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Thursday, March 22, 2012

D'oh! The Etch-A-Sketch Seen 'Round the World

"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." - Newt Gingrich, yesterday, Louisiana

Seriously, Romney Campaign? Seriously? I mean, you're going to be the nominee and everything, but can you please get out of your own way? This Etch A Sketch thing... you just can't make it up.

What's the number one criticism of Mitt Romney from the Republican Party's conservative base? That he's not actually a conservative! When he wanted to be a United States Senator from liberal Massachusetts in 1994, he ran as a moderate. It's only when he started running for the Republican nomination for the presidency that he became a conservative. That smell of fish doesn't come from Cape Cod. Something's obviously convenient about the evolution of Mitt Romney's ideology.

Romney, consequently, has basically spent five years assuring the GOP that he's actually a conservative now. ("Honest! I swear! Cross my heart!") Finally, on Tuesday night, he won the Illinois Primary, a contest that basically assured Romney of the inevitability tag for the rest of the nomination process. He did it. He finally pulled it off. Whether he had legitimately moved to the right or he successfully pulled the wool over conservatives' eyes, he was going to be the nominee of the Republican Party. It worked. He won.

And then yesterday happened. Now, I hesitate to say this will have any real impact on his inevitability. It won't. But it still makes for an entertaining development that, at the very least, cost him Louisiana on Saturday. When one of Romney's top advisers, Eric Fehrnstrom, engages in this back and forth with CNN's John Fugelsang, and you consider all that Romney has had to do and say to convince the party of his conservative stripes, you can see why this is pretty darn funny. Here's the video which reveals the dialogue in question:

Fugelsang (CNN): "Is there a concern [that] Santorum and Gingrich's attacks might force the governor so far to the right that it might hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?"

Fehrnstrom (Romney Campaign) responded: "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."

In other words, Romney says what he needs to say in order to win the Republican nomination, but then when it's the general election, he'll say something else--something moderate--which is the number one thing conservative Republicans had been fearing. You can't make this stuff up.

His rivals, both campaigning in Louisiana, quickly pounced. Rick Santorum has actually been levying this kind of criticism for about a week now, especially after Romney seemingly reversed his position on Puerto Rico's English language requirement for state-hood. ("We stood up for the truth in Puerto Rico. Mitt Romney pandered." This development, therefore, was right in his wheelhouse.

First, his campaign posted a Twitter photo of Santorum using the toy, captioning that the candidate was "studying up on (Romney's) policy positions." Santorum later told the Louisiana audience that Romney "will say what he needs to say to win the election before him, and if he has to say something different because it's a different election and a different group of voters, he will say that, too." Then he drove the point home:

"Well, that should be comforting to all of you who are voting in this primary." With that, Romney lost Louisiana.

Newt Gingrich piled on at his own Bayou State rally. "You have to stand for something that lasts longer than this," he said, holding up his own Etch a Sketch. (Here's what I want to know: did the toy's sales see a bump yesterday? They must have, right?)

More Gingrich: "Here's Gov. Romney's staff, they don't even have the decency to wait until they get the nomination to explain to us how they'll sell us out."

And from that link, more Santorum: "Gov. Romney's campaign had a real moment of truth today. . . . It actually revealed what everybody knew or suspected but now know: Gov. Romney is interested in saying whatever is necessary to win the election and when the game changes, he'll change."

Ouch!

Of course, it should be said that it's not at all uncommon for a nominee of either party to move to the center once the general election season begins. It's just that when conservatives constantly struggle with Romney's past views on social issues, this kind of comment really sticks out. And perhaps the biggest impact of this slip-up is not that it will affect the primary, but that if and when Romney does move to the center, conservatives will feel all the more betrayed, and perhaps even desert the candidate on Election Day.

If only the Romney Campaign could erase yesterday and start anew.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bet the RNC would like to take the whole primary and turn it upside down and shake it until it goes away.

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