On Wednesday, the popular conception of Mitt Romney morphed from a robot to an Etch A Sketch. And all it took was one errantly blurted out sentence of conventional political wisdom from a campaign adviser on CNN.
“You hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said, when asked how a campaign changes its tactics from primary season to a general election. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”
Envisioning the candidacy of Mitt Romney as a nostalgic toy that only takes one shake to turn a carefully crafted image into a blank page proved just too irresistible for just about everyone on the Internet.
It’s the type of meme that both conservatives and liberals gleefully participated in, because it’s a much more light-hearted way to make the same argument about Romney — that he has no “core,” as Rick Santorum would say — without describing him as some sort of a pink-slip happy Steve Carell or ruthless preprogrammed GOP-bot.
As TIME’s James Poniewozik already detailed, there was, of course, the rapid response from the Democratic National Committee, which released a video repurposing the same Romney flip-flops with an Etch A Sketch theme. And Rick Santorum’s people knew a political gift when they saw one — his staffers tweeted a photo of the candidate playing with the toy just hours after gaffe and he even brought it on stage with him at a campaign rally. Similarly, Newt Gingrich appeared on stage brandishing the toy and tweeting about it .
But more fun was seeing response of people presumably not on campaign payroll. Like this video by political humor website Gotcha Media, which quickly spliced together an old-timey Etch a Sketch commercial (and theme song) in with Romney’s more memorable gaffes.
Or this website, made by new media consultant Matt Ortega (who built multiplechoicemitt.com last year) which features a perfectly rendered Etch A Sketch-looking domain where you can endlessly shake the toy and see Mitt quotes appear and disappear. Ortega tweeted yesterday that the site was already approaching 100,000 hits.
And, of course, the makers of Etch A Sketch were called to give their two cents on the dizzying revival of the toy. The company responded to Fortune magazine, seeming pretty pleased.
“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,” the statement read.
The company added: “It is too early to tell, but we are hopeful to see if there is an uptake in sales given this recent exposure.”