Mitt Romney had plenty of reason to smile today – he won the Illinois primary Tuesday in a romp and scored a formidable endorsement Wednesday morning from Jeb Bush.
Then one of his lieutenants got a little colorful in his speech, and suddenly those Team Mitt grins turned to grimaces.
CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien” asked Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom if the campaign was concerned that conservative positions adopted by Romney in recent months would hurt him with moderates in November. Replied Fehrnstrom:
“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 we start all over again.”
It didn’t take Rick Santorum’s campaign long to pounce on the fresh meat. Spokesman J. Hogan Gidley fired off an email:
“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. With the two-year anniversary of the signing of ObamaCare upon us, can voters really believe that the man who urged the president to use his healthcare plan in Massachusetts as a model would really repeal ObamaCare? Or is that promise just something they would ‘shake up and restart’ with when Romney hits the general election?”
The Democrats welcomed the gaffe with equal glee.
“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 email. “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 to clarify his remark, Fehrnstrom explained that he was referring to the broad character of the race and not to Romney’s specific positions.
“The campaign changes,” Fehrnstrom told TPM. “It’s a different race, with different candidates, and different issues that get discussed.”
Regardless of his intent, the incident only reinforces criticism of Romney as a flip-flopper.
Instead of Etch A Sketch, his campaign could be playing Operation in the fall – with no guarantee of the patient’s survival.