President Barack Obama, stung by bad reviews in his first debate of the 2012 White House race, joked Thursday that the “very spirited fellow” onstage with him was “not the real Mitt Romney.” Obama also mocked the former Massachusetts governor’s pledge to cut government subsidies for PBS as “finally getting tough on Big Bird.”

“When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,” he told cheering supporters here. “But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy.”

“The fellow onstage last night said he didn’t know anything about that,” Obama said. The president then gave the same treatment to Romney on education and other issues—and hit back at one of Romney’s debate zingers, “I maybe need to get a new accountant,” uttered in a spat about outsourcing and whether companies can take a tax deduction for shipping jobs overseas.

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