Political gaffes happen all the time, and most of them have the shelf life of a banana.
But the Etch A Sketch gaffe committed this morning by a spokesman for Mitt Romney (see HERE) has the potential to inflict a serious and long-lasting political wound to the former Massachusetts governor’s presidential prospects.
Sure, Romney can fire the aide who said he’s likely to back away from certain right-wing positions once he becomes the Republican nominee. But that won’t change the fact that the Etch A Sketch metaphor paints Romney into a corner.
For starters, it feeds the already popular knock on Romney that he’s a world-class flip-flopper. And it feeds widespread suspicions among right-wing Republicans that he’s not really one of their own. That’s why Rick Santorum already is jumping all over the Etch A Sketch remark.
What’s worse is that it will make it considerably more difficult for Romney to eventually ease up on the right-wing rhetoric to attract independent voters in the general election. That could put him in a box in which he’s seen as too extreme by some voters and not sincerely extreme enough by others.
In short, the Etch A Sketch imagery likely will haunt Romney for the remainder of this year, even more than the dog-on-the-car-roof story.
It’s one of those seemingly little things that can become the stuff of political legend — like the misleading story of 1992 about George H.W. Bush’s lack of familiarity with bar-code scanners (see HERE).