March 21, 2012 -- intro: For a candidate who has spent months battling the title of "flip-flopper," perhaps the last thing he would want associated with his name is an Etch A Sketch, those do-over drawing boards that let you shake your scribbles away with the flick of a wrist.
Unfortunately Mitt Romney won't be able to shake away this comparison any time soon. When his campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom was asked this morning on CNN how the GOP frontrunner would make the pivot to the general election, Fehrnstrom compared Romney's primary campaign to an Etch A Sketch, a gaffe that spread like wildfire to Romney's rival's stump speeches.
"Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch," Fehrnstrom told CNN's John Fugelsang. "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…"
Within hours, Romney's opponents seized on the comments, using them to reinforce the notion that the former Massachusetts governor will, as Rick Santorum said, "say anything to get elected."
"We're not looking for someone who's the Etch A Sketch candidate," Santorum said in a campaign speech just hours after Fehrnstrom's comments. "We're looking for someone who writes what they believe in stone and stands true to what they say."
Both the Santorum and Newt Gingrich campaigns made pit stops at the toy store to pick up Etch A Sketches of their own, deploying their new visual aids at speeches and rallies in Maryland and Louisiana today.
Though this latest gaffe came from Romney's spokesman, the candidate himself has made his fair share of unfortunate remarks on the campaign trail. Here's a look at some of the comments that have come back to bite Romney during this long primary slog.
ABC's Emily Friedman, Meg Fowler and Sarah Parnass contributed to this report.
quicklist: 1 title: 'Great Friends' Are 'NASCAR Team Owners' text: While Romney's name will not be the one zooming around the Daytona 500 NASCAR race track tonight, his comments about having NASCAR team-owning friends were flying into inboxes and Twitter feeds everywhere.
During a tour of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress' facilities Sunday, an Associated Press reporter asked Romney whether he followed car racing.
"Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans," Romney responded, "but I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners."
The Democratic National Committee was quick to pounce on the comment, painting it as another example of Romney's being out of touch with everyday Americans.
"I don't know pilots, but I know people who own airlines," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse tweeted as part of a string of jokes based off Romney's comment.
quicklist: 2 title: 'A Couple of Cadillacs' text: Two days before he touted his NASCAR-team-owning friends, Romney had an awkward moment at the close of a Detroit campaign rally after he told the crowd of about 1,200 that his wife "drives a couple of Cadillacs." Ann Romney's two Cadillac SRX's sell new for between $35,000 and $50,000.
"I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck," Romney told his Michigan supporters at the end of what his campaign billed as a major economic speech. "Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs actually. And I used to have a dodge truck so I used to have all three covered."
His comments Friday echoed a statement for which he caught flack back in September.
"I have a couple of the Cadillacs at two different houses. You know, small crossovers," Romney said while campaigning in Tucson, Ariz.
quicklist: 3 title: '$10,000 Bet' text: It wasn't quite to the level of a Rick Perry "Oops" moment, but perhaps the second-most damaging debate gaffe goes to Mitt Romney for challenging Perry to a "$10,000 bet."
At an Iowa debate in December, Romney and Perry got into a heated exchange about whether Romney wrote in his book that he supported individual mandates for health insurance.
"You know what, you raised that before," Romney said, extending his hand out to Perry. "I tell you what. 10,000 bucks. $10,000 bet."
"I'm not in the betting business," Perry responded.
While the Romney campaign insists the bet was no gaffe, his rivals aimed to portray it as such. Perry said the expensive bet showed Romney was "a little out of touch" and Michele Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said it shows he is "not the same level" as everyday Americans.
quicklist: 4 title: $370,000 Is 'Not Very Much' text: If you ask Mitt Romney, $370,000 is "not very much." But then again, this is a man who earned $42 million between 2010 and 2011.
After releasing two years of his tax returns in late January, Romney sought to explain why he paid a mere 14 percent income tax rate while the average tax rate for middle-income Americans is around 25 percent.
"My income comes overwhelmingly from some investments made in the past, whether ordinary income or earned annually. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. And then I get speakers' fees from time to time, but not very much," Romney said.
As it turns out, that "not very much" he earned from speakers' fees was more than $370,000, or about seven times the median household income in 2010.
quicklist: 5 title: 'I'm Also Unemployed' text: An off-the-cuff joke backfired during a chat with unemployed Florida voters in June after Romney said that he, too, was "unemployed."
"I should tell my story, I'm also unemployed," Romney said after discussing the difficulties of finding work with a group of Floridians who were looking for a job.
"I have my sight on a particular job," he joked, according to a New York Times report.
While Romney's campaign said the remark was meant to be self-depreciating and sparked laughs from the crowd, Democrats criticized Romney for being "out of touch."
quicklist: 6 title: 'Corporations Are People, My Friend' text: During a squabble with an Iowa State Fair heckler in August, Romney uttered the sentence that has continued to haunt him throughout the campaign.
"Corporations are people, my friend," Romney said, after an audience member shouted that the government should raise taxes on corporations.
"Of course, they are," he added amid the man's shouts. "Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people."
"Ah ha ha," the man mocked loudly.
"Where do you think it goes?" Romney asked. "Whose pockets?"
"People's pockets," he concluded. "Human beings, my friend."
Technically speaking, Romney is correct. The infamous 2010 Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United, said that corporations could spend money the same way individuals can to support political candidates and causes, thus giving rise to super PACs.
Romney hasn't held back from repeating the line again since it got attention back in Iowa, explaining to voters that he was right, despite what the heckler thought.
But in a political landscape where Occupy Wall Street and others are battling the influence of big banks and wealthy investors in elections, Romney's comments did little to help build his "everyman" persona.
quicklist: 7 title: 'I Like Being Able to Fire People' text: Amid a brewing controversy over his time as the head of Bain Capital, Romney threw raw meat to his opponents who were aiming to portray him as a "corporate raider" when he told a New Hampshire crowd that he likes "being able to fire people."
"I want individuals to have their own insurance," he said to the Nashua Chamber of Commerce in January. "That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don't like what they do, you can fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
"You know, if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service to me."
Romney's Republican rival Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the presidential race following the New Hampshire primary, did not skip a beat in attacking Romney for the comments.
"It's clear he likes firing people, I like creating jobs," Huntsman said.
quicklist: 8 title: 'Worried' About Getting a 'Pink Slip' text: He might like to fire other people, but apparently Romney, who has an estimated net worth of around $200 million, has also fretted about being fired himself.
"I know what it's like to worry about whether or not you are going to get fired," Romney told a New Hampshire crowd in early January. "There are times when I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip."
His campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul claimed Romney's comment showed "he worked his way up the career ladder knowing that his continued employment was by no means guaranteed."
Romney's rival, Rick Perry, on the other hand, said he had "no doubt" Romney "worried about pink slips."
"Now I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out because his company Bain Capital, with all the jobs that they killed, I'm sure he was worried that he'd run out of pink slips," Perry said the day after Romney's comment.
quicklist: 9 title: 'Not Concerned About the Very Poor' text: While he was trying to make the point that his campaign was focused on helping the middle class, Romney made an unfortunate choice of words in an interview with CNN's Soledad O'Brien.
"I'm not concerned about the very poor," Romney said in the Feb. 1 interview. "We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it.
"I'm not concerned about the very rich," he added, "They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I'll continue to take that message across the nation."
Romney quickly sought to clarify his remarks, telling reporters later in the day, "Of course I'm concerned about all Americans -- poor, wealthy, middle class -- but the focus of my effort will be on middle-income families who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy."
quicklist: 10 title: 'Let Detroit Go Bankrupt' text: A boldface headline that splashed across the New York Times op-ed pages four years ago is coming back to haunt Romney this week as he fights for votes in the Motor City.
"Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" was the title of a 2008 op-ed Romney wrote to outline his opposition to the auto-industry bailout.
The Democratic National Committee released a Web video in November featuring audio of Romney repeatedly saying "Let Detroit go bankrupt."
"This city. Where American rubber meets the road. A town that's been to hell and back. So what was his answer for the Motor City?" the narrator asks.
"Let Detroit go bankrupt," is Romney's audio clip response.
Democrats claim the bailout "saved 1.4 million jobs" in the auto industry and prevented devastating unemployment in Detroit and the rest of the Rust Belt. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has endorsed Romney, seems to agree, saying Sunday on "This Week" that the bailout "is working."
quicklist: 11 title: Let the Housing Crisis 'Hit the Bottom' text: In the state hit hardest by housing crisis, Romney said the government should not try to "stop the foreclosure process."
"Let it run its course and hit the bottom," he told the Las Vegas Review Journal's editorial board in October.
Later that night, at the Las Vegas GOP debate,, Romney clarified his comments, saying "the right course is to let markets work."
Nevada Democrats quickly shot back against Romney's hands-off approach.
"With the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, Nevadans can't afford someone in the White House whose response to this crisis is 'tough luck,'" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement, according to the Review Journal.