That remark drew jeers from Democrats and Republicans alike, and quickly forced the Romney campaign into damage-control mode. The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination told reporters Thursday that Fehrnstroms comments had been misinterpreted, and that he did not intend to imply Romney would be pivoting away from some of the conservative positions he had taken.

When the campaign moves to becoming a general-election campaign, the nature of the campaign itself in terms of staff, funding, the states we’d go to will be different than today, obviously,” Romney said.

But the former Massachusetts governor said he would not shy away from the conservative principles he had advocated in the primary.

“The issues I’m running on will be exactly the same,” Romney said. “I’m running as a conservative Republican, I was a conservative Republican governor, I’ll be running as a conservative Republican nominee, excuse me, at that point hopefully, nominee for president. The policies and positions are the same.”

Still, the incident provided fodder for Romney’s opponents on both sides of the aisle. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both produced the toy while giving stump speeches Wednesday in Louisiana.

Gingrich, who was speaking in Lake Charles, La., handed an Etch A Sketch to a child in the front row of his event and quipped, “You can now be a presidential candidate.”

Santorum, meanwhile, argued that voters were looking for someone “who writes what they believe in stone,” and not an “Etch A Sketch candidate.”

Meanwhile, a Santorum spokeswoman handed out pocket-sized versions of the toy in the parking lot outside Romney’s event.

Democrats joined the chorus of jeers, with the Democratic National Committee releasing a Web video accusing Romney of “trying to scrub his extreme record.”

The Romney campaign looked to pivot away from the moment in a memo sent to reporters Thursday.

“You know you have reached the end of a long, hard-fought campaign when your opponents are waving around children’s toys at campaign events,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.