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On March 21st, 2012, U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom appeared on CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien to discuss the roadmap of his election campaign. When asked if the primary season was pushing Romney too far to the right, Ferhnstrom was quoted as saying:
“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.”
News Media Coverage
The quote rapidly made its rounds in the news and political blogosphere, including the New York Times, Washington Post, TIME Magazine and The Atlantic. The Huffington Post featured a special headline with an Etch-a-sketch drawing of Mitt Romney. The media coverage of Fernstrom’s quote added fuel to the growing criticisms by Romney’s detractors that his policy platform is designed to win the presidential nomination, rather than based on his fundamental beliefs.
Just hours after the CNN broadcast, Rick Santorum’s campaign deputy communications director Matt Beynon tweeted a photo of Rick Santorum playing with an Etch A Sketch. Later that day, CBS reporter Rebecca Kaplan tweeted that Santorum’s campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart was handing out mini Etch-A-Sketch boards outside a Romney campaign event.
Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were reportedly seen on campaign trails with the toy on the same day. On the following day, Ron Paul’s campaign team released a video featuring Fernhstrom’s quote as well as both Santorum and Gingrich saying “Etch-a-sketch.”
Democratic National Committee also responded to Fernhstrom’s gaffe with a whimsical video highlighting Ferhnstrom’s “Etch-a-sketch.” American Bridge PAC released a similar video combining the footage of the CNN segment and Mitt Romney’s soundbites. Political humor site Gotcha Media also published a mashup video combining various soundbites from Romney’s public speeches and footage from a vintage Etch-a-sketch commercial.
On Social Networks
Meanwhile on Twitter, the parody account @MittsEtch-A-Sketch was launched shortly after, mocking Fernhstrom’s gaffe and Romney’s campaign.
On Flickr, user Princess Etch-a-sketch also responded to the sudden spike in online interest by posting real Etch-a-sketch drawings of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
Etch-a-sketch Mitt Romney
On March 23rd, the single serving site “Etch A Sketch Mitt Romney" was launched which featured a photo of an Etch-A-Sketch board that cycled through contradictory quotes attributed to the former governor of Massachusetts.
Etch-A-Sketch Company’s Response
The following day, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Etch-A-Sketch Stock Soars! Thank You Mitt Romney” which reported that share prices had doubled for the Etch A Sketch manufacturers Ohio Art Co. after the Fehrnstrom gaffe. In response to the unexpected media coverage, an Etch-a-Sketch spokeswoman released a pun-filled statement.
Happy to see Etch A Sketch, an American classic toy, is DRAWING attention with political candidates as a cultural icon and important piece of our society. A profound toy, highly recognized and loved by all, is now SHAKING up the national debate.
On March 30th, Ohio Arts Co. announced the launch of an ad campaign titled “Shake it Up, America” in an effort to take advantage of its buzzword status. The ads, which mildly poke fun at politics and election seasons while maintaining its neutrality, will appear on the company’s social media outlets including Facebook and Twitter.