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(As usual, the agreement with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


  FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012
       MITT-A-SKETCH
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       “We’ve been in the movies ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Elf,’ but nothing like this.” Martin Killgallon, senior vice president of the Killgallon-family-owned Ohio Art Company in Bryant, Ohio, tells me that the sudden attention, courtesy of a Mitt Romney spokesman, to the iconic Etch A Sketch toy they’ve been manufacturing for more than 50 years is obviously welcome Killgallon hastens to add that they are not aligned to any of the candidates. “We have left knobs and right knobs,” he tells me. “Together we can draw in circles.”
       Once again, the Romney campaign is circling the wagons. Senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom obviously was attempting to be clever on CNN while trying to explain how, after Romney secured the nomination, the candidate would switch from “severe conservative” to a more-sane moderate to attract independents. By now, we all know about Fehrnstrom’s unfortunate analogy: “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
       On a day when Jeb Bush offered a tepid endorsement and when Freedom Works, the tea-party brain, even more tepidly decided to abandon its opposition, all that good news was obliterated by Etch A Gate.
       Ohio Art stock prices have soared. Their devices were flying off the shelves, at least wherever you’d find Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich using them as props for their predictable put-downs. The candidates also enlisted their staff -- a Santorum aide even showed up outside a Romney event with her model in hand. Poor guy. He wanted to talk about gas prices; instead, it was another gaffe crisis.
       It seems that every time Romney opens his mouth, he risks leaving an impression that he is out of touch with everyone but the “owners” of our society -- those who would agree that $300,000-plus a year in speaker’s fees is “not very much.” But it’s not simply the Mitts that keep on coming; as we see with Fehrnstrom, his advisers also can be out of touch ... with their brains, fully capable of providing their own head-slapping groaners. And it’s not just what they say. Their staging of a “major economic address” in a nearly empty NFL stadium comes to mind. They like to portray their campaign as methodically slogging toward the finish line. Actually, stumbling is a more accurate description.
       Even more toxic than the candidate’s cluelessness is the scorn the party’s dominant hard extremists heap upon Romney for his tacky tack to the far right. That’s why they embrace the various “Not Mitts,” some of whom have ended up looking like nitwits. This latest foul-up reinforces their view that when it   FROM NORTH AMERICA SYNDICATE, 300 W 57th STREET, 15th FLOOR, NEW YORK, NY 10019  
       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       BOB FRANKEN
       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012
       MITT-A-SKETCH
       BY BOB FRANKEN
       “We’ve been in the movies ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Elf,’ but nothing like this.” Martin Killgallon, senior vice president of the Killgallon-family-owned Ohio Art Company in Bryant, Ohio, tells me that the sudden attention, courtesy of a Mitt Romney spokesman, to the iconic Etch A Sketch toy they’ve been manufacturing for more than 50 years is obviously welcome Killgallon hastens to add that they are not aligned to any of the candidates. “We have left knobs and right knobs,” he tells me. “Together we can draw in circles.”
       Once again, the Romney campaign is circling the wagons. Senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom obviously was attempting to be clever on CNN while trying to explain how, after Romney secured the nomination, the candidate would switch from “severe conservative” to a more-sane moderate to attract independents. By now, we all know about Fehrnstrom’s unfortunate analogy: “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”
       On a day when Jeb Bush offered a tepid endorsement and when Freedom Works, the tea-party brain, even more tepidly decided to abandon its opposition, all that good news was obliterated by Etch A Gate.
       Ohio Art stock prices have soared. Their devices were flying off the shelves, at least wherever you’d find Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich using them as props for their predictable put-downs. The candidates also enlisted their staff -- a Santorum aide even showed up outside a Romney event with her model in hand. Poor guy. He wanted to talk about gas prices; instead, it was another gaffe crisis.
       It seems that every time Romney opens his mouth, he risks leaving an impression that he is out of touch with everyone but the “owners” of our society -- those who would agree that $300,000-plus a year in speaker’s fees is “not very much.” But it’s not simply the Mitts that keep on coming; as we see with Fehrnstrom, his advisers also can be out of touch ... with their brains, fully capable of providing their own head-slapping groaners. And it’s not just what they say. Their staging of a “major economic address” in a nearly empty NFL stadium comes to mind. They like to portray their campaign as methodically slogging toward the finish line. Actually, stumbling is a more accurate description.
 


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Even more toxic than the candidate’s cluelessness is the scorn the party’s dominant hard extremists heap upon Romney for his tacky tack to the far right. That’s why they embrace the various “Not Mitts,” some of whom have ended up looking like nitwits. This latest foul-up reinforces their view that when it comes to principles, to use an old line, “Deep down inside Mitt Romney is shallow.”
       It explains Santorum’s appeal. By comparison, he looks genuine. The issue with him is “genuine what?” But at least we know what he stands for, even if his knuckles are dragging. Romney comes across as representing the politics of expedience, offering a constantly changing picture ... like an Etch A Sketch.
       He appears to be a man whose only real passion is for his fellow big-money guys who make their riches buying and selling companies. That’s what adds to the fun here. Ohio Art has never merged with anyone. It has existed as-is since its founding in 1908. Killgallon says that there has never been any connection to Bain Capital, so the PR is just a gift, not a payback.
       “It’s nice to be involved in the discussion,” he readily admits. “Nice to be topical.” In fact, there is already some discussion about creating an Etch A Sketch Get-Out-The-Vote campaign so “we could shake things up and erase all the differences.” That’s probably asking too much, particularly since the Romney campaign is wishing it could erase the entire controversy.
      
       © 2012 Bob Franken

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