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Santorum camp pounces on Romney adviser's 'Etch A Sketch' comment

 

On the very day that Mitt Romney picked up a key endorsement from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), his campaign is now receiving criticism after a top adviser suggested that Romney could hit a "reset button" in the general election -- like someone shaking up an "Etch A Sketch."

On CNN this morning, adviser Eric Fehrnstrom -- who worked for Romney when he was Massachusetts governor, as well as on his two presidential campaigns -- was asked if he was concerned that the GOP primary has forced Romney too far to the right, which could hurt him with moderate voters in the general.

Fehrnstrom's answer: "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."

He added, "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 major party nominee. He's winning conservatives; he's winning Tea Party voters; he's winning men, women; he's winning Catholics and Protestants."

The Santorum campaign quickly seized on Fehrnstrom's "Etch A Sketch" comment, charging that it was an admission that Romney will abandon his conservative positions in a general election.

"We all knew Mitt Romney didn't have any core convictions, but we appreciate his staff going on national television to affirm that point for anyone who had any doubts," said Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley. "Voters can trust that Rick Santorum will say what he believes, and do what he says. They may not always agree with Rick Santorum, but they can trust him because they know he is a man of principle. Clearly, the same cannot be said of Governor Romney."

The Obama campaign also piled on. Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter tweeted that Fehrnstrom "says on CNN that Romney will erase his hard right positions in general election like an etch-a-sketch. Yeah, don't think so."

While it's commonplace for a general-election candidate to tack back to the center in a general election -- think Barack Obama shifting his position on renegotiating NAFTA -- this is particularly tricky territory for Romney, who once supported abortion rights (but now opposes them), who raised fees and revenues as Massachusetts governor (but now opposes that), and who championed an individual health-care mandate in his state (but now opposes a federal one).