Can Romney Recover From his Etch A Sketch Moment?

National Journal Staff

Sometimes they never recover.

To the extent anyone remembers it at all, the 1988 presidential campaign lives on in one indelible image: Michael Dukakis bouncing around in a tank, an oversized helmet on his head and a goofy grin on his face, as if even he knew that he'd just blown his chances to get to the White House. Dan Quayle never recovered from his public misspelling of "potato," just as Sarah Palin will never recover from Tina Fey's lacerating parody in 2008.

It's one of the unwritten corollaries to presidential politics: if you become a joke, people won't vote for you. 

It would be a cruel irony indeed for Mitt Romney to suffer the same fate at the hands of one of his most loyal aides, Eric Fehrnstrom. If the Obama campaign were smart, it would use some of its millions to hire the best former Saturday Night Live writers out there in an effort to keep the country laughing at the image of Romney as "the Etch A Sketch candidate."

Much as Michael Dukakis handed George H.W. Bush—who was losing in the polls at the time—a priceless gift, the Romney campaign seems to have done the same for Obama. Read more

—Michael Hirsh

NATIONAL JOURNAL'S PRIMARY REPORT

Santorum Wins Louisiana Primary
[National Journal, 3/24/12] Rick Santorum soundly won the Louisiana primary on Saturday, keeping his Southern streak alive. Although he was dominant in most demographic categories, the 20 delegates at stake will likely be split between Santorum and Mitt Romney—doing little to the delegate math and Romney’s impressive lead.

Louisiana Results Suggest a Two-Man Race
[New York Times, 3/24/12] According to the latest results out of the Bayou and other contests, the Republican presidential nomination is a two-person race—but not according to Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. After his third place finish in Louisiana, however, the delegate math just isn’t adding up for Gingrich, one of his delegates suggested.

Santorum Energizes Supporters in Wisconsin
[Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 3/24/12] Next up for the Republican candidates: the Badger State. Another industrial Midwestern state that is a swing state for November, the state’s 37 delegates are up for grabs on April 3. Santorum held rallies across the state on Saturday, and even got a chance to go bowling.

Barbour: Romney’s 'Moderately Conservative' Views Will Help in the Fall
[National Journal, 3/24/12] Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said he was unimpressed with Romney’s inability to wrap up the nomination on Friday, saying the distractions after his big primary wins have harmed his image. He, however, contends that Romney’s “moderately conservative” views will rally support in the fall.

Pennsylvania GOPers: Let Primary Continue
[Politico, 3/24/12] Party leaders may want the GOP to end soon without any further damage, but that doesn't mean Republicans on the ground are going to let it. Santorum—along with Gingrich—went home to Pennsylvania on Saturday to attending the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference for a chance to gain support in another delegate powerhouse.

Gingrich: Santorum Has to Win Pennsylvania
[National Journal, 3/24/12] Similar to talk surrounding Romney and Michigan, Gingrich said on Saturday that Santorum has to win in his home state of Pennsylvania to keep his campaign alive. Santorum was on the stump in the Keystone State on Saturday, evoking his PA past and getting nostalgic. He said that his crushing 2006 defeat to now Sen. Bob Casey was a “tremendous gift,” since it allowed him to get some distance from Washington.

Santorum: ‘We’re Still Fighting’
[Wall Street Journal, 3/24/12] After his win in Louisiana, Santorum gave his victory speech not at a grand hall or an arena, but at a sports bar in Green Bay, Wis. “We’re still here, we’re still fighting,” he said defiantly to the small crowd of family, staff and fans.

Kennedy Helped Shape Romney’s Career, and Still Haunts It
[New York Times, 3/24/12] Romney’s relationship with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy has shaped the former Massachusetts governor’s political career—and is still brought up negatively today. From his bitter Senate race to the signing of the health care legislation, Kennedy serves as a constant reminder of Romney’s past.

On the Right, Santorum Has Women’s Vote
[New York Times, 3/25/12] Santorum has a unmistakable voter appeal to conservative women—especially married women. With his picture-perfect family life and strong social convictions, this demographic has been key in some of his primary wins thus far.

Gingrich Calls Obama Comments on Trayvon Martin Shooting ‘Disgraceful’
[National Journal, 3/23/12] Following President Obama’s response to the killing of young Trayvon Martin in Florida, several GOP candidates added their take to the tragedy sans politics. However, Gingrich took a different approach, calling the president’s comments “disgraceful.”

 

Attend a National Journal LIVE event | Sign up for National Journal newsletters