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New Obama ad uses Big Bird to hit Romney on deficit, Wall Street

The Obama campaign on Tuesday unveiled a television ad mocking GOP candidate Mitt Romney for his calls to cut federal funding for PBS, saying it would do little to address the deficit.

The sardonic ad compares "Sesame Street" character Big Bird, whom Romney mentioned during last Wednesday's presidential debate, to corporate titans prosecuted for financial misdeeds.

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"Bernie Madoff. Ken Lay. Dennis Kozlowski: Criminals. Gluttons of greed. And the evil genius who towered over them?" a voiceover says as a silhouette of Big Bird moves on screen.

"Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it’s not Wall Street you have to worry about, it’s Sesame Street," the ad says.

The video then plays a clip of Romney vowing "to stop the subsidy to PBS."

During his debate with President Obama, Romney said if elected he would cut funding to PBS, home to “Sesame Street,” as an example of one measure he would take to reduce the deficit.


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“I like PBS. I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you, too,” Romney said to debate moderator Jim Lehrer, the host of PBS's "NewsHour." “But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for."

"Mitt Romney. Taking on our enemies, no matter where they nest," the ad concludes.

Sesame Street called on Obama's campaign to take down the attack ad.

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

The campaign said they were reviewing the request.

The Romney team quickly dismissed the ad, saying Obama was attempting to distract voters from his own record.

“The choice in this election is becoming more clear each day. Four years ago, President Obama said that if you don’t have a record to run on, ‘you make a big election about small things.’ With 23 million people struggling for work, incomes falling and gas prices soaring, Americans deserve more from their president,” said campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg in a statement.

“Mitt Romney knows we can’t afford four more years like the last four, and he will lead us to a real recovery.”

The deficit has become a central issue in the campaign, with Romney promising to rein in spending and accusing Obama of weakening the nation's fiscal health.

During the debate, Romney sought to put Obama on the defensive over the deficit, saying that the president's efforts to lower the figure have failed and calling it a "moral issue."

President Obama had pledged to cut the annual deficit in half during his first term. On Friday, the CBO reported that the budget deficit for 2012 was $1.1 trillion, the fourth year of trillion-dollar deficits under Obama.  

But the Obama campaign says Romney's targeting PBS would do little and that the GOP nominee's tax plans would actually worsen the deficit.

"When asked how he would cut the deficit, Romney’s answer is to eliminate PBS and 'Sesame Street' — an absurd solution," said the Obama campaign in a statement announcing the video. "You would need to cut PBS more than 1,000 times to fill the hole in Romney’s budget promises!"

The Obama team also has charged Romney with pushing a $5 trillion tax cut that would shift the tax burden to the middle class and leave a larger hole in the deficit. 

Romney, though, denies that figure, saying his plan would cut rates across the board and help reduce the deficit by increasing revenues through the elimination of tax-code loopholes favored by the wealthy.

The Obama ad's references to past Wall Street scandals also repeat the Obama campaign attack that Romney would undo regulations on the financial industry. Romney says he is in favor of regulations but wants to make it easier for businesses to create jobs for American workers.

The Republican National Committee quickly hit back, releasing a graphic featuring "Sesame Street" character the Count and claiming that Obama had mentioned Big Bird or Elmo 13 times since the debate, but had not mentioned Libya or his plans for fixing the economy.

Reports said the new Obama ad is slated to air on national cable and broadcast stations.

The president has also seized on Romney's line, telling a rally in Denver last week, "Thank God someone is getting tough on Big Bird.

"We didn't know Big Bird was driving the deficit," Obama jokingly added.

Daniel Strauss contributed.

This story was last updated at 11:46 a.m.