Seeking to quickly move on after one of his spokesman blotted out what should have been a banner day for his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney promised wary conservatives that he would not change course if he becomes the Republican nominee.
Speaking to reporters after a town hall meeting in Arbutus, Md., Romney clarified an aide’s statement that he would view the start of the general election campaign like an Etch-A-Sketch, suggesting that he could adjust positions he took in a primary campaign dominated by conservatives to please a more centrist electorate in November.
Asked whether Romney’s positions in the primary might be too far to the right to win in November, Eric Fehrnstrom said on CNN: “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.”
Though Fehrnstrom was specifically asked about Romney’s political positions possibly changing, Romney portrayed the comments as being about his organization. Should he be the nominee, Romney said, the nature of the campaign certainly would change “organizationally.” But “the issues I’m running on will be exactly the same.”
“I’m running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor. I’ll be running as a conservative Republican nominee,” he said. “The policies and positions are exactly the same.”
The Romney campaign had hoped to spend the day talking about its double-digit triumph in Illinois on Tuesday and the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. At a town hall meeting outside Baltimore, Romney sought to keep his focus on President Obama, mocking his trip out West to talk about energy prices.
But his rivals seized on the comments from Fehrnstrom, forcing Romney to respond.
A Rick Santorum campaign spokesman showed up at the site of Romney’s Maryland campaign kickoff event to hand out miniature versions of the Etch-A-Sketch.
Fehrnstrom’s analogy, Alice Stewart told reporters, “confirms what a lot of conservatives have been afraid of. He used to be pro-abortion, he used to be pro-gay marriage, he used to be for a Wall Street bailout, climate change. Now he’s talking a different language, but the campaign acknowledged that if need be, if he won the primary, he’d go right back to the middle in order to win the general.”