ad wars

In Defense of the Big Bird Ad

If you can recall any specific line from last week’s debate, it’s Mitt Romney’s declaration of war against Big Bird. “I like PBS,” Romney said. “I love Big Bird … But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.” The next day, Obama had incorporated the attack on Big Bird into his stump speech. “I just want to make sure I got this straight. He’ll get rid of regulations on Wall Street — but he’s going to crack down on Sesame Street!” Now the Obama campaign is out with a TV ad making the same juxtaposition:

The reception to the ad so far hasn’t been stellar. Obviously, conservatives found it desperate, and many on Twitter pointed to President Obama’s 2008 DNC speech, in which he declared that when candidates don’t have fresh ideas or a record to run on, they “make a big election about small things.”

Some of the Mainstream Elites were similarly unimpressed, however. ABC News’s Rick Klein, for example:

It’s all in good fun, but the contrast may not be what President Obama is after, not now, not in this race. Romney is getting more serious by the day, with a foreign-policy speech and now Paul Ryan about to make the case for conservative fiscal policies. Romney marches toward Benghazi, while the president marches down Sesame Street?

It’s worth noting that, as Chuck Todd pointed out, the ad is barely going to air (even less so now that the show has requested that it be taken down). The Obama campaign is putting it out there in the hopes that the ad’s quirkiness and humor will garner it some free attention through cable news and social media.

But, actually, we think the contrast of the ad is exactly what Obama needs now, in this race. If Romney accomplished anything in the first debate, it was convincing a sizable swath of America that he wasn’t, in fact, the uncaring, out-of-touch, champion of the rich he has been portrayed as for months now. Obama had been seen as the candidate more concerned about the Average Joe; now Pew shows Romney tied with Obama on who would benefit the middle class.

The Big Bird ad presents a simple illustration of Romney’s priorities as the Obama campaign wants voters to see them. He’s still the guy that cares more about wealthy bankers than the regular folks — kids, families — who cherish Sesame Street. He’s the guy you remember before you watched the debate Wednesday night. It’s precisely the kind of argument Obama needs to be making.