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The 2012 Etch-A-Sketch plan

Eric Fehrnstrom, the communications director for Mitt Romney's campaign, appeared on CNN this morning, and was asked a good question: "Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?"

Alex Seitz-Wald posted a clip of the response, which was rather startling in its candor.

For those who can't watch clips online, Fehrnstrom said, "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 of over again."

Given Romney's record of changing his positions on practically every issue, sometimes more than once, this wasn't exactly an encouraging answer.

If Fehrnstrom were simply talking about intra-party divisions, the metaphor would make a lot more sense. Indeed, it stands to reason that Republicans, while facing intra-party divisions now, will find it pretty easy to come together by the summer. In this sense, once there's a nominee, the party does effectively hit the reset button and start the next phase in the process fresh.

But that wasn't the question and it certainly wasn't what Fehrnstrom was referring to. Look at the exchange again: the Romney aide was asked whether the former governor was being pushed too far to the right, and Fehrnstrom effectively responded the current positioning doesn't matter, since Romney will shake the Etch A Sketch and roll out a new version of himself in the fall.

Romney 1.0 was an independent who distanced himself from Reagan; Romney 2.0 was a moderate Republican with self-described "progressive" views on social issues and health care; Romney 3.0 was a social conservative who cared deeply about the culture war; and Romney 4.0 is a far-right businessman who represents the GOP establishment and the top 1%.

What will Romney 5.0 look like? I don't know; I guess we'll have to wait until after Fehrnstrom & Co. shake the Etch A Sketch and hit the reset button.

Update: A month ago, Romney was asked to describe himself in one word, and he picked "resolute." It was ironic at the time, but it looks even worse thanks to his campaign's new choices in metaphors.

Second Update: One wonders if conservative activists, worried about whether Romney would keep his commitments to them if elected, might reevaluate their support for him given the campaign's plan to "restart all over again" once the general election phase begins.