Mitt Romney's 'Etch A Sketch' Problem

A senior aide's "Etch A Sketch" gaffe will inflame the Romney campaign’s Achilles heel.

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It wouldn't be the morning after a major Mitt Romney primary victory without a fat, juicy, general election-complicating gaffe.

After decisively winning in Florida, the former Massachusetts governor famously informed CNN's Soledad O'Brien that he's "not concerned about the very poor." He hurriedly clarified what he meant by the quote, but the misstatement arguably cost him a news cycle. What should've been a victory lap became a daylong firefight.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

As if on cue, after a comfortable victory in Illinois, senior aide Eric Fehrnstrom said this about Romney's impending pivot toward the center: "Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch—you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."

Unlike Romney's "I'm not concerned about the very poor" gaffe, it's harder to disentangle an innocent meaning from the verbal wreckage. Fehrnstrom was responding to this question from CNN's John Fugelsang: "Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right that it might hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?"

[Read the U.S. News debate: Can Mitt Romney Close the Deal With Conservatives?]

The proper Communications 101 answer to this question would go something like this: "Mitt Romney has tacked neither left nor right on his way to winning this nomination. He has not changed—and will not change—his principles, and it's no mistake that Mitt has appealed, far and away, to the most Republican voters during this spirited primary."

But Fehrnstrom instead wound up gobbling a mouthful of foot. He went so far as to say Romney will "reset" his campaign strategy once he's the formal GOP nominee—which would've been bad enough. (Note well: Fehrnstrom was not speaking of a "reset" in the context of burying the hatchet with his conservative opposition.) He went further with the near-comical "Etch A Sketch" analogy—and thereby confirmed, one more time, that his boss is an unprincipled reptile.

[See pictures of Mitt Romney.]

The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein pounced:

If Romney's fiercest critics wanted to come up with a way to describe Romney's approach to politics, I don't think they could have come up with a better analogy than Etch-A-Sketch. The fact that it's coming from one of Romney's long-time aides is stunning. An even scarier thought for conservatives: if the Romney campaign is willing to take them for granted before even clinching the nomination, imagine how quickly Romney would abandon conservatives if he ever made it to the White House.

One is left to marvel at the sheer stupidity of the remark—and loudly declare, "Heckuva job, Fernie!"

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