Instead of taking a victory lap after a big win in Illinois, Mitt Romney's campaign ended up with another gaffe to clean up Wednesday.
Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was asked on CNN whether Romney may be forced so far to the right by rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in the primary race that it might hurt him if he's the party's nominee in the fall. Fehrnstrom responded: "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."
It didn't take long for Romney's opponents to pounce on that comment, given how it underscores the former Massachusetts governor's reputation for changing his positions.
Santorum sarcastically said Fehrnstrom's remarks "should be comforting to all of you who are voting in this primary — that whoever you're going to vote for is going to be a completely new candidate, remove all trace of any kind of marks and be able to draw a new picture."
NPR's Ari Shapiro says both Santorum and Gingrich brought Etch-A-Sketches on the campaign trail Wednesday.
"Gingrich actually handed his Etch-A-Sketch to a kid in the front row and said, 'Now you can be a presidential candidate,' " Ari reports for All Things Considered.
Ari says the Romney campaign hasn't provided a response yet — instead it's trying to focus on the Illinois win and Romney's endorsement by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
"Yet this is kind of a classic Romney situation," Ari notes, "where the good news is overshadowed by this unexpected gaffe that they are scrambling to clean up."
UPDATE at 6:34 p.m.: Romney Responds
Talking to reporters in Maryland, Romney said that the nature of his campaign would change if he becomes his party's nominee, but his positions wouldn't.
"It's a much larger campaign. Fundraising numbers are very different. We now work with the Republican National Committee instead of apart from any committee of that nature. So organizationally, a general election campaign takes on a different profile," Romney said. "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 — excuse me, at that point, hopefully, nominee for president. The policies and positions are the same."
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has released an Etch-A-Sketch-themed video targeting Romney. "Mitt Romney is trying to scrub his extreme record," it says. "But there are some things you can't shake off."
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.