“Jumped the shark.” “A campaign in panic.” “Lost it.” “Shocking.” These are just as few of the reactions among the media to the latest, dumbest move by the Obama campaign, an ad so trivial and unpresidential it makes one wonder if an epidemic of tone deafness has descended over Chicago:

Just the thing to get over an unpresidential, contentless debate performance by the incredible shrinking candidate, huh? The Republican National Committee couldn't resist and won the battle of Sesame Street ads.

Almost as intriguing as the lame ad was the near-uniform negative reaction among mainstream reporters and pundits of all stripes.

Let’s tally up the ways in which this ad is not helpful to the Obama camp. It keeps discussion of Debate-aggedon going. It is petty, suggesting that’s all the campaign has got to talk about. It makes Mitt Romney’s budget argument all the more powerful — liberals can’t part with PBS subsidies, so how are they going to make the tough calls on the debt? It chews up news cycles and time, neither of which Obama can afford to fritter away at this point. It gives the media another opportunity to show their “even-handedness” by lambasting the Obama team (after months of cooing and protecting the president from hard questions). It will annoy liberals donors and the base, who are already wondering if Obama really wants to win this race.

I probably left out a few things, but you get the point. Now, we shouldn’t get too carried away with one stupid ad. That said, it is indicative of a campaign that is feeling the absence of a positive agenda and whose barbs have missed the mark.

There is, of course time, four weeks to be exact, for Obama to regain his footing. This, however, is not the way to do it. It should concern Obama’s supporters that it now appears that Obama has no clue how to win the race. Maybe fortune will intervene, and he’ll turn in a great debate performance. If not, the president is going to lose, and that possibility is hitting home for his supporters.

UPDATE (2:14 p.m.): Big Bird’s keepers at Sesame Workshop are asking Obama to take down the ad. This might be a blessing in disguise.