NEW YORK (AP) — Big Bird is flying high in the 2012 presidential campaign.
President Barack Obama's campaign deployed the beloved "Sesame Street" icon in a new TV ad Tuesday mocking Mitt Romney for saying he would defund public broadcasting if elected.
The foundation backing "Sesame Street" quickly disavowed the spot, and Romney dismissed it as un-serious even though the Republican hopeful brought Big Bird into the national political conversation at last week's presidential debate.
Big Bird has been a big deal since Romney, in outlining ways he would cut federal spending, said, "I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS," adding, "I like PBS, I love Big Bird."
Romney's vow to de-fund public broadcasting has been a staple of his campaign appearances for months, but the nationally televised declaration last week in Denver — more than 67 million were watching — gave it a much broader audience than ever before.
Romney's comment drew immediate reaction on social media, with users posting online photos of Big Bird appearing down on his luck or searching for work. Mock Big Birds have followed Romney to campaign events, and the real Big Bird even made an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" last weekend.
"I feel like I'm famous now. I was walking down the street the other day and felt like everyone recognized me," Big Bird said.
The "Sesame Street" dis offered an opening to Obama, who has faced strong backlash for his widely panned debate performance. At rallies and campaign appearances every day since the debate, he has used Romney's remark and referenced other "Sesame Street" characters to mock his opponent in a way audiences find funny and relatable.
"He said he'd bring down our deficit by going after what has been the biggest driver of our debt and deficits over the last decade — public television, PBS," Obama told people at a fundraiser Monday in San Francisco. "Elmo has been seen in a white Suburban. He's driving for the border. Oscar is hiding out in his trashcan. We're cracking down on them."