As race tightens, Obama plays ‘Big Bird’ card

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DENVER — Mitt Romney has flipped the script.

Not only is the Republican presidential candidate, after a brutal month following the conventions, getting a significant bounce following his strong performance in last week’s debate, but Romney is also now the candidate articulating a more inspirational, positive vision for the country’s future (even if he is quoting regularly from the show, “Friday Night Lights”).

President Barack Obama, meanwhile, who’d benefited all summer from offering a more optimistic vision that contrasted with Romney’s negative assessment of the country’s economic situation, now seems to be going small.

A new ad released by the Obama campaign Tuesday, exactly four weeks from Election Day,  features Big Bird and mocks Romney’s debate comment that he’d cut funding for PBS to reduce the deficit.

Obama began mocking the comment the day after the debate during a rally at Sloan’s Lake Park in Denver.

“Thank goodness someone is finally getting tough on Big Bird,” Obama said. “We didn’t know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit.”

But the ad, which may only be running on cable and is not part of any swing state ad buys yet, takes the tongue-in-cheek mockery to a new level.

“Mitt Romney knows it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about, it’s Sesame Street,” a narrator intones. “Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest.”

The spot was cut as a humorous response to a memorable line from Romney in last week’s debate.

But, given Obama’s absent performance in that debate and his failure to rebut Romney on the stage, and the subsequent drop in his support, it may be Obama folks are laughing at.

Romney’s campaign is taking full advantage of the ad as another opportunity to argue that Obama is unwilling to run on his own record and more than willing to make the election “about small things.”

“You have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird,” Romney said Tuesday during a stop in Van Meter, Iowa. “I actually think we need to have a president who talks about saving the American people and saving good jobs.”

And the production company behind Sesame Street has already asked that Obama’s campaign pull the ad down.

“Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.