Republicans hit back after Big Bird ad

Emily Senger looks at the political flap over a big yellow bird

A Democratic attack ad featuring Big Bird has ruffled Republicans’ feathers, as they lash out at President Barack Obama for focusing on Sesame Street when he should be looking at the very real problems on Main Street.

In a Politico video, Romney addresses a crowd at a rally in Van Meter, Iowa, saying: “These are tough times, with real serious issues, so you have to scratch your head when the president spends the last week talking about saving Big Bird.”

Republican senior campaign adviser Kevin Madden also spun the Big Bird advertisement as something that is detracting from the real issues. “I just find it troubling that the president’s message, the president’s focus, 28 days before Election Day is Big Bird,” Madden told CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta.

On NBC’s Today Show, Senator John McCain said that Obama can’t run on his record, so he is struggling to find content for his ads. “It may show a paucity of ideas and ways to criticize Mitt Romney,” McCain said.

The Republican National Committee also released a graphic using Count von Count to count the number of times Obama mentioned Big Bird (eight) and Elmo (five) at recent campaign events, compared with the number of times he mentioned Libya (zero) and plans to fix the economy (zero).

Pundits are also weighing in, cautioning that the use of Big Bird could backfire.

At The New York Times blog, The Caucus, Michael D. Shear and Trop Gabriel argue that the ad has serious intentions, “But it comes at a critical time in the presidential campaign, and could backfire on Mr. Obama if supporters view it as a less-than-serious response to a difficult moment in his effort to win a second term in the White House.”

And CBS Moneywatch columnist Constantine Von Hoffman argues that the Big Bird ad actually reminds viewers of banking scandals that occurred under Obama’s watch, including Bernie Madoff and Kenneth Lay. “However, instead of tagging his opponent as an out-of-touch extremist, the video is a reminder of one of his administration’s biggest failings: Bagging the bankers behind the financial meltdown,” writes Von Hoffman.

Meanwhile, all the political flap about a big yellow bird may have an unintended economic effect, at least for those in the costume industry. With Halloween just around the corner, an Associate Press story reports that Big Bird costumes are flying out the door in New York.