Ron Paul is tired of Etch A Sketches, apparently, and he’s not going to take it anymore. The Texas libertarian has a new ad that slams the media/political world’s sudden obsession with red shakable toys.
The ad opens with the now-ubiquitous CNN clip of Eric Fehrnstrom, a Mitt Romney aide, saying of a general-election campaign, “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart it all over again.”
Then it moves through cuts of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich holding up actual Etch A Sketches, interspersed with media Etch A Sketch mentions. “We’re talking about big things here, folks!” says Mr. Santorum, while waving the fine Ohio Art product in the air.
Then the ad turns sober. “$15 trillion in debt” flashes across the screen, followed by “12 million Americans unemployed.”
At the end, “Tired of the games?” comes up, just before, in even bigger letters, “Ron Paul.”
The overall effect is to repeat the original charge – that Mr. Romney’s positions are erasable – while simultaneously belittling the political focus on playthings and framing Representative Paul as the responsible adult in the GOP hopeful room. Clever! We’ve said it before: Paul may be losing, but he’s got the best ad people in the race.
So, is Paul right that this whole Etch A Sketch fixation is silly? Well, we’ll note that from the first, we’ve said the whole thing is overblown and is likely to have little effect on either the primaries or general election.
Some commentary has gone further, noting that political science has found little evidence that gaffes, as defined by the media, have any effect on political races at all. The whole affair should make people rethink “the ‘freak show’ aspect of the political press” rather than Romney’s candidacy, writes Brendan Nyhan in a stinging piece for Columbia Journalism Review.
That said, Paul isn’t the only Romney rival to pivot off Sketch-gate for his own political purposes. The Gingrich campaign has even launched a website, SketchyRomney.com, with a virtual Etch A Sketch that viewers can shake to see Romney's positions.
The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, has produced several ads already with an Etch A Sketch theme. So even if the red toy meme doesn’t really change voter minds, it looks sure to provide material for idea-starved campaign professionals for days to come.