Romney Etch-A-Sketch flap: Maker of classic toy isn’t complaining

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is probably not thrilled with his campaign’s latest gaffe. His top political advisor compared Romney’s strategy to an Etch-A-Sketch -- a description immediately seized upon by opponents who have spent the election season portraying the candidate as a flip-flopper who will erase and redraw his position to meet the latest political poll.

“You are not looking at someone who is the Etch-a-Sketch candidate,” rival candidate Rick Santorum told an audience in Mandeville, La., on Tuesday, shaking one of the toys to help drive home his point. Fellow candidate Newt Gingrich also took a jab, tweeting: “Etch A Sketch is a great toy but a losing strategy.”

Now there are growing questions about whether the unflattering portrayal will have a lasting impact on Romney’s bid to unseat President Obama in the fall.

But you know who’s thrilled with this latest turn of events? Etch-A-Sketch.


Executives from Ohio Art, the makers of the beloved children’s toy, were holed up in a meeting room Wednesday afternoon when it happened. Emails. Cellphones. Text messages. Land lines. The gadgets all began beeping and ringing and shaking and bleating the news -- that Etch-A-Sketch was the news.

At the time, company president Larry Killgallon and his son, Martin, who is senior vice president of marketing and product development, had been trying to discuss business.

“They were bombarded. It just went haywire. In a good way,” spokeswoman Nicole Gresh told The Times. “They were just in shock.”

The first Etch-A-Sketch rolled off the assembly line in 1960, and immediately became a favorite of kids -- and parents. Combining a joystick, aluminum powder and a trademark red picture frame, Etch-A-Sketch gave kids a canvas for their creative energy. (Kids aren’t the only ones who play with Etch-A-Sketches, of course. Check these out.)

More than 150 million Etch-A-Sketches have been sold over the years. And no doubt, this latest flap will goose sales even more. Sales figures from the last 24 hours were not immediately available, Gresh said.

But the Etch-A-Sketch company knows for a fact that the toys were flying off at least some shelves:

Santorum’s top advisor, Alice Stewart, appeared outside a town hall meeting that Romney held in Arbutus, Md., to hand out Etch-A-Sketches to the crowd, according to the Washington Post.

The comment that catapulted Etch-A-Sketch into the news came courtesy of Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Romney’s political advisors. He was responding to a question on CNN about whether Romney was being pushed too far to the right by Santorum and Gingrich in the bid to unseat the president in the fall. Fehrnstrom responded: “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 over again.”

For the record, neither Etch-A-Sketch nor the Killgallons are taking sides.

“They are very neutral,” Gresh said. “They are not for or against any political party.”


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