Video: Newt, Santorum now taunting Romney with Etch-a-Sketches on the trail

posted at 5:25 pm on March 21, 2012 by Allahpundit

In case you missed it this morning, here again is the Kinsleyan gaffe of the year thus far — a comment so stupidly vivid and vividly stupid given Romney’s vulnerabilities that it ends up being more effective than 99 percent of the attacks Santorum and Gingrich have lobbed at Mitt.

HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

FEHRNSTROM: 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.

What’s wrong with a strategist acknowledging a basic fact of political life, that candidates tend to move towards the center after the primaries to compete for independents in the general? Philip Klein explains in a post titled, “Romney advisor says his conservatism can be erased”:

Romney ran two races in Massachusetts as a moderate and even a self-described “progressive,” before changing his positions in the run up to his first campaign for president. Just last month, he described himself as “severely conservative” at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But as Fehrnstrom statement suggests, Romney’s appeals to the right are simply a matter of positioning rather than principle, something that can easily be changed once the target audience changes.

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.

Yeah, that’s the killer. Before the campaign, I could imagine conservatives nominating Romney if he swore up and down that he’d be a right-wing warrior while in office. There’s always a chance that he’d be telling the truth and a chance is all you need to justify voting for a guy who stands the best chance of knocking out The One. But here’s one of his very top aides all but telling you that “severe conservatism” is rhetoric aimed at getting him through the primaries — and yet we’re going to go ahead and nominate him anyway. Think this is the guy who’s going to the mat as president if a Republican Congress gears up to advocate sorely needed yet unpopular spending cuts and fiscal reforms?

Go scroll through this Wall Street Journal round-up of Etch-a-Sketch attack ads and tweets that have emerged just in the last few hours since Fehrnstrom’s comment became a sensation online. This meme obviously has legs and their round-up’s not even complete: While they do have footage of Santorum seizing on the remark at a stump speech today (said RS of Iran, “They know that I’m not holding an Etch A Sketch”), it’s Gingrich who did the most expert job in exploiting the device on the trail. Watch Politico’s vid of how he opened one appearance; granted, the Etch-a-Sketch as a symbol of Romney’s politics is an exceedingly easy metaphor to manipulate, but you’re watching an old pro at work here. Highly effective, even if his own chances at the nomination were erased sometime in the week between South Carolina and Florida. Exit quotation from WaPo’s Aaron Blake: “I have now gotten 11 Etch-a-sketch-related e-mails from the DNC today.” He’s since updated to make it 12.


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