When balloons drop at the GOP convention, it may be one of the
lasting ironies of the campaign that a badly chosen simile by a top
Mitt Romney aide may have done more to help the economy -- at least
one small corner of it -- than anything said or done by the
Republicans' three major candidates. Trying to make the point that
a national presidential campaign is significantly different from
the parties' nominating campaigns, Romney senior adviser Eric
Fehrnstrom told CNN on Wednesday: "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
He's right, but, my heavens, did he hand a club to Romney's rivals.
They passed out the mechanical drawing toys to underscore their point that Romney will say anything to get votes and then just as quickly erase it to write in something new. And, indeed, Romney is vulnerable to the charge that he changes positions to pander to his audiences.
That propelled Rick Santorum into a flight of really bad rhetoric, saying that he stood "firmly on the rocks of freedom, not on the sands of an Etch A Sketch toy."
If Romney was discomfited and his opponents grateful for the gaffe, the Ohio Art Co. of Bryan, Ohio, maker of Etch a Sketch, was elated. Sales of the perennially popular toy soared, and on Thursday the company's stock nearly tripled to $9.95 a share.
In gratitude for the publicity, it sent large boxes of Etch A Sketches to the campaigns, although presumably the gift was greeted with less enthusiasm by the Romney people than in the Santorum and Newt Gingrich camps.
Etch A Sketch was first put on the market in 1960 and has been a best seller ever since. It's in the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the toy industry voted it one of the 100 best toys of the 20th century.
But there's a serious side to the story that perhaps the campaigns, once they finish playing with their gift Etch a Sketches, might want to address. Since 2001, this quintessentially American toy has actually been manufactured in Shenzhen, China.
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