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Jason Linkins
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Last Week's Big 'Etch A Sketch' Story Wasn't As Big A Story As Everyone Thought It Was

Posted: 03/27/2012 6:23 pm

Etch A Sketch

Hey, kids! Remember how last week, Mitt Romney's advisor Eric Fehrnstrom was talking to John Fugelsang on CNN, and Fugelsang asked him about whether the long primary campaign was going to force Romney "to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election," and Fehrnstrom said something like "Heck naw ... reset button ... Etch A Sketch," and then everyone in the world was on teevee waving Etch A Sketches, because it was a TOTAL GAME-CHANGER (TM)? If your answer is "yes," then you are apparently a very rare creature, because according to science, most human beings in America have no idea about the event I just described.

The good people of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, who helpfully quantify exactly what "press" the "people" are paying attention to, report that the Fehrnstrom "gaffe" basically passed through the news cycle without much notice:

Though the 2012 presidential campaign was the second most closely followed story last week, 55% of the public says they had not heard about one of the week’s more prominent election stories: a gaffe by a top strategist for Mitt Romney who said that the candidate would recalibrate his campaign once he wins the GOP nomination, shaking the slate clean like an Etch A Sketch toy.

Just more than four-in-ten (44%) say they heard about the remark, which critics used to hit Romney for shifting his positions on certain issues.

According to the demographics, more Republicans heard about the Etch A Sketch story than Democrats, by a 52 percent to 41 percent margin. Only 47 percent of so-called "independent" voters were aware of the event. And how much of an impact did it have on how they would vote? Very little, as it turns out:

Among all Republicans, nearly one-in-ten (8%) say the remarks make them less likely to support Romney. That amounts to 16% of those who had heard of Fehrnstrom’s words. On the other hand, 5% of all Republicans — and 10% of those who had heard about the comment – say it makes them more likely to support Romney. Responses from independents are similar.

So, really, it's a wash. Which is surprising, because it sure seemed to me like the general consensus was that the Etch A Sketch line was terribly damaging to Romney. But the Pew Center says no, and it says here that Romney's moving into the lead in Wisconsin, so who knows? We might have to maybe confront the fact that not as many people watch twelve hours of cable teevee politics news as the people who produce and/or are forced to watch that much cable teevee politics news think.

Of course, it raises the question: if the "Etch A Sketch" gaffe didn't really resonate with people, why was it that sales of the product spiked along with the share price of its maker, Ohio Art? (My guess centers around the possibility that brand marketers may, in fact, exist.)

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