Rural Van Meter, Ia. (Des Moines Register) - If you've ever wondered what it would look like if "Sesame Street" were crossed with the protesters from the 1968 Democratic National Convention, your answer was standing off by the side of the road outside Mitt Romney's campaign rally this morning.
Costume-party simulacra of Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Elmo and Oscar the Grouch held anti-Romney signs, chanted anti-Romney slogans and sang the "Sesame Street" theme song with new, anti-Wall Street lyrics at the cars full of Romney supporters turning onto Meadowview Avenue and entering the rally site.
To be clear: this wasn't anything anywhere close to sanctioned by the PBS or the early-childhood educators behind the venerable TV show. There were demonstrators from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the liberal advocacy group.
"Sesame Street" has become something of a flashpoint in the presidential campaign after last week's debate in which Romney repeated his call to defund public television by name-dropping Big Bird specifically.
Since then, an internet meme has swept through, Saturday Night Live has satirized the situation and the Obama campaign itself has released a tongue-in-cheek ad criticizing Romney's emphasis on Big Bird.
Word is MoveOn.org will even have an airplane banner flying over Romney's event here reading "Crack down on Wall St., not Sesame St."
Republicans are pointing to the flap as evidence that the Obama campaign is focused on cheap politics and trivia rather than the important issues in the race. A Republican National Committee advertisement invokes "Sesame Street" character Count von Count to track the number of time Obama has referenced Big Bird and Elmo while ignoring the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya and the economy.
That's the same argument being made by the protesters on the ground, although there's was decidedly lo-fi.
The Big Bird out here wasn't all that big at all - maybe 6 feet rather than his typical 8 feet. His legs were decked out in orange leggings with bands of pink duck tape. Cookie Monster's paunchy midsection was fortified not by cookies, but by wadded up newspapers, which occasionally fell out, forcing cookie to awkwardly readjust them while keeping hold of his "99 percent of cookies are eaten by 1 percent of monsters" sign.
Oscar the Grouch held a sign reading, "I was nice until Bain sent my job to China" - a reference to the charges that Bain Capital, the company Romney once led, invested in companies that enabled outsourcing.
One of the protesters led the theme-song/populist rage mashup, singing, "Stormy days/taking our jobs away/we did not wreck the e-con-o-my/Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Wa-a-all Street?"
A handful of un-costumed Romney supporters were out on the corner, too, and when a photographer and reporter approached they crowded in with the CCI protesters, hoping in vain to drown out their chants and primary-colored get-ups with Romney/Ryan placards.
The protest, CCI activist and Elmo impersonator David Goodner said, was sponsored by the number 47.