Mitt Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on Wednesday said that, despite a long primary fight, the general election would practically be a blank slate for the GOP presidential hopeful.
“It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch — you shake it all up and start over again,” he told CNN of the general election.
He defended Romney’s appeal to a broad base when asked if he’s concerned that, under pressure from Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, the candidate is tacking too “far to the right” in his positions — and therefore alienating centrists.
“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom said.
The Etch A Sketch, of course, is a popular toy that works like a reusable drawing slate.
It was not clear whether Fehrnstrom was referring to a change in Romney’s positions or the reaction of Republican voters, but the Democratic National Committee quickly blasted the comment as proof that Romney has no reliable “core” to his positions and will say anything to get elected.
Rival Santorum’s presidential campaign also quickly pounced on Fehrnstrom’s remark.
“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,” Santorum campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said Wednesday in a statement.
The Romney campaign, asked to clarify Fehrnstrom’s comments, emphasized that “the campaign changes” with the shift from the primary to the general election.
“It’s a different race, with different candidates, and the main issue now becomes President Obama’s failure to create jobs and get this economy moving,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
On CNN, Fehrnstrom also dismissed concerns that the nastiness of the GOP primary race could negatively affect the fight to replace Obama, saying the Republican Party would rally around the eventual nominee.
As an example, Fehrnstrom pointed to the fact that Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBottom Line Beyond Manafort: Both parties deal with pro-Russian Ukrainians With help from US, transformative change in Iran is within reach MORE (R-Ariz.) is now campaigning for Romney, despite some harsh words exchanged between the candidates in 2008.
But McCain has called the current primary fight the “nastiest” he’s ever seen, including his own in 2008.
Fehrnstrom also blamed the super-PACs for “suspending political physics” by keeping some candidates in the race.
“Usually at this point, a delegate who’s not winning ... his fundraising dries up,” he said.
He noted that one mega-wealthy donor can keep a candidate in the race by funneling unlimited donations into an unaffiliated super-PAC. One example might be casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the main donor to the super-PAC supporting Newt Gingrich. Gingrich trails Romney and Rick Santorum in the delegate count and the polls and has only won two states overall, but has indicated he is still determined to stay in the race.
— Daniel Strauss contributed.
— This report was updated at 12:10 p.m.