David Frum

03.21.12

In Defense of Romney: The "Etch A Sketch" Candidate

romney-etch-a-sketch-box
Illustration by The Daily Beast

Eric Fehrnstrom deserves demerits for giving the game away for Mitt Romney's post-primary election strategy:

HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?

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 restart all of over again.

Ouch. Bad form.

But let's be clear. what Fehrnstrom has committed here is a "Kinsley Gaffe". It is a gaffe because Fehrnstrom has said something that is fundamentally true.

The American electorate as a whole is not as conservative as the Republican primary electorate. Pew's overview of the American electorate makes this clear. Highly conservative voters are not the majority of the Republican voting base, let alone the American people. Romney will inevitably have to campaign with that reality. The election is still many months away so there is still time to pivot.

Criticize Fehrnstrom for slipping up on CNN. Not for pointing out that what plays well in the primary may not play well in the general.