With Barack Obama and Mitt Romney holed up in preparation for Monday night's third and final presidential debate, the two campaigns' top surrogates and advisers butted heads Sunday over Big Bird, Mr. Romney's "binders full of women" comment and a new word being used by the president on the campaign stump: "Romnesia."
Romney adviser Kevin Madden said they're all examples of petty attacks the Obama campaign has hurled at Mr. Romney, in an attempt to distract attention from their failure to articulate a plan for the next four years.
"They've reduced themselves to very small attacks," Mr. Madden said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "It's quite frankly a silly word for the leader of the free world to begin uttering."
He was referring to "Romnesia," a word Mr. Obama used for the first time on Friday, telling a crowd in Virginia that his opponent was suffering from that condition after appearing to change his positions on issues like contraception and taxes.
"The very fact that the president has to utter a term like that is a glaring example of how small his campaign has been," Mr. Madden said.
But Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter shot back, saying it was a playful term that illustrates how Mr. Romney is flipping-flopping on positions in the final weeks of the race as he tries to win over undecided voters.
"Romnesia is a playful term to describe what Mitt Romney is doing in the final days of the race," she said. "In the final two weeks of this campaign, he's suddenly moving to the middle."
And she defended the campaign's decision to attack Mr. Romney for the comments he made about Big Bird during the first debate. After Mr. Romney said he wants to cut funding from PBS, even though he loves the beloved "Sesame Street" star, the Obama campaign ran a campaign ad going after the memorable line.
"We are not the ones that brought up Big Bird. Big Bird is important because that is the only thing Gov. Romney could point to as a way he was going to reduce the deficit," Ms. Cutter said.
In the second presidential debate, Mr. Romney's reference to "binders full of women" gained widespread attention, mostly for its awkward phrasing for his method of collecting the resumes of female job candidates. Mr. Romney used it to argue that he appointed many women to leadership positions when he was Massachusetts governor.
Ms. Cutter said he was trying to cover up his opposition to other pro-women policies he doesn't support, but Mr. Madden said the Obama campaign is trying to distract voters by fixating on single words or phrases Mr. Romney has used.
"All this talk about binders, all this talk about Big Bird, that's indicative of a president who doesn't have a plan for the future," he said. "They've conducted themselves like this over the last six months."
Both candidates spent their weekend preparing for Monday night's debate, with Mr. Obama working with his team at Camp David in Maryland and Mr. Romney with his team in Florida.
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