Now that the Republican presidential nomination is sewed up, Election 2012 can be said to be in full swing. And already it has claimed its first casualty – Newark Mayor Cory Booker. He appeared on Meet the Press and excoriated President Barack Obama for taking potshots at Bain Capital, a firm once headed by Mitt Romney. The attacks, he said, were “nauseating,” and were not unlike Republican attempts to link the president to the bizarre anti-Semitism of his onetime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Besides, Booker said, private equity firms like Bain Capital have “done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses,” and should not be demonized as part of political posturing.

For having the courage to speak out against negative campaigning, Booker has been pilloried in print and on the air ever since. We believe he is to be commended for his courage, not castigated for it.

In our own area, the rhetoric in the Democratic primary campaign in the Ninth Congressional District has been outrageous at times. Some of the tactics employed in this race also have been outrageous.

There are a number of primary contests this Tuesday. Once these are over, the real battles begin. Whether it is the presidential race or a congressional one, we hope our politicians understand that we the people are better served by substantive debate on the issues, not by mudslinging, misrepresentation, and dirty tricks.

One of the saddest aspects of the campaign is how it is dividing communities. Some weeks ago, this newspaper featured an interview with the mayor of Teaneck, who is a Muslim and who was re-elected to his council seat with the overwhelming support of the Jewish and Muslim communities there. Teaneck shows how we can all set aside our differences for the common good. The Democratic primary campaign in the Ninth District shows how easily our differences can be exploited for political gain.

This must not carry through to the general election. We need to live and work together in our communities. We cannot afford politicians dragging down carefully crafted alliances to advance their own petty agendas.