A central, longstanding criticism of Mitt Romney has been that he is a flip-flopper, changing his views according to political convenience. Now that Romney’s (once again) running for president, it seems even his campaign can’t avoid pointing it out. During a Wednesday morning appearance on CNN — asked about concern of alienating voters by veering too far right — Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom compared the campaign to an Etch A Sketch — you know, because you can erase everything and start all over once the general election campaigning starts up.
On CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, political comedian John Fugelsang asked:
“It’s fair to say that John McCain was considerably a more moderate candidate than the ones that Governor Romney faces now. Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to attach so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?”
“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.”
Fehrnstrom went on to add that Romney has been appealing to varying factions and there is increasing acceptance that he will be the nominee. While his inevitably may be a valid point, the Etch A Sketch remark instantly caused a stir in the media: to have your own spokesperson admit your inconsistency? Not good. Seizing the opportunity, several of President Obama‘s staffers took to Twitter, highlighting the comment:
Romney’s guy just said on CNN he will erase his hard-right positions in the general election “Like An Etch-A-Sketch”. #IDONTTHINKSO
— Jim Messina (@Messina2012) March 21, 2012
Forget everything you know.Forget everything you’ve seen.Coming soon.Mitt 5.0!bit.ly/GG2TdT
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 21, 2012
WATCH:Top Romney advisor says Romney will reinvent himself, his positions during general election.Principled.bit.ly/GCIE17
— Ben LaBolt (@BenLaBolt) March 21, 2012
The comment is also now featured on Rick Santorum’s website. A nice treat for the campaign following Tuesday night’s marked loss in Illinois.
Speaking to TPM, Fehrnstrom clarified, saying “he was referring to the broad character of the race and not to Romney’s specific positions.” He told TPM: “The campaign changes […] It’s a different race, with different candidates, and different issues that get discussed.”
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein makes a valid point in noting that it’s not unusual for candidates to reinvent themselves between the primaries and general election:
But it’s also worth acknowledging that almost all presidential candidates try and perform this evolutionary act during the switch from a primary to a general election. As then-Sen. Barack Obama was railing against NAFTA while running against Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008, his top economic adviser Austan Goolsbee was assuring Canadians that his bluster was just that.
But their campaigns don’t so unfortunately state it on cable television. And furthermore, the remark is particularly problematic for Romney given his reputation for changing his stances on a number of issues.
Regardless of what Fehrnstrom meant, there’s no shortage of jokes, and now the regrettable Etch A Sketch comparison is out there — straight from the horse’s mouth.
Take a look, via CNN:
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