Today on CNN, advisor to Mitt Romney Eric Fehrnstrom explained that Romney would be in good shape going into the general election because “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch – you can shake it all up and start over again.” He was specifically responding to questions about whether Romney had staked his positions too “far to the right” during the primary campaign. “I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom added. “Everything changes.”
Naturally, the Democratic National Committee jumped on the comments to point out that Romney’s positions have changed over time. The DNC was joined by Santorum campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley, who stated, “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.” The Romney campaign responded that Fehrnstrom meant that it was “a different race, with different candidates, and the main issue now becomes President Obama’s failure to create jobs and get this economy moving.”
The Romney campaign may be right; the comments may have been intended to illustrate the differences between a general election campaign and a primary. Nonetheless, they accidentally underscored what has proved to be a near-fatal issue for Romney’s campaign: the fact that he seems to be able to shift positions on a regular basis. While Romney has moved to the right consistently over time, Republican voters fear, with reason, that his positions were taken to attract the base rather than as a point of principle.
This issue is not going away for the Romney campaign. They had better stay on message and remind voters during the general that Romney is a true conservative, or they could easily find a disgruntled base when November comes around.