling.

But in the Senate race in Illinois, it seems everyone already has.

For weeks now, Republicans have been calling Mr. Giannoulias a “mob banker.” In April, federal regulators shut down his family’s Chicago bank after it failed to raise new capital. Separately, the Chicago Tribune has reported that the bank in previous years had lent large sums to convicted felons Michael “Jaws” Giorango and Demitri Stavropoulos.

Then it turned out that Mr. Kirk, a veteran of 21 years in the Navy reserves, claimed he won an award that went to his entire unit. A letter from his office said erroneously that he served in the Persian Gulf War. He referred to taking part in the invasion of Iraq, although he remained stateside. He also has said his reserve work sometimes includes running the Pentagon war room, even though it does not.

The phrase “serial liar” was born, courtesy of the Democrats.

Sometimes, the name-calling is intramural, rather than across party lines.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum recently referred in a statement to his Republican rival for governor as “career fraudster Rick Scott.” Sen. John McCain of Arizona aired an ad not long ago calling GOP primary opponent J.D. Hayworth “a huckster.”

In Georgia, one Republican candidate for governor, Karen Handel, said the other needed to “put on big-boy pants.”

Memorable, for sure. But effective?

Former Rep. Nathan Deal’s choice in trousers seemed fine with Georgia GOP voters. He won the primary.