Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom has taken a beating today for handing his opponents the visual metaphor they've been waiting for, comparing the campaign to an Etch a Sketch that can easily be shuffled and redrawn.
“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” he said on CNN. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
We can't know whether campaign staff were dispatched to the local Toys 'R Us or raided their childrens' toy boxes, but within hours, both Gingrich and Santorum were waving the toy around during their afternoon stump speeches to illustrate Romney's shifting political principles. The Democratic National Committee sent an email out minutes after Fehrnstrom's appearance.
But the Etch a Sketch image overshadows the key point Fehrnstrom was trying to make -- that Romney will have to make some substantial adjustments as he shifts from a candidate who can win a GOP primary to a candidate who can win a general election.
In this task, he is no different from any candidate who emerges from a tough primary fight and has to both unify the party and try to win over independent voters. But this has been a particularly acrimonious primary and the divide between the conservative and moderate factions of his party has been stark.
So Romney will have to "shake it up" to get his party together and build momentum for the race against Obama -- a point that Fehrnstrom later made clear in an email to Michael Shear of the New York Times. Shear writes,
Asked whether he wanted to take the words back, Mr. Fehrnstrom e-mailed what apparently is what he wished had come out of his mouth in the first place.
“As we move from the primary to the general election, the campaign changes,” Mr. Fehrnstrom wrote. “It’s a different race, with different candidates, and the main issue now becomes President Obama’s failure to create jobs and get this economy moving.”
Photo: Sean Gardner / Reuters