In light of Mitt Romney’s big win in Illinois and the endorsement of Jeb Bush, Governor Romney enjoys some definite momentum and an opportunity to bring conservatives aboard provided one of his staff members doesn’t go on national television and make a statement that emboldens his opponent and re-enforces all the concerns his opponents have about him:
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.
The meme has caught on like wildfire. Gingrich and Santorum are out on the trail and they’ve come loaded with etch a sketches.
Alice Stewart of the Santorum Campaign was handing out etch a sketches in the parking lot of a Romney event. (Before Romney supporters complain remember the Romney Michigan/Florida tactic of sending out politicians to talk the other candidates events.)
It’s of course been a topic on the trail with both Santorum and Gingrich breaking out the etch a sketch:
The Etch-a-sketch comment has not gone unnoticed by the left and the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake has received 12 etch-a-sketch related emails from the Democratic Party.
Code designers were quickly up with a Mitt Romney Etch a Sketch Website.
Of course, we’ve seen a lot of gaffes in this campaign, most of which have been overstated as to their impact. This one is different. This particular gaffe by a campaign staffer came at a key point when Romney’s trying to short circuit this process and get Republicans to follow the Borg-like message of resistance being futile. Instead, the Very Conservative voters who are cool to Mitt have had their fears re-enforced.
Worse than that, the Fehrnstrom created a very concrete image for both primary and general election opponents to exploit. It’s better than Santorum’s line about a well-oiled weather vane. For voters who are about 30, the etch-a-sketch is incredibly concrete, and it covers all their fears about what Mitt Romney’s candidacy means. This doesn’t mean this gaffe will guarantee that Romney isn’t the nominee, but he better erase any idea of the party coalescing behind him any time soon.