Santorum Runs With 'Etch A Sketch' Comment

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Rick Santorum received another gaffe gift from Mitt Romney's campaign on Wednesday.

Less than a day after Romney dismantled the former Pennsylvania senator in the Illinois primary by 12 percentage points, one of the frontrunner's senior aides committed a gaffe that's sure to give his fellow Republican opponents some serious firepower.

Rick Santorum

When asked on CNN if Romney would suffer among moderate voters in the general election by tacking too far right in the primaries, Eric Fehrnstrom argued that it wouldn't be a problem.

"Well, I think you hit a reset button for the Fall campaign, everything changes," Fehrnstrom said. "It's almost like an Etch A Sketch, you can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."

Santorum, who was in Louisiana Wednesday, appeared before supporters later in the afternoon with an Etch A Sketch in hand as he attempted to capitalize on the Romney campaign's metaphorical blunder.

The move -- or the toy -- could signal the reprieve Santorum needs to recover the serious ground he lost from blowout contests in Puerto Rico and Illinois.

"I bet they Santorum's campaign wished that Eric Fehrnstrom called Romney an Etch A Sketch two days ago as opposed to this morning," said David Di Martino, a Democratic consultant in Washington. "So if you're Rick Santorum, they're going to want to drive a truck through that over the next few days because it's what Rick Santorum has been saying all along, which is you can't trust the guy."

Indeed, one Santorum source, when told about Fehrnstrom's comments, simply laughed.

The Santorum campaign is preparing for Saturday's Louisiana primary, where the former Senator holds an 8.5 percentage-point lead in the latest average of polls there.

The win would certainly help Santorum in the delegate count, but he must show strength outside the South -- where he won two big primaries last Tuesday -- again.

Top priority could be Wisconsin, whose primary has mixed winner-take-all formats. The winner of Wisconsin receives 18 delegates, but the remaining 24 are allocated based on primary results in each of the state' eight congressional districts.

If Santorum and his opponents manage to successfully paint Romney as a piece of clay molded by what's politically convenient, or as an Etch A Sketch, then more might be on the table.

Gaffes, delegates and locations aside, Santorum remains highly unlikely to overcome Romney before the convention -- something his campaign has acknowledged internally.

"I don't think there's ever really been a moment where Romney didn't look like a very likely nominee, even through all the ups and downs," said Greg Magarian, an election law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. "I think what we're going to see now is a long slog ... toward an inevitable result.

Maybe, but a few more strange shakes and Romney could grab another defeat from the jaws of victory.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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