ARBUTUS, Md. – After a top adviser compared his campaign positions to an Etch A Sketch, Mitt Romney on Wednesday told reporters at a campaign stop that his “policies and positions are the same.”
His rivals for the nomination had a field day with the gaffe, and Romney was forced to clarify comments by senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom, who, in appearance on CNN, compared the campaign to an Etch A Sketch because “you can kind of shake it up and we start all over again” during the general election.
Romney said, “I can tell you this. When the campaign moves to becoming a general election campaign, the nature of the campaign itself in terms of staff, funding, the states we would go to, will be different than today, obviously, it’s a much larger campaign.”
But, he added, “The issues I’m running on will be exactly the same. I’m running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor, I’ll be running as a conservative Republican nominee.”
Romney decided to address Fehrnstrom’s comments after rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich seized on them as evidence that Romney has no ideological core and changes positions on issues when it’s politically expedient.
At a campaign stop in Louisiana, Santorum gave a speech and pulled out an Etch A Sketch that his campaign had stopped to buy as a prop. “You take whatever he said and you can shake it up and it will be gone,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “And he’s going to draw a whole new picture for the general election. Well that should be comforting to all of you who are voting in this primary -- that whoever you are going to vote for is going to be a completely new candidate, remove all trace of any kind of marks and be able to draw a new picture.”
Santorum spokesman Alice Stewart crashed a Romney event in Maryland to hand out miniature Etch A Sketches to reporters in the parking lot. “Clearly the Romney camp acknowledged what we’ve all been afraid of, is that if he were to make it through the primary he would abandon his conservative principles and go right back to the middle. That’s absolutely the last thing that we need as conservatives,” she said.
Gingrich also wielded an Etch A Sketch at a campaign event. “Now given everybody's fears about Gov. Romney's flip flops, to have his communications director say publicly to all of us, ‘If we're dumb enough to nominate him, we should expect by the acceptance speech he’ll move back to the left,’ triggers everything we should worry about,” the former House speaker said. “ … If you’re somebody who invents Romneycare and at the signing ceremony you say that your closest collaborator was Teddy Kennedy, it’s really hard to explain to us that you’re really conservative.”
Greeting supporters later, Gingrich said, “This will just resonate. It will remind everybody in the conservative movement why they are very worried about a Romney presidency and about a Romney candidacy.”
Sarah Huisenga and Lindsey Boerma contributed to this story.