Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Big Bird Edition

Visual source: Newseum

It’s official. Mitt Romney won this week’s debate on style, Barack Obama won on the facts, but Big Bird has won the post-debate media cycle. Days after the debate, the one policy that Americans are still talking about is Romney’s promise to cut funding for PBS.

Lori Rackl at The Chicago Sun-Times:

Let’s channel one of Big Bird’s colleagues, Count von Count, and do some math: The federal government gave $445 million this year to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which distributes that money to PBS and, to a lesser degree, NPR member stations across the country.

That $445 million works out to about 1/100 of 1 percent of the federal budget.

That’s like me saying I’m going to lose weight by trimming my nails.

I realize that $445 million, no matter how small a blip on the budget, is still a lot of cash. But if Uncle Sam put all of our money to this good of use, I’d voluntarily climb into the next income-tax bracket.

According to the AP, Big Bird is the one that got the biggest post-debate bounce:

Big Bird has never been so hot.

“Saturday Night Live,” Jimmy Fallon, Piers Morgan, the “Today” show and “Good Morning America” all asked for appearances from the “Sesame Street” character on Thursday after he was unexpectedly thrust into the presidential campaign by Mitt Romney.

TiVo claims that Romney’s desire to cut PBS funding was the most viewed moment of the debate. And from The National Constitution Center:

The phrase “Big Bird” was appearing 17,000 times every minute on Twitter. At midnight, CNN reported that mentions of Big Bird on Facebook were up an astronomical 800,000%.

Facebook later said Big Bird was the fourth most-mentioned topic on Facebook during the debate, getting more attention than topics like jobs, taxes, Jim Lehrer and Obamacare.

Alice Hines at The Huffington Post:

Big Bird’s popularity also generates sales — and jobs — at small businesses like the ones mentioned by Romney at Wednesday’s debate. American Plume & Fancy Feather Co. in Scranton, Penn. sells $12,000 to $15,000 a year worth of yellow feathers that go into making the world’s Big Bird costumes.

Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon looks at the emotional argument and why it may be trouble for a candidate who’s looking to “humanize” himself with voters:

What Romney, in his adorably out-of-touch way, failed to grasp with that statement is that practically every American under the age of 50 has a powerful childhood association with that goofy oversize lug. An entire generation can trace its first understanding of death to the moment that Big Bird let it sink in that “Mr. Hooper’s not coming back.” And another generation learned about loss and community and resilience after 9/11 when “Sesame Street” had Big Bird’s own nest destroyed in a storm. (The show aired Big Bird’s odyssey again after Katrina.) And I defy even a robotic millionaire to get through Big Bird’s choked-up rendition of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at Jim Henson’s memorial service and not completely lose it when he says, “Thank you, Kermit.” […]

[D]espite coming out of the evening looking stronger than he has in weeks — Romney made the error of looking like a man who is not on the side of innocence, whimsy, learning or childhood. Nor did he seem to grasp that Big Bird is an integral part of a show that was created for and remains at its core about community and diversity, one that has for decades been an essential tool in helping low-income children prepare for school. Going after Big Bird is like putting down baseball and rainbows and YouTube videos of otter pups. You just don’t.

Suzi Parker at The Washington Post:

Obama was not his best Wednesday night, but he could leverage Big Bird. That is if the Obama campaign is smart. A survey in 2008 noted that 77 million Americans had watched “Sesame Street” as children. That’s a lot of potential voters to woo. Nostalgia runs deep, trust me.

Big Bird, an iconic image, could serve as a bright yellow reminder that the Romney administration is keen on deep cuts to beloved institutions.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: The post-debate debate

Well, they’re done and we’re starting.

Nate Cohn just before the debate:

When the debate ends and the candidates step off the podium, a chorus of political analysts will begin to battle about whether Romney won and, if so, whether he won by enough to make a difference. But while the pundits will consider who made the best arguments or came out with the best sound bite, it’s the big picture that should really frame assessments of whether Romney wasn’t just good, but good enough. The question is whether Romney can make progress toward fixing his favorability problem.

Harry Enten:

Why we need national polls even when it’s swing states that decide the election

You might think we’d only care now about swing state polling, but here are five reasons why national numbers still count

And now to the post-debate debate:


While nearly half of debate watchers said the showdown didn’t make them more likely to vote for either candidate, 35% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney while only 18% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect the president.

CBS KN instant reaction poll: Big win for Romney. By 46-22 say think  won, 56% have better opinion of Romney, Romney cares up from 30 to 63
@MysteryPollster via Tweetbot for Mac

The pundits give the win to Romney. Typical example:

Ron Fournier:

Voters expect sitting presidents to win debates and, indeed, polls showed that Obama was heavily favored Wednesday. That benefits a challenger like Romney who grows in stature simply by standing next to the president.
Romney helped himself by looking directly at Obama when he answered questions. Obama looked at moderator Jim Lehrer, which on screen made it appear like he was speaking to the ground.
Romney smiled and cracked jokes (“I like Big Bird!”). Obama smirked.

Romney was a dick, though I thought he did better in the debate.

