Eric Fehrnstrom, a top advisor for the Mitt Romney campaign, did his level best to flush Romney’s Illinois victory down the toilet in a jaw-dropping CNN interview, where he borrowed Hillary Clinton’s hilariously dumb “reset button” metaphor just to get warmed up.
Asked whether pressure from rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich would “force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the election,” Fehrnstrom replied:
“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 restart all over again.”
It’s awfully nice of the Romney campaign to give opponents – both Republican and Democrat – such an unforgettably catchy metaphor to beat him over the head with. It perfectly captures the negative impression of Romney as a flip-flopper, ready to jettison any inconvenient position in the quest for “moderate” votes, as well as conservative fears of being abandoned by a “centrist” candidate once he gets into office. The Romney campaign can only hope that Fehrnstrom’s remarks drive Gingrich and Santorum into the doldrums, because they didn’t think of calling Romney an “Etch-a-Sketch” candidate first.
This is a shame, because Romney gave a really excellent speech after his Illinois victory. Now one of his top advisors assures us it didn’t mean anything.
This isn’t the first time Romney or his surrogates have blown the momentum from a big win, by saying something extremely… distracting. Another example was Romney’s unfortunate musings about how he wasn’t “concerned about the very poor,” just hours after winning the Florida primary. It wasn’t quite as bad in context, but it was still the kind of loaded statement that can be quite capable of inflicting a mortal wound, when discharged into the candidate’s foot.
Throughout this primary season, voters have expressed clear concerns about the “electability” of the candidates. More than one promising campaign has crumbled to dust because the candidate made mistakes that made primary voters worry about his or her ability to get through a grueling general election without self-destructing. Mitt Romney, widely viewed as the most “electable” candidate, and credited with the most politically adept campaign team, is not above these concerns.
People have been wondering what Romney meant when he boasted of his “severe” conservatism. Few suspected that severe conservatism could be erased by holding it up and giving it a firm shake.
Update: Rick Santorum, via Twitter: “I’m standing firm on conservative principles. I’m no Etch a Sketch waiting to be shaken up & re-shifted.”
I haven’t seen Newt Gingrich pile on this yet, but I await a statement that the Etch-a-Sketch is an obsolete analog implement, fundamentally unsuited for our historic transformation into a digital world.
Update: Aaaaaaaaand here comes Newt, carrying an Etch-a-Sketch on stage to deliver a speech, courtesy of @EliciaDover on Twitter: