It should have been a good day for Mitt Romney. He just won a commanding victory in the Illinois primary, and a huge endorsement from Republican kingmaker Jeb Bush. But instead, the GOP presidential frontrunner suffered an embarrassing setback when his top aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, compared Romney's campaign to an Etch A Sketch. When asked how Romney could succeed in the general election after moving so far to the right during the primary, Fehrnstrom told CNN, "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 over again." (Watch the video below.) Romney's critics seized on the comment, saying it was further evidence that Romney is a man of no conviction who will change political positions whenever expedient. Will the Etch A Sketch controversy hurt him?
Romney will forever be the "Etch A Sketch" man: Fehrnstrom just "dropped an anvil" on Romney's foot, says Joe Garofoli at The San Francisco Chronicle. "Romney's opponents — left and right — have crafted entire campaigns built on how Mitt is the consummate flip-flopper." Now his closest adviser "has tattooed him with a pop-culture image to match that perception." Rick Santorum will take every opportunity to remind GOP voters that Romney is hoping to "erase" the conservative positions he took during the primary, and you can bet the Democrats will also "be thumping this one for months." This is Romney's "worst nightmare."
"Mitt Romney's worst nightmare: He's the Etch A Sketch man"
And he can't even erase his primary-season sketch: "Conservatives neither like nor trust Mitt Romney," and the Right has long feared that he'll "abandon his commitment to conservative rhetoric as soon as he becomes the nominee," says Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect. But let's be honest: Conservatives are in "the driver's seat," and "it's well within their power to keep Romney from running too far to the center." Romney is trapped in the "persona he's built" during the nomination fight. To beat Obama, "he needs high turnout from the base, [so] what choice does he have" but to bow to their right-wing demands?
"The Etch A Sketch gambit"
At least Jeb Bush's endorsement will help: The Etch a Sketch comment came at the worst time, just when finicky Republican voters were making "peace with the inevitable nominee," says Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. Romney will have to hope that the endorsement from the popular former governor of Florida "will take some of the sting out of" the scandal. The Bush political dynasty is essentially the embodiment of the Republican establishment — by endorsing Romney, and calling for Republicans to unite around his campaign, Jeb Bush "formally certified" Romney's nomination.
"Jeb endorsement may ease the sting of Romney advisor's Etch A Sketch gaffe"