Etch A Sketch Mania Takes Hold of Campaign Conversation

Mar 21, 2012 2:47pm
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                                                                                                   (Image Credit: ABC News)

Rick Santorum’s campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart was dispatched to Toys R Us this morning to buy 20 Etch A Sketch toys.

She handed them out at a town hall for Santorum’s chief rival, Mitt Romney, in Arbutus, Md., this afternoon, and also to the press corps.

It is not every day that a presidential candidate’s aide finds herself at a toy store doing candidate business, but the campaigns of both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have seized on comments by Mitt Romney’s top spokesman that the former Massachusetts governor, who is far ahead in the race for the GOP nomination, would hit a “reset” button to face President Obama.

“Everything changes,” Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said this morning, describing how Romney would appeal to moderate voters during a general election. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”

By early afternoon, the Etch A Sketch comment had taken over conversations about the Republican race. Both Santorum and Gingrich had used them as props. And Stewart, fresh from Toys R Us, was handing out the red drawing toys for free in Maryland.

And Etch A Sketch maker Ohio Art was hoping for an uptick in sales.

“Happy to see Etch A Sketch, an American classic toy, is DRAWING attention with political candidates as a cultural icon and important piece of our society. A profound toy, highly recognized and loved by all, is now SHAKING up the national debate. Nothing is as quintessentially American as Etch A Sketch and a good old fashion political debate,” said company spokeswoman Nicole Gresh in a statement.

 

Romney was asked about the comment while greeting supporters in Maryland.

“I’m not doing a press conference right now OK?” he said to reporters.

But he did offer a statement, saying: “The issues I’m running on will be exactly the same I’m running as a conservative republican I was a conservative republican governor I will be running as a conservative republican nominee excuse me at that point hopefully the nominee for president the policies and positions are the same.”

Santorum said the comment reflected Romney’s willingness to compromise his principles and become “a completely new candidate” who can “draw a new picture” simply to get elected.

“That whoever you are going to vote for is going to be a completely new candidate, remove all trace of any kind of marks and be able to draw a new picture,” Santorum said. “Maybe a picture sort of like when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, not as a conservative. One thing you can say – even my staunchest critics will say – is what you see is what you get.”

Gingrich made similar comments in Louisiana, when he handed an Etch A Sketch from the stage to a child in the crowd, telling her she could now be a presidential candidate.

“It is such a perfect illustration,” the former House speaker said. “How is anybody going to trust any pledge he makes if his, some people talk about  making pledges that are in stone, but the idea that a Romney pledge is on etch a sketch.  This will just resonate.  It will remind everybody in the Conservative movement why they are very worried about a Romney presidency and about a Romney candidacy.  And it really makes  you doubt and wonder about his sincerity.

Romney’s campaign sought to tamp down the fallout from the Etch-A-Sketch flap on Wednesday.

Campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement to ABC News that “As Gov. Romney moves from the primary to the general election, the campaign changes. 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.”

The Etch A Sketch theme threatened to overshadow a key endorsement Romney received from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who argued that Republicans should coalesce around Romney’s candidacy.

 

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(Image Credit: Twitter / @mattbeynon)

But Santorum believes he is that conservative candidate, not Romney.

“I agree, they should all start supporting me because I’m the strong conservative candidate,” Santorum  said in response to a reporter’s question about Bush’s endorsement and the need for conservatives to coalesce around one candidate.

Michael Falcone reported from Arbutus, Md., and Arlette Saenz reported from Harvey, La.

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