WASHINGTON -- With his flaccid debate performance against Republican Mitt Romney in the rear-view mirror, President Obama spent his travels Thursday saying things he probably wishes he’d said on stage – including a rejoinder to the Romney line about Big Bird.
In a memorable line of the debate, of course, the GOP nominee said he’d trim the deficit by trimming government spending on things like public broadcasting.
Don’t get him wrong, he said, “I love Big Bird.”
Now, the federal government’s support for public TV is a minuscule stream of money. But Obama let it go. Aides now say the president was trying to play Mr. Nice Guy as an explanation for why he didn’t pick apart Romney’s assertions about a range of claims. Like how he could cut taxes without adding to the deficit and repeal Obamacare while preserving coverage for preexisting conditions.
Out on the campaign trail today, though, Obama was back to being feisty. Speaking to a crowd of 30,000 in Madison, Wis., the president called Romney out on deficit spending and Wall Street reform in a single Muppets reference.
"I just want to make sure I got this straight,” Obama said. “He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street!"
As the negative reviews of his debate performance continued to roll in, Obama directly – and somewhat mockingly -- addressed the issue all day. In Denver, he asked quizzically who that other guy was who showed up on stage Wednesday night.
“I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” Obama said. "But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. But the fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”
Top advisors to Obama tacitly acknowledged that the president was going to have to more directly challenge Romney the next time they debate. They say they probably can’t add more prep time to the president’s schedule, but that they may use the time differently.
If today’s outings were any sign, though, Obama may not actually need prep, just the will to do it. That will was in evidence during a rally with about 12,000 people this morning in Denver.
“Thank God somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird," he said. "We didn’t know that Big Bird was driving the federal deficit. Elmo, too?”