Jonah Goldberg

Fehrnstrom's Etch A Sketch gaffe would be akin to Newt Gingrich's communications director saying, "Who knows what Newt will actually do as president. If you haven't noticed, he's sort of crazy." It would be like Rick Santorum's spokesman saying, "Well, Rick's just talking this limited-government stuff until he gets elected. Once he's sworn in, he's going to take care of the gays, Day One." It's like White House Press Secretary Jay Carney saying, "Well, of course in his second term President Obama won't feel the need to hide his real socialist agenda -- or his relationship with Bill Ayers."

Every candidate has a weak spot, an inconvenient storyline he doesn't want magnified. Fehrnstrom's remark was simply malpractice, and while it would probably be unfair to judge the man by one misstatement, Romney would have been wise to fire him, or at least take him to the woodshed.

Barring that, he could have tried to make a joke about it.

As NBC's Chuck Todd suggested, he should have brought out a Magic 8-Ball and made light of the situation. Maybe he could have asked the toy, "Should I fire Eric?" Or he could bring out a Pet Rock and talk about how president Obama is about as useful in getting the economy going.

Every few years I write a column on one of my biggest peeves about GOP strategists and politicians: They read their stage direction, usually in an effort to suck up to political reporters. Some elder statesman-hack wonders aloud, usually anonymously, about whether the campaign will "go negative." Here's a tip: If you're going to go negative, go negative. Don't announce it.

Give the Democrats their due: They fake their outrage with more sincerity. Chuck Schumer never prefaces a comment: "I'm now about to make an entirely indefensible claim in order to trick the media into looking over there."

Of course Romney -- or any nominee -- will pivot to the center in a general election. Obama's been running for president as a fake centrist for almost two years now. He just doesn't admit it.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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