Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during last week’s debate with President Barack Obama said that he would scale back government subsidies to public entities such as Amtrak and PBS.

“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS … I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you, too,” Romney said to debate moderator and former anchor of the PBS “NewsHour” Jim Lehrer, “but I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.”

Oddly enough, somewhere between the beginning and the end of that sentence, someone on the Obama re-election staff decided that they should make Big Bird a permanent fixture on the campaign trail.

“For all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry, somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. Elmo, you better make a run for it,” President Obama told a crowd last Friday. “Gov. Romney is going to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s going to bring the hammer down on ‘Sesame Street.’”

No, really. This is actually a campaign talking point.

Even Former White House Press Sec. Robert Gibbs has gotten in on the action: “The only thing [Romney] outlined that he would cut in the budget is Big Bird. He’s taking the battle straight to Sesame Street and let Wall Street run hog wild.”

Really, someone on Team Obama thinks this is a good line of attack. So good, in fact, that the official campaign of the President of the United States of America on Tuesday released an ad accusing the former Massachusetts governor of having it in for the eight-foot-tall puppet:

Final Thought — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run away from. You make a big election about small things.”

Obama Campaign Debuts Big Bird Attack AdUh-huh.

UPDATE — Shortly after the Obama campaign released the Big Bird ad Tuesday morning, Sesame Workshop issued the following statement:

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

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the second time this week the Obama campaign has been publicly scolded for using unapproved material in a campaign ad.

UPDATE II– Deputy White House Communications Director Jen Psaki on Tuesday told the press gaggle on Air Force One the Obama campaign would “review” Sesame Workshop’s request [emphasis added]:

Reporter: I feel a little odd saying this, but I have two questions about Big Bird.  (Laughter.)  The first is that as you know, Sesame Street has asked for the ad to be pulled on the grounds that it’s not a political organization and doesn’t want to be drawn into this kind of debate.  Will the campaign honor it and pull down that ad?

Ms. Psaki:  We have received that request. We’re reviewing it. I will say it doesn’t change the fact that there’s only one candidate in this race who is going to continue to fight for Big Bird and Elmo, and he is riding on this plane.

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Front page photo courtesy the AP. This story has been updated.