AP Photo/Bill Haber
ARBUTUS, Md. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried Wednesday to shake accusations that he’s an inconsistent conservative after a top adviser compared the campaign’s shift from primary fight to general election to an Etch A Sketch.
When Romney should have been enjoying the spoils of his convincing win in the Illinois primary and a coveted endorsement from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the off-handed comment about the draw, shake and draw again toy put him on the defensive instead.
His Republican rivals and Democrats were positively giddy over the remark, which gave them an opening to resurrect a familiar story line that the former Massachusetts governor will take any position on an issue to get elected.
The episode, likely to dog Romney in the coming days, began when adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was asked on CNN if the extended primary fight might force Romney so far to the right that it would hurt him with moderate voters in the fall.
Fehrnstrom responded: “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 we start all over again.”
Fehrnstrom did not try to take back his words when he was asked to clarify them. He said only that the general election is “a different race, with different candidates, and the main issue now becomes” exclusively President Barack Obama.
Romney has long battled the perception of being a flip-flopper, and to hear one of his most trusted advisers compare the campaign’s shift from primary fight to general election to a toy that, when shaken, clears its screen for another image was too good for his critics to pass up.