A Perfect Tagline for Mitt RomneyRomney gets cornered by his own man
Sometimes you have to struggle to find the perfect words, but sometimes the perfect words find you. After months of his opponents trying to devise the most apt description for Mitt Romney’s flip-flop politics, his own campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, has provided the media and the American public with the perfect term: Etch-a-Sketch.
On CNN this week, Fehrnstrom was asked whether he was concerned that Romney’s campaign had swayed too far to the right during the Republican primaries to persuade independent voters in a national election. Fehrnstrom replied, “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.”
In the days since, conservative Republicans—especially those Republicans in the Tea Party—have blasted Romney as a kind of closeted liberal, only pretending to be a true conservative for the sake of becoming the Republican presidential nominee. Fehrnstrom’s Etch-a-Sketch comments have been turned into a weapon to be used against Romney by his adversaries.
By using an Etch-a-Sketch as a metaphor for Romney’s campaign, Fehrnstrom has unwittingly put Republican conservatives’ biggest fear— that Romney will prove himself to be a liberal at heart and ruin their hopes for putting President Obama out of office—into a handy catchphrase. The mistrust that follows Romney within the Republican Party is largely based on his single term as the Governor of Massachusetts, during which he held generally liberal views on abortion, gay rights, and healthcare.
Because of its vast similarities to Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—a bill that is viewed by most conservatives as the kiss of death to the American way of life—Romney has had to distance himself from the statewide health care law that he passed in Massachusetts. Romney has also scrambled to explain a flyer from his 2002 gubernatorial campaign that read, “Mitt and Kerry [Kerry Healey, Romney’s then-running mate] wish you a great Pride Weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights, despite their sexual preference.” The flyer was marked, “Paid for by the Romney for Governor Committee.” Since the majority of conservative Republicans are against same-sex marriage, the bright pink flyer with Romney’s name on it borders on blasphemy and sacrilege.
The topic of abortion has also been a huge sticking point for Romney. In the same year he released the pro-gay rights flyers, Romney also voiced his support of pro-choice abortion rights for women. During a gubernatorial debate (YouTube this if you don’t believe me), Romney was asked about his views on abortion. During his response, which was very clearly pro- choice, Romney said, “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” He then goes on to point out that his own views on abortion are one hundred percent in alignment with Shannon O’Brien, his Democratic opponent in the 2002 election.
Changing your behavior to suit your voting base is what politics is all about. As much as we’d like to think there was nothing but morality at stake in our country’s political playing field, the truth is that election and re-election are the primary motivations for almost all politicians. When pressed, most of them will do whatever it takes to secure the votes they need to obtain—or remain in— office. That may sound sinister, but it’s not; it’s political common sense.
The problem for Romney, who is the strongest of the flimsy Republican candidates, will be living down how he could have been so liberal ten years ago but has since turned so conservative.
One thing is for sure: as we move into the summer months, when the Republicans will finally have chosen someone to run against Obama, the term “Etch-a-Sketch” will come back into play. Romney, who has already shown he is unreliable on the issues that matter the most, will have to play down a dead- on description of his politics that was unintentionally pinned on him by one of his staff.