It’s hard to say whether Rick Santorum or the toy company Ohio Art, producer of the old-school drawing game Etch A Sketch, were more thrilled when a Mitt Romney aide compared the former Massachusetts governor to the toy on national television.

Playing into an already-entrenched perception that Romney is willing to disingenuously change his position on issues for political gain, senior Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom did his boss little help when he told CNN on Wednesday that once the primary was over, the campaign could “hit a reset button” because "Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."

Suffice it to say, politicos of all stripes sensed red meat and pounced, setting the interwebs ablaze with reference to the red-framed, sand-filled toy. Etch A Sketch was soon trending on Twitter, fueled by official tweets from Romeny rivals like Santorum.

Tweet of the week:




A quickly-created website entitled Etch A sketch Mitt Romney put a fine point on the matter, pairing inconsistent Romney quotes on an Etch A Sketch screen. The site garnered over 200,000 page views within a matter of days, according to its creator.

Whether fueled by hoards of anti-Romney campaigners purchasing the toy to use as a prop or by the power of suggestion instilling the masses with nostalgia for their kindergarten days, Ohio Art saw Amazon.com sales of their signature product skyrocket 1,556 percent above the usual levels in a day.

None of this would have been possible had Romney not already had a serious image problem in the flip-flopping field. Even before the Etch a Sketch comment, a video entitled “The Real Mitt Romney,” which features brilliantly mixed comments by Romney and US President Barack Obama to the tune of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” in full rhyme, had gone viral. It reached nearly 2.5 million views in its first week on YouTube.

Viral Video of the week:


But those concerned that stringently partisan, web-savvy video editors are confined to Democrats need not worry; the video’s creator is credited with a viral hit from the 2008 Democratic primary, parodying Sarah Silverman’s “I’m F*@#ing Matt Damon” but replacing the main characters with Hillary Clinton and then-rival Obama instead.

For Romney, fresh off his win in Illinois last Tuesday, the Internet sensations were just the most recent loops in his campaign roller coaster, which maintained its volatility as he lost Louisiana to Santorum by a considerable margin on Saturday. 

But until Romney and Santorum go head-to-head in the next round of primaries on April 3, both can take comfort in the fact that they are proving tough competition for one another across the board.

While Santorum cannot claim skyrocketing toy sales, he can happily take credit for a boom in his signature sweater vests, which his campaign has spent nearly $100,000 purchasing to give as clever gifts to donors. For his part, Romney can take comfort that, despite mockery from the Web, he will most likely have the last laugh in the primary battle; his delegate count for the GOP convention remains over double that of Santorum’s.

#USelections2012 offers weekly insight into the US Presidential election through a social media lens, tracking candidates as they try to reach 270 electoral votes in 140 characters or less.

The writer is a Breaking News editor and blogger at The Jerusalem Post. Read his blog ‘The Bottom Line’ here.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger