Anatomy of a campaign ad: 'Big Bird'

The Obama campaign releases a goofy ad that mocks Mitt Romney's threats to PBS funding. But it may be the president who comes off looking petty

Big Bird
(Image credit: YouTube)

The candidate: Barack Obama

The ad: Seizing on Mitt Romney's threat during last week's debate to cut funding to PBS — and the internet's subsequent defense of Big Bird — a new Obama spot mocks Romney for his focus on Sesame Street instead of Wall Street. (Watch the ad below.) "Bernie Madoff. Ken Lay. Dennis Kozlowski," the ad's narrator says. "Criminals. Gluttons of greed. And the evil genius who towered over them? One man has the guts to speak his name." The ad then cuts to clips of Mitt Romney saying "Big Bird" several times in quick succession. The narrator goes on to cheekily describe the yellow muppet as "a menace to our economy," sarcastically adding that "Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about, it's Sesame Street." The narrator concludes: "Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest."

The ad buy: The Obama campaign has not specified the amount of the ad buy. "The campaign is calling this a TV spot," says Maggie Haberman at Politico, "but did not... say where it's airing, suggesting this is a video for media and YouTube consumption."

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The strategy: The Obama campaign is "going after one of Mitt Romney's most memorable lines from last week's presidential debate," says Amanda Terkel at The Huffington Post, and the Democrat obviously wants to make Romney look ridiculous for singling out Sesame Street instead of, say, "notoriously corrupt financial figures." I guess Team Obama "sees Romney's threat to pull federal funding for public broadcasting as some sort of gaffe," offers Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Bottom line, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: "Team Obama wants to salvage something from a terrible debate performance."

The reaction: "The labor force is near its lowest level in more than 30 years. Gas prices have skyrocketed, and we're at war in Afghanistan," says Morrissey. And the president is focused on Big Bird? We all know Obama stunk it up in Denver last week, and it makes sense that he wants to turn the tables on Romney, but this tone-deaf misfire of an ad will just makes matters worse. Agreed, says Politico's Haberman. The president and his team have "been going fairly small at a moment when Romney is consistent in a message and pivoting toward going bigger," and this "goofy video" is exactly "the kind of small ball that Boston smacked over for months." Indeed, the president looks clueless, says the Republican National Committee. At recent campaign events, he's mentioned Big Bird and Elmo 13 times. Libya and a plan to fix the economy? Zero mentions.

Update: In a statement, Sesame Street has asked the Obama campaign to take the ad down. "Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns," producers of the show said. "We have approved no campaign ads."

Sources: Hot Air, The Huffington Post, Politico, Washington Post, USA Today

See more campaign ad analyses:

Obama's "No Taxes"

Romney's "The Romney Plan"

Obama's "Clear Choice"

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