Updated at 2:55
Mitt Romney's rivals have seized on comments made by his communications director Eric Fehrnstromon CNN this morning suggesting Romney's rightward shift during the primary might be "reset" during the general election campaign. Here's the exchange:
JOHN FUGELSANG (CNN): "Is there a concern that [Rick] Santorum and [Newt] 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 of over again. But I will say, if you look at the exit polling data in Illinois, you'll see that Mitt Romney is broadly acceptable to most of the factions in the party. You have to do that in order to become the nominee…"
There is no doubt that the tone and issues most on display during the general election will differ from those that were the focus during the GOP primary. And there is no doubt that Romney or whoever is the eventual nominee GOP nominee will have to "pivot" to face president Obama. But Fehrnstrom's analogy immediately struck a nerve among both Republican candidates and Obama campaign aides on Twitter, who tried to make it sound like Romney would change his positions if he can clinch the nomination.
" One of Governor Romney's aides today on television said that Gov Romney, after he wins the primaries, will be like an Etch-a-Sketch, You take whatever he said and you can shake it up and it will be gone and he's going to draw a whole new picture for the general election. Well that should be comforting to all of you who are voting in this primary," said Rick Santorum in an interview on Fox News Channel later Wednesday morning. "That whoever you are going to vote for is going to be a completely remove all trace of any kind of marks and be able to draw a new picture. Maybe a picture sort of like when he ran for governor of Massachusets, not as a conservative. One thing you can say-even my staunchest critics will say-is what you see is what you get. "
Santorum's spokesman, Matt Beynon later tweeted a photo of Santorum holding a blank "Etch-A-Sketch" in the back of a car.
"@RickSantorum studying up on @MittRomney policy positions yfrog.com/odl78wmj," tweeted Beynon.
And Newt Gingrich joined in with people on twitter poking fun of Ferhnstrom with the hashtag "Romneytoys".
"Etch a Sketch is a great toy but a losing strategy. We need a nominee w/ bold conservative solutions. Newt.org #RomneyToys," tweeted Gingrich.
Both men arrived at campaign events with small red Etch A Sketches in tow.
President Obama's top campaign strategists assailed Fehrnstrom on Twitter, casting the remark as further evidence that Gov. Romney is unprincipled and "without a core."
" @ericfehrn says on CNN that Romney will erase his hard right positions in general election like an etch-a-sketch. Yeah, don't think so," tweeted deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.
"Day after winning IL primary, @MittRomney campaign tells GOP voters that his platform was all just an etch-a-sketch," she added later.
Senior Obama strategist David Axelrod: "Forget everything you know. Forget everything you've seen. Coming soon. Mitt 5.0!"
Obama campaign manager Jim Messina posted to Twitter, "Romney's guy just said on CNN he will erase his hard-right positions in the general election "Like An Etch-A-Sketch". #IDONTTHINKSO"
And, within seconds of his peers, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt joined the wray, including a link to the video of the Fehrnstrom interview segment. "WATCH: Top Romney advisor says Romney will reinvent himself, his positions during general election. Principled. http://t.co/teMSLGSJ," he said.