When Mitt Romney came to Arbutus on Wednesday I was nervous that at this point in the campaign he would be so seasoned that we might not get any juicy slips of the tongue. And perhaps he wouldn’t have. Luckily, a campaign aide stepped in with a particularly cute faux pas.
Early in the day Wednesday, Romney’s aide Eric Fehrnstrom compared the campaign — and perhaps presidential campaigns in general — to an “Etch A Sketch” which “you can kind of shake…up and restart all over again” for the general election, forcing the candidate to devote some of his time in Arbutus to clarifying the remark.
As gaffes go, it’s pretty good. It plays easily into the popular perception of Romney as a flip-flopper. (Too bad Etch A Sketch is such a proletarian toy. It’d be nice if we could blast him again for being too rich.)
I wasn’t the only one who got a dark sort of pleasure from the slip up. Rick Santorum’s campaign was so delighted by it they even ran out and bought a Mini Etch A Sketch, just so campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart could wave it around as she spoke to reporters to skewer Romney on the gaffe outside his town hall meeting. Of course I’m not a political strategist, but I think this was a bad move. In the first place, it’s a real throwing-stones-while-living-in-a-glass-house situation — some classic Santorum gaffes include saying he doesn’t care about the unemployment rate and comparing gay marriage to the September 11 attacks. (Hell, some of his positions are gaffes in and of themselves.) And secondly, when your spokesperson brandishes a classic children’s toy to illustrate a point, it’s… I don’t know — it’s not very “presidential.”
The real winner here is not any of Romney’s opponents, but rather Ohio Art, the company that makes the Etch A Sketch. According to an article in USA Today, they are currently trying to figure out how to capitalize on the comment. Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Development Martin Killgallon has considered sending “a few cases” of Etch a Sketch to all the campaigns. But for those you who may be worried that the toy will become political, Killgallon wants to reassure you that “Etch a Sketch will have to remain neutral. We want what’s best for America.”
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