The LA Times reports:
Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Mitt Romney’s top aides, torpedoed what should have been a gangbusters news cycle for the campaign with this answer to a question about how damaging the primary has been to his chances in November.
“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.”
Romney’s critics suggested it was proof of what they’d long been warning conservatives — that he’d taken positions now to appeal to the party’s base that he’d quickly distance himself once he locked up the nomination.
Joe Klein thinks the Etch-A-Sketch gaffe “may go well beyond a momentary embarrassment and become a campaign-defining disaster, much as John Kerry’s ‘I voted for it before I voted against it’ gaffe — which came at almost exactly the same point in that campaign.
The key reason: “Most obviously, this was a classic Kinsleyan gaffe — an inadvertent blurting of the truth — that goes to the very heart of the character problems that have bedeviled Romney throughout this campaign.”
But more important: “It makes it much harder, perhaps impossible, for Romney to begin to tack back to the center to appeal to the centrist voters, an absolute necessity for the fall campaign after the free-range extremism of the Republican primary. Every time Romney makes a move, or even a head-fake, it becomes an Etch-a-Sketch moment.