So let me get this right ... A Romney aide says that the nice thing about the fall campaign is that it's like an Etch A Sketch: "You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again." According to the New York Daily News, the stock price of the toy manufacturer hit a 30-year high for a one-day increase after former Sen. Rick Santorum brought the toy to campaign events, saying that he stands "firmly on the rocks of freedom, not on the sands of an Etch A Sketch." Then his spokeswoman handed out mini Etch A Sketches to reporters. Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich handed one to a child at a campaign event, saying, "You can now be a presidential candidate." I have to say that I'm with Rep. Ron Paul on this one, who released an ad called "Etch A Sketch" that makes fun of Santorum and Gingrich, asking, "Tired of games?" Paul's campaign chairman said Friday that Santorum and Gingrich are acting "like carnival barkers not the statesmen America sorely needs." I agree.
Not former Gov. Mitt Romney himself but an aide said the silly remark, and presumably he's referring to "Etch A Sketching" all the gaffes from the primary season. But even if he isn't talking about gaffes—if he's talking about wooing independents in the center, which is what has got the press up in arms—so what? It's a fact that Republicans need independents to win the election. Where was the same outrage when Hillary Clinton said it was time to "hit the reset button" with Russia, or the president talked about about "pivoting" from healthcare to jobs last year? And pivoting from deficit reduction to jobs? It's one thing when the Democrats say it, and another when Mitt Romney does.
Maybe I'm getting numb to all these Romney gaffes, but this one doesn't seem that bad too me. Plus Mitt Romney wasn't the one who said it. If an Obama staffer, say, Press Secretary Jay Carney, had said something similar, would the reaction have been the same against the president? I doubt it.
The bigger issue here is that it's really starting to look like the press is out to get Romney. I'd be willing to bet that Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul say and do all kinds of goofy things on the campaign trail that get shrugged off by the traveling press corps. Why doesn't that seem to happen with Romney? Newt Gingrich has been spending a lot of time in zoos and museums, but we never see any wacky footage of those adventures. Instead, it seems like the shots of Romney reciting the lyrics of "Davey Crockett" run a constant loop on cable TV. Granted, Romney did have some pretty bad misstatements earlier in the year, but I don't have a problem with an aide saying they're hoping for a clean slate in the fall.
The media is starting to look really petty. The word around town is that Romney's got the worst press relations of any campaign. If he wants this kind of coverage to stop, that needs to change. He needs to be more press-friendly—I'm not saying he has to do what Santorum's doing, giving them free toys to get them to write stories about his rivals—but a few long-form one-on-one interviews might be a good idea. It's becoming obvious that as a result of the bad relationship, the press corps just won't give him, or his staff, any benefit of the doubt at all.
I think it's because some of the reporters are sad about the fact that the more entertaining characters of the campaign are gone—who doesn't miss Herman Cain, The Donald, and Gov. Rick Perry?—and this thing is starting to come to an end. They can't stand the fact that Mitt Romney is in all likelihood going to be the nominee. They've been hoping for the excitement of a contested convention, but that's looking less and less likely, especially now that former Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed Romney. As Romney garners more delegates over the course of April, expect the media to keep sniping. He's the one who poses the most credible threat to the president, and as much as some members of the press would like to, they can't fix that with an Etch A Sketch.
- Susan Milligan: In Defense of the Etch A Sketch (and Mitt Romney Too)
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