Not how reality works. RT @sullydish: [Obama] choked. He lost. He may even have lost the election tonight.…
@AndrewRomano via web

The Hill:

Jim Lehrer, the third man on stage at Wednesday’s presidential debate, quickly earned his own moment in the Twitter spotlight as viewers interpreted his attitude as one of growing exasperation.

The PBS “NewsHour” host, who has moderated many presidential debates in the past, appeared visibly frustrated while attempting to direct the debate. He sought to interrupt the two candidates several times only to be shut down, often by Mitt Romney rushing to respond to President Obama.

The Fix:

No Bain, no “47 percent”: Inarguably, Obama came into tonight’s debate with more obvious set-piece attacks on Romney.  But, he seemed to be disinterested in using them. He made no mention of either Romney’s “47 percent” comment or Romney’s work with Bain Capital — two demonstrably difficult topics for the former Massachusetts governor.  Our guess is that Obama and his team made the calculated decision not to hit Romney on either matter because a) it wouldn’t look presidential and b) it’s already penetrated deep into the political consciousness of the electorate.  Maybe so. But does it ever hurt to repeat the attacks that have been proven to work against your opponent?

Romney win, but does it matter? That’s the real question.


Voter persuasion math. It’s O 48.7 – R 44.5 with ~6 undecided.… To win, Mitt would need undecideds to break 5-1.
@DrewLinzer via web

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Voter suppression laws continue to lose in court

NY Times:

“Every voter restriction that has been challenged this year has been either enjoined, blocked or weakened,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice, which is part of the New York University School of Law and opposes such restrictions. “It has been an extraordinary string of victories for those opposing these laws.”

Yay, good guys!


A majority of voters want one party to control Congress and the White House next year, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, a remarkable opinion shift that suggests deep frustration with Washington gridlock.

The Journal survey of registered voters, to be released in full at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on, found 52% want effectively one party to rule Washington, with 39% wanting a divided government. It’s the first time a majority of voters supported the idea in the Journal poll going back to the mid-1980s.

How can anyone be frustrated with Washington gridlock? Isn’t the Republican House beloved of the people?

Nate Silver:

There were nine national polls published on Monday, which are listed in the table below. On average, they showed Mr. Obama with a 3.5 percentage point lead over Mr. Romney.

That’s smaller than the leads we were seeing in national polls last week, which seemed to be concentrated more in the range of a five- or six-point lead for Mr. Obama. It also suggests a smaller lead than recent state-by-state polls seem to imply…

On average, however, the polls showed only a 0.2 percentage point gain for Mr. Romney — not a meaningful shift in either a statistical or a practical sense.

NBC/WSJ polled ‘you didn’t build that’ line: 36% said it made them feel more positive/32% more negative. Romney’s 47% comment got 23% to 45%
@samsteinhp via TweetDeck


The Gallup Economic Confidence Index averaged -19 in September, up from -27 in August and nearly matching the -17 seen in May, the highest monthly reading since the start of Gallup Daily tracking in 2008.

Meanwhile a bad swing state polling day for Romney as well:

Here are the latest polls from the battleground states, updated as needed through the day:

Florida: Obama 46%, Romney 43% (Suffolk)

Nevada: Obama 53%, Romney 42% (We Ask America)

New Hampshire: Obama 51%, Romney 44% (Public Policy Polling)

Virginia: Obama 47%, Romney 39% (Roanoke College)

Meanwhile, it’s not officially a battleground state where the campaigns are competing but…

Missouri: Romney 48%, Obama 45% (We Ask America)

Ron Brownstein:

Across most of the presidential battleground states, particularly in the Midwest, President Obama’s lead rests on a surprisingly strong performance among blue-collar white women who usually tilt toward the GOP.

A National Journal analysis of recent polling results across 11 states considered battlegrounds shows that in most of them, Obama is running considerably better than he is nationally among white women without a college education. Obama’s gains with these so-called “waitress moms” are especially pronounced in heartland battlegrounds like Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin…

“Advertising matters, and a lot of the advertising is aimed at that group,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who is advising the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA. “That’s certainly been our No. 1 priority.”

Garin earlier this year described the movement of blue-collar women in battleground states toward Obama as “the demographic development of the summer” and the Obama campaign has tracked the same shift.

I don’t get how you can work somewhere like Breitbart or Drudge and not feel like you’re doing something pathetic with your life.
@jbarro via TweetDeck

Business Insider:

The Obama Video That Drudge And Others Are Freaking Out About Has Already Been Extensively Covered

If the present tension is not moderates against conservatives but reality-based Republicans vs. the other kind, many things make more sense.
@jayrosen_nyu via web

Speaking of reality, check out Bibi and the Bombs from Buzzfeed.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Debate preview

In the aftermath of the RNC, Romney can’t seem to gain traction. His campaign is pinning its hopes on Mitt Romney’s upcoming debate performances.

Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post gives one of the best ledes of the week with is debate preview:

Wednesday’s presidential debate promises sharp contrasts. One candidate wants to repeal Obamacare, one candidate invented it. One opposed the auto industry bailout, one takes credit for it. One doubts the scientific consensus about climate change, one believes in it. One wants to “voucherize” Medicare, one wants to save it. One dismisses nearly half of Americans as a bunch of moochers, and one claims to champion the struggling middle class.

