Rush actually predicted this. Romney went after his Republican challengers no-holds-barred, but when he talks about Obama, he's really wearing kid gloves.
It's the fear that every presidential candidate had before and will have in the future, as will every TV comedian who doesn't make Obama jokes, etc., etc. It doesn't matter how disrespectfully they've treated politicians on the other side in the past, how mocking they've been towards the President of the other party...if you mock Obama - wham, bang, you're racist.
And if you're tarred with the brush of racism, people will believe it and not vote for you!
Let us not forget Maxine Waters actually told her constituents that if Obama had been a white President, she and her fellow black politicians would have ripped him to shreds because of the state of the economy and black unemployment. But they don't dare do it unless the people "give them permission" to do so. And apparently the people haven't given them that permission yet.
I'll take you back to Bush 43. Remember, they never responded to anything, either. And there you're talking about the essence of the GOP establishment. And their theory was that if they responded to anything, it gave it life and kept the story alive in the media day after day after day after day. Where as if they ignored, it would go away. And, yeah, something else would pop up, but it would eventually go away if they didn't give it life.
There was also the belief that they didn't want to sully the office of the president by getting down in the gutter all the time responding to this stuff. Now, Karl Rove admitted in a book (after he and Bush left office) that they mighta made a little bit of a mistake in not responding to some of this stuff. But I think that the prevailing theory in the Republican establishment today is: "Don't mention it. Don't respond to it. It just elevates it and gives it longer life. It will eventually go away and people will forget about it."