Puny issues take flight in presidential campaign

Associated Press
A supporter in the front row holds a Big Bird book as President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at The Ohio State University Oval, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Do little things mean a lot in a political campaign? Or not?

Four years ago, Barack Obama denounced petty attempts to "make a big election about small things." Now Republicans accuse the president of going small himself.

This year the minor stuff is multiplying like fleas on a foxhound.

On the short list: Big Bird. The campaigns have been sniping about Big Bird ever since GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney turned the flightless yellow fellow into a debating point.

Even hobbies beget trifling controversy. Obama is assailed for taking time out for more than 100 rounds of golf. Paul Ryan gets caught knocking an hour off his marathon record.

Should candidates sweat this small stuff? Rutgers University political science professor Richard Lau says people are more serious than that.