With Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, it seems it’s always two steps forward, one step back. Romney won a double-digit victory Tuesday in the Illinois primary, and followed it up with a major endorsement this morning from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
But one of Romney’s spokesmen also offered fresh ammunition to GOP critics of the former Massachusetts governor who see him as an inauthentic conservative, by suggesting in a television interview that the candidate would steer toward the political center as soon as he clinches the nomination.
Eric Fehrnstrom, speaking on CNN’s “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” was asked whether the campaign was worried that the positions Romney has taken in the last months would hurt him with moderate voters in the fall.
“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom responded. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”
That notion drew this sharp response from Rick Santorum’s campaign.
“We all knew Mitt Romney didn’t have any core convictions, but we appreciate his staff going on national television to affirm that point for anyone who had any doubts,” spokesman J. Hogan Gidley said in an emailed statement. “With the two-year anniversary of the signing of ObamaCare upon us, can voters really believe that the man who urged the president to use his healthcare plan in Massachusetts as a model would really repeal ObamaCare? Or is that promise just something they would ‘shake up and restart’ with when Romney hits the general election?”
Santorum has increasingly been making the case that Romney is without a core, someone who the party’s base cannot trust.
In his remarks Tuesday night, the former Pennsylvania senator said the party “needs someone who’s got a strong and clear record that can appeal to voters all across this country.”
It should be “someone who you can trust, someone that you know when they say they’re going to do something, they’re not saying it because, well, that happens to be the popular theme of the moment, but someone who has a long track record of deep convictions, someone who’s going to go out and stand and fight, because it’s not just what the pollster tells them to say or what’s on their TelePrompter,” he said.
Democrats also have circulated Fehrnstrom’s remarks.
Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod tweeted out the video, with the message: “Forget everything you know. Forget everything you’ve seen. Coming soon. Mitt 5.0!”
You can see the full video below.