Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have lost no time in turning rival Mitt Romney, who long has been derided as a serial flip-flopper, into the Etch A Sketch candidate.
The Gingrich campaign put up a new website, “Mitt's Etch A Sketch Principles,”
to highlight Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom’s gaffe, and Santorum’s campaign posted a photo on Twitter with the former Pennsylvania senator holding the toy with a caption explaining that Santorum is “"studying up” on Romney’s positions.
"You could not have found a more perfect illustration of why people distrust Romney than to have his [adviser] say that the Etch A Sketch allows you to erase everything in the general election," CNN quoted Gingrich as saying. "You have to read the guy's quote to realize — if he had set out to highlight for everybody why we distrust Romney, I think he couldn't have done a better job."
|Santorum uses an Etch A Sketch as a prop to say he's studying Romney's positions. (AP Photo)
The Santorum campaign went so far as to dispatch an aide to hand out Etch A Sketches outside a Romney rally in Maryland. “You are not looking at someone who is the Etch A Sketch candidate,” Santorum told a rally in Mandeville, La., while shaking one of the toys, The Washington Post reported.
The meme started when Fehrnstrom was asked during a CNN appearance whether conservative positions taken during the primary might harm the former Massachusetts governor’s standing with moderates, he replied:
“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.”
The comments quickly caught fire in the media and among political opponents and went viral on the internet. The Gingrich campaign website played on the comment and Romney’s reputation for shifting positions.
The website has a drawing of Romney on an illustration of the toy called: “Mitt’s Etch A Sketch Principles.” Clicking on a “shake” button causes the image to shake and the word “progressive” appears next to the Romney drawing. Another click and the label changes to “moderate” and another shake causes “severely conservative” to appear.
A final click brings up a montage of clips showing Romney espousing a series of positions on various issues over the years including abortion, health care and Second Amendment rights.
Romney himself was forced to step in to try and defuse the issue.
“Organizationally, a general election campaign takes on a different profile,” Romney explained to reporters. “The issues I’m running on will be exactly the same. I’m running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor. I’ll be running as a conservative Republican nominee.”
Political guru Larry Sabato said that “like most feeding frenzies, this is much ado about very little.”
“Nonetheless, this is a great reminder to candidates and staffs to watch every word — as though any were needed,” the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said. “Romney's problem is that his aide's comment fit one of the most damaging parts of Romney's subtext — that he's a flip-flopper, that what he says one day has no relationship to where he stands the next.
“Is this fair? No. But life isn't fair, and politics is arguably the most unfair part of life.”
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