Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is currently in damage-control mode even though he won handily in the Illinois primary. One of his top advisers, Eric Fehrnstrom, appearing on CNN, answered an interviewer’s question about whether Romney's conservative positions might be so far to the right as to hurt him with moderate voters, by saying that the general election campaign will be a new start, “almost like an Etch-a-Sketch.”
(h/t – The Last Refuge)
Romney, already carrying a reputation as a flip-flopper, has a significant, if perhaps temporary, problem. His GOP opponents are seizing on the comment as strong evidence that Romney is indeed a flip-flopper, and Tea Party conservatives cannot count on him not to sell them out for political advantage. Presumably, once in office, Romney could shake the Etch-a-Sketch yet again, depending on how the political winds are blowing.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum emphasized his own unchanging and principled conservative positions on campaign issues, and assured voters that he will not be changing to appeal to some different audience or some change in trends. This kind of consistency is reassuring, and Romney doesn’t provide it. The question is whether Romney is a man of core-belief conservatism or a pragmatic candidate who speaks what he thinks his audience wants to hear.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s response, according to an Associated Press article by Philip Elliott:
“My children had Etch A Sketches, they were great for car rides,” rival Newt Gingrich, badly trailing Romney in the polls, said in Lake Charles, La. “But you'll notice that their pictures aren't permanent, their pictures aren't locked down. You can redo it any time you want. That's the problem.”“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,” Gingrich added. “And I think having an Etch A Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we're going.”
Romney said that he is not an Etch-a-Sketch but a conservative who can be relied upon to maintain conservative positions as promised.
From the same AP article:
“The issues I'm running on will be exactly the same," Romney said. "I'm running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative governor. I will be running as a conservative Republican nominee — hopefully, nominee at that point. The policies and the positions are the same.”
If he turns out to be the nominee, I hope that will prove true. Meanwhile, his adviser has given Santorum, Gingrich, Obama, (and Ron Paul, if he cares to use it) a new, or at least more direct, avenue of attack regarding Romney’s flip-flopping tendencies.