President Barack Obama is not having a good week.
His campaign, following his lackluster performance in the first debate with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is in the late-early stages of disarray. As an antidote the president has seized on an otherwise throwaway line tossed off by his GOP opponent as the cornerstone of his campaign's remaining days. To wit: Save Big Bird, Vote Obama.
The president who came into office promising to be the scourge of Wall Street is now repositioning himself as the savior of Sesame Street. Meanwhile, Romney continues to rise in the polls, much to the consternation of the Obama campaign and its cheerleaders within the journalistic borg.
It is fair to point out that the same polls showing Romney pulling ahead were attacked as poorly constructed and inaccurate in the immediately preceding weeks. And it's fair to ask why they were wrong then but right now, on the basis of the result.
It may be that the electorate's attitudes are really shifting; that it finally got the signal it had been looking for that it was safe to make a change; that it was okay to vote for someone other than Barack Obama. It may also be that the pollsters have begun to adjust their survey models to reflect more accurately the composition of the electorate that will be voting in just about a month. Or it may be some combination of the two.
The president's positioning himself as the protector of Big Bird, much to the dismay of the Children's Television Workshop—which owns the character—is understandable. The Democrats scored points with the electorate back in the mid-'90s when the Gingrich Congress tried to cut the subsidies to PBS. Obama thinks he can do so again, but the stakes are different this time. Its one thing to protect public broadcasting in a time of economic prosperity; it's quite another when joblessness is at near record levels for the post-war period and people are afraid for their future.
More than that, there is another dimension to the debate, one that has to do with presidential gravitas. Having watched helplessly as the murdered body of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was recently dragged through the streets of Benghazi, it strains credibility to hear the president talking of, as CBS's Mark Knoller posted today on Twitter, promising to defend Big Bird to the death.
It is, after all, a matter or priorities. And Obama's increasing seem to be out of alignment with those of the American electorate.