THE STUMP MARCH 21, 2012
My colleague Tim Noah must be a happy man today: the Romney campaign has produced a whole new figure of speech to replace the overused "pivot" for which Noah recently declared his linguistic scorn. On CNN this morning, Romney's chief spokesman and longtime aide Eric Fehrnstrom was asked this: "Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right that it might hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?"
And here is how Fehrnstrom answered: “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."
And there you have it, folks. Romney will not just pivot to the center once he's done dispatching with the Three Musketeers Santorum, Gingrich and Paul. No, he will take everything he's said the past year or so and shake it clean away, as a four-year-old does with his or her painstaking renderings of lollipop trees and people with giant heads and hands. Attacks on Rick Perry's in-state tuition for immigrant kids? Gone. Support for the Blunt-Rubio amendment allowing any employer to limit health plan coverage for reasons of "conscience"? Gone. The call to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood and Amtrak? Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. But could I draw you a picture of a house with a chimney?
Santorum, Gingrich and the Obama campaign have seized on the Etch-a-Sketch line as further proof of Romney's utter unreliability, with Santorum and Gingrich going so far as to use Etch-a-Sketches as props on the trail today. But if you ask me, Fehrnstrom's done us all a favor by serving notice of just how abrupt and dramatic Romney's reincarnation is going to be over the next few months. There is an assumption among many pundits that Romney, having flipped from being a Massachusetts moderate to a conservative standard-bearer, will not be able to tack back in the other direction for fear of being labeled inconstant. But that falsely assumes that Romney worries what we all think about him. He doesn't. He wants to win, and he'll do whatever it takes to do so. Just wait.