National Democrats looking to portray Mitt Romney as a panderer think they’ve found the Holy Grail in a quote from Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom today about how his candidate plans to handle the general election.
Fehrnstrom was asked on CNN Wednesday whether he was concerned that Romney’s prolonged fight with Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would force him to “tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election.”
“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom responded. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.”
Video, via ThinkProgress:
Democrats trumpeted the interview as an outright admission that Romney plans to abandon his more conservative positions as soon as the primary ends and adopt the moderate persona that brought him to prominence as governor of Massachusetts.
“We’ve been saying it for months — and Mitt Romney has had a reputation for it for years: He’ll say or do anything to get elected - absolutely anything,” DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse wrote in an e-mail. “Now his own top adviser has confirmed that Mitt Romney has absolutely no core and will in fact say anything to get elected.”
Asked by TPM for clarification, Fehrnstrom stressed that he was referring to the broad character of the race and not to Romney’s specific positions.
“The campaign changes,” Fehrnstrom said. “It’s a different race, with different candidates, and different issues that get discussed.”
The “Etch-A-Sketch” line is at least somewhat ambiguous. Fehrnstrom has said in previous interviews that the general election is a “reset button,” referring more to the notion that Romney will be able to confront the president without having to fend off a bunch of damaging attacks from his rivals at all times. But in this case, Romney’s own positions were the subject of the interviewers’ question, and the notion of whether he was becoming too conservative to compete against Obama.
On Twitter, Democratic operatives flooded the zone with comments mocking the “Etch-A-Sketch” comparison.
“Top Romney advisor says Romney will reinvent himself, his positions during general election. Principled,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt tweeted.
The “Romney as flip-flopper” attack is even more prominent among his conservative opponents and, not surprisingly, Rick Santorum’s campaign quickly joined in the fray.
“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,” spokesman Hogan Gidley told The Hill on Wednesday.
The line comes on a day where Romney should be basking in a solid Illinois victory and a big endorsement from former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
Correction: An earlier version noted a Democratic operative, Marcy Stetch, had changed their Twitter handle to “EtchAStetch” on Wednesday in response to the Romney story. By coincidence, this was already her Twitter handle. TPM regrets the error.