NEW YORK | If President Obama can spare a moment from such chores as winning re-election, he might find a few chuckles on late-night TV.
Times are tough for Mr. Obama, especially when it comes to his approval ratings. But things could be worse.
With Election Day looming one short year away, Mr. Obama’s most effective heat shield turns out to be his loyal opposition: Republicans scrapping to unseat him and getting lampooned for it by late-night TV comics.
The jokes range from blistering to silly to simply sophomoric. But it should be all the same to Mr. Obama: They’re not targeting him.
Among Republican challengers, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney holds steady as “the uncontested front-runner for everyone’s second choice,” in the wry appraisal of “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart. Meanwhile, Mr. Romney’s rivals scramble to gain an upper hand without falling prey to the next punch line.
In that latter mission, they often stumble as they, not the White House, take the brunt of late-night talk shows’ jibes.
“Did you spot the trend amongst the Republican nominees?” Mr. Stewart posed. “As a trained eye, I’ll give you a hint,” which he voiced in an exaggerated whisper: “They’re all saying crazy things.”
On Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert noted that, with the NBA lockout, there might not be a basketball season this year. “But if you want to watch millionaires throwing elbows, there’s still the Republican presidential race: So many characters, so many twists; it’s like a Mexican telenovela that wants to deport itself.”
“How about I start tonight with good news,” offered TBS host Conan O'Brien in a recent monologue. “KFC has just introduced the new Cheesy Bacon Bowl, which is filled with mashed potatoes, cheese, gravy, chicken and bacon.” The Cheesy Bacon Bowl, he went on, is “now the Republican front-runner for President.”
For a time, Mr. Perry was a front-runner.
“Perry says he wants to return America to the good old days,” NBC’s Jay Leno declared in a “Tonight Show” monologue. “You know, like eight weeks ago, when he was ahead in the polls. Those were the good old days.”
“Late Show” host David Letterman addressed Texas’ high death-penalty rate. After Mr. Perry went hunting and bagged 12 pheasants, Mr. Letterman said, “He killed them with lethal injection.” He then reported that Mr. Perry was taking his plunge in the polls bitterly: “Today, he executed his pollster.”
NBC “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon joked about an interview in which Mr. Perry “criticized Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on the issues.” In response, “Romney said that Perry has no idea what he’s talking about. Then he added, ‘But he does know what he’s talking about.’ “
On that same theme, CBS’ Mr. Letterman announced that hookers in Times Square are getting in the swing of the political season. “They will offer you their Mitt Romney special,” he said. “For an extra $20, they’ll change positions.”