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Friday, October 5, 2012

New Star on the Stump: Big Bird


CLEVELAND â€" Big Bird, who made an unexpected appearance in Wednesday's debate when Mitt Romney cited him as a likely victim of his budgetary ax, has become a recurring feature character in the campaign, thanks to President Obama.

On Friday, the president repeated his ridicule of Mr. Romney's threat to cut federal funding for the Public Broadcasting System, which would doom the beloved “Sesame Street” character (he also threatened to put the moderator, PBS's Jim Lehrer, into permanent retirement).

“For all you moms and kids out there, don't worry: someone is finally getting tough on Big Bird,” Mr. Obama said to whoops. “Elmo, you better make a run for it.”

But Big Bird is more than a reliable laugh line. It is also a way for the Obama campaign to enshrine Mr. Romney's wisecrack as the only genuinely memorable moment of the debate, which could dispel the perception that he was the lopsided winner of the evening. An Obama campaign official pointed out that the entertainment news media covered only two things in Denver: Mr. Obama's anniversary shout-out to his wife, and Mr. Romney's threat to kill off Big Bird. Protecting “Sesame Street” also plays well with female voters, she said.

“Governor Romney is going to let Wall Street run wild,” the president said, “but he's going to bring down the hammer on Sesame Street.”

In case anyone missed the point, the Obama campaign also dispatched a person in a Big Bird costume to Mr. Romney's rally in Abingdon, Va. The yellow-feathered fellow hovered at the entrance to the rally, carrying a sign that said, “Crack down on Wall Street, not Sesame Street.”