“I’ve been thinking about this all night: Eric Fehrnstrom’s Etch A Sketch gaffe yesterday may go well beyond a momentary embarrassment and become a campaign-defining disaster, much as John Kerry’s ‘I voted for it before I voted against it’ gaffe — which came at almost exactly the same point in that campaign, as Kerry locked down the nomination — was in 2004…

“There is a gestalt to every campaign, a deep organic spirit. Kerry’s campaign was infected by the candidate’s indecision about what to do regarding the war in Iraq. Bill Clinton’s campaign was propelled by his native resilience. George W. Bush succeeded because of his gormless certitude. The Obama campaign’s steadiness emanated from the candidate’s no-drama persona. In Romney’s case, this spirit expresses itself in embarrassing gaffes, often at the moment of victory — and it reflects the sterile management-consultancy ethos at the heart of the candidate. In last week’s issue of the New Yorker, Louis Menand had a terrific essay about how this ethos really is Romney’s defining characteristic. A management consultant or private equity turnaround specialist can wipe the slate — or Etch A Sketch — clean and start anew with each new project. A political candidate can’t. There has to be some passion for a presidential candidacy to work. Romney has none, just a deep abiding faith in his ability as a turnaround guy. A turnaround guy. A turnaround guy.”

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“While the Romney campaign finds itself mired in yet another feeding frenzy over a top aide’s ‘Etch A Sketch’ comment, it is important to take a step back here. One, Romney never said the remark (senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom did). And two, a lot more good for the campaign happened yesterday (aftermath of winning Illinois, getting Jeb Bush’s endorsement) than bad (‘Etch A Sketch’). Yet the feeding frenzy highlights a bigger problem for Romney, especially as we begin transitioning to the general election: He gets almost no benefit of the doubt. Every gaffe becomes a story; every mistake become fodder for late-night comedians. And more importantly, this is what happens when you don’t have a solid base of support that can serve as a cocoon of protection during the toughest of times. Successful presidential candidates (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama) had grassroots supporters rushing to their defense, even in the toughest of political times. Romney — right now — doesn’t have this. In fact, it was notable during yesterday’s ‘Etch A Sketch’ controversy that we didn’t see many prominent conservatives railing against media bias or unfairness. Instead, they were either standing on the sidelines or piling on. And that’s a problem for Romney.”

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“Unlike past Romney controversies in which Santorum sometimes declined to join in attacks on the frontrunner — the flap over Romney’s history at Bain Capital, for example — the Etch-A-Sketch affair has the full attention of Team Santorum. ‘We’re not looking for someone who’s the Etch-A-Sketch candidate,’ Santorum said Wednesday in Louisiana. ‘We’re looking for someone who writes what they believe in stone and stands true to what they say.’ In Arbutus, Maryland, when Romney spoke at an American Legion post Wednesday afternoon, Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart visited the parking lot, giving reporters a miniature Etch-A-Sketch. Asked what other plans Santorum had to call attention to the matter, Stewart said, ‘Lots.’…

“The controversy left Romney’s team frustrated yet still confident it would soon blow over. They point out that there is a difference between what a campaign aide says and what a candidate himself says — and that the words at the center of the storm came from Fehrnstrom, not Romney himself. Also, they see the Etch-A-Sketch matter as part of a continuing barrage of small criticisms of Romney — like those Democrats who keep re-telling the dog-on-top-of-the-car story — while on the campaign trail Romney is addressing the big problems facing the country. Sooner or later, they believe, the big topics will win out.”

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“If Mitt Romney really wants to demonstrate that he’s not simply pandering when he tells us how conservative he is, he needs to fire his campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom

“By any objective measure, it’s of course unjust to fire a man for one errant remark. Politics, however, isn’t fair, and neither is the presidency. Mr. Romney’s problem is not his policies or programs; his problem is his credibility: many people just don’t believe he really believes what he is telling us. Firing Mr. Fehrnstrom would be a welcome signal that Mr. Romney is offended by any suggestion, no matter how much it might be later explained away, that he does not really believe what he says — and is ready, willing, and able to erase it away when he thinks he needs to…

“This is a tough decision for any candidate. We’ll learn something by Mr. Romney’s reaction.”

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“The question is, who will he pander to as president? Well, that’s up to us. If we spend all of our time hating him, writing in other candidates names, and ultimately letting the ‘establishment’ get him elected, he will not be as concerned about pandering to us going forward assuming he could even win without our support.

“If instead, we pushed hard to get him elected, unseated Barack Obama and pushed in a Republican senate while keeping the House…well, let’s just say that based on his history, he’s going to do whatever he has to to make sure that come 2016 we’re going to think that he’s the second coming of Reagan…

“To put it another way, I’d rather have an etch-a-sketch with the probability that I can influence the drawings as opposed to a published book that I disagree with but am incapable of editing.”

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“Ohio Art, the company that makes Etch A Sketch, saw its stock jump up a whopping 212.5 percent in the day after Mitt Romney’s adviser Eric Fehrnstrom likened the start of the general election campaign to shaking up an Etch A Sketch…

“Fehrnstrom had a little fun with the impact of his comment, saying in a tweet on Thursday, ‘Etch A Sketch stock is up? Psst, I’ll mention Mr. Potato Head next. Buy Hasbro.'”

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“This is the most inane nonincident of the campaign season.”

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