It promises to be an epic clash: Mitt Romney vs. Mitt Romney. Oh, and President Obama will be there, too.

Conservative George Will also gives his take, conceding that Romney has an uphill battle:

Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, presidential politics is, like football, a game with a clock, one with just five weeks of ticks remaining. In football, a team behind by lots of points late in the game must take gambles. Romney is behind — in the important swing states, with the national electorate regarding who would best handle the economy and health care, and in national measures of favorable voter perceptions.

So on Wednesday night it might be risky for Romney not to take risks. But what can he do? He might add to his menu of policies by embracing, say, the idea of breaking up the largest banks, a sound policy that would subvert the caricature of him as rapacious capitalism embodied. But debates are not good venues for explaining . . . well, anything, actually, but especially not new initiatives. And October is a time for summations to the jury, not new submissions of evidence.

Liz Marlantes at The Christian Science Monitor:

How high are the stakes for Mitt Romney in this Wednesday’s debate?

Well, here’s one increasingly talked-about scenario: If Mr. Romney fails to deliver a good (perhaps even great) performance, he may face more than just bad reviews. He could begin to see an exodus on the part of his major donors and other supporters – who may choose to put their money in the final month toward what they see as more winnable contests in the Senate and House.

In particular, many observers are wondering if Romney could find himself abandoned by one of his highest-profile backers: Karl Rove.

Sam Youngman at Reuters brings us Romney’s latest attempt to turn the polls around:

Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney launched a fresh attempt on Monday to paint President Barack Obama as weak on foreign policy, saying he had let U.S. leadership atrophy, while the two candidates prepared for their critical first debate on Wednesday.

Romney’s aides said the weak U.S. economy remains his chief priority heading into the November 6 election, but the Democratic president’s handling of national security is also fair game.

This line of attack could be tricky for Romney, who drew heavy criticism for a hasty initial reaction to violent upheavals in Egypt and Libya last month in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed along with three other Americans.

This attack angle is in line with the rumored “October Surprise” that Craig Unger wrote about in Salon — that there’s purportedly evidence that the Obama administration knew about the Benghazi attacks beforehand:

“They are so excited about it,” he said. “Over and over again they talked about how it would be just like Jimmy Carter’s failed raid. They feel it is going to give them a last-minute landslide in the election.”

The source, however, said he was dubious about the tactic. “To me, it is indicative that they have lost touch with a huge portion of the electorate,” he said.

Roger Cohen:

In the vision of President Barack Obama, America is now in the status-management business: being realistic about its power the better to exercise and preserve it. As for Mitt Romney, he belongs to Putin’s school of foreign policy. The status quo he believes in is that of three decades ago. In this regard he is a closet Russian even as he denounces Moscow. […]

Romney’s vision, like Putin’s, is pure nostalgia. It imagines a world that is gone. Of course the clarion call of American greatness can be a distraction from economic difficulty, but Americans have grown wary of adventure.

Obama has been accused by Republicans of being in the business of “managing decline.” A better way to look at his foreign policy is one of managing the preservation of U.S. power in an interconnected world where the rapid growth is not in the West, where the national debt is a ticking bomb, and where the U.S. edge over other powers is diminishing.

David Firestone at The New York Times tackles Paul Ryan’s complete failure to name any specifics on the Romney-Ryan tax plan:

That’s the core of the ticket’s pitch: An economic turnaround can come with a snap of the fingers, unaccompanied by hard choices. Mr. Ryan had plenty of time to sell that message, and even appeared to have done some math.

“Look, our pro-growth tax reform, it cuts tax rates by 20 percent, higher take-home pay for middle class, pro-growth economic policy,” Mr. Ryan said. “That right there creates about 7 million jobs.”

Seven million — isn’t that specific enough for you? Except it’s an entirely invented figure premised on the idea that slashing taxes magically produces growth—which ignores the fact that President George W. Bush’s cuts failed to achieve that result.

Reuters presents the tax questions that need answers at the debate, including this one:

Today’s top corporate income tax rate of 35 percent is one of the world’s highest, but few corporations pay anywhere near it due to abundant loopholes that lower their tax bills.

You have both proposed cutting the corporate tax rate: Obama to 28 percent; Romney to 25 percent. How would you pay for cuts of this magnitude and why are they needed?

Meanwhile, The Chicago Sun-Times urges moderator Jim Lehrer to ask a question about torture:

At Wednesday’s presidential debate, we hope moderator Jim Lehrer will ask a question on a topic we haven’t heard much about lately: torture.

We pretty much know where President Barack Obama stands on the matter. One of his first acts in office was to issue an order restricting interrogation techniques to exclude such abuses as waterboarding and slamming suspects into walls.

But we don’t know where Mitt Romney stands — we can only worry.

In a secret campaign memo obtained by the New York Times, Romney’s advisers urge him to “rescind” Obama’s executive order and permit “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives.”

We’ve been down this road before, people, and it’s a bad one.