As Primary Disintegrates, Romney Thumbs a Reset Button

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, accompanied by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis, greet people and hand out submarine sandwiches during a campaign stop at a Cousins Subs fast food restaurant in

If Mitt Romney were an agent in "Men in Black," now's about the time he would hold up the memory-erasing cylinder and flash the red light in the direction of every independent female, Latino and working-class voter.

Unfortunately for Romney, the general election won't present him with a clean slate, and Democrats plan on keeping that slate full of all the far-right positions that the presumptive nominee has taken in a primary populated by conservatives.

There are more than enough comments, particularly on immigration and women's issues, to keep the Obama campaign busy this fall.

For example: On immigration, Romney has called Arizona's hard-line law a "model" and has said that "the answer is self-deportation." And when the primary briefly revolved around birth control, Romney said he supported legislation that would let employers deny contraceptive health coverage to their workers and said he would "get rid of" Planned Parenthood.

And that's not including his regular rich-guy remarks (befriending owners of Nascar and NFL teams, driving multiple Cadillacs, waging $10,000 bets, firing people, not being concerned about the poor, and scoffing at $370,000, to name half of them).

These types of comments are probably what Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom had in mind when he famously said last month that the candidate can shake up his more extreme positions "like an Etch A Sketch" to face President Obama and appeal to more moderate voters. Fehrnstrom's answer was in response to a question about whether Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have forced Romney to stray "so far to the right" that he risks losing moderates.

"I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes," he said. "It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and start all over again."

Democrats' reaction to Fehrnstrom's candid answer — round-the-clock ridicule that has lingered for weeks — indicates that they don't plan on letting go of the things that Romney wants to reset.

But Romney still has options, and he's already been branded a flip-flopper on issues such as abortion and the health care mandate, so repositioning on immigration and women's issues — to appeal to two key voting blocs — could help him.

Bob Quasius, the founder of Café Con Leche Republicans, an immigration-reform group that endorsed Newt Gingrich in the primary, said Romney's "self-deportation" comment and embrace of Arizona's immigration law will haunt him in the fall, but that the candidate can win Latinos back with "more pragmatic, practical solutions" on immigration.

"Romney's made some comments that I think will hurt him as he tries to appeal to Latinos," Quasius said.

Specifically, Quasius said Romney should fire Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who advises Romney and helped write strict immigration laws, and who has said that if Romney were president, five million undocumented immigrants could be deported.

"Avoid all associations with extremists," Quasius said. "Obama will hang Kris Kobach around his neck in the general election."

Similarly, Romney is advised by mainstream Republicans to avoid talking about women's health issues — like Sandra Fluke, abortion or birth control — and focus on the economy solely, so as not to risk putting off female voters who consider those matters personal. GOP pollster Linda DiVall said that focusing on women's issues is "not helpful at all" for Romney.

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