Aside from a testy exchange with Boston Globe reporter Glen Johnson that earned him the moniker “Mitt’s Pit Bull,” Fehrnstrom kept a low profile.
“It’s unusual for him to be that sloppy and that undisciplined,” Jeffrey Berry, a professor of political science at Tufts University, said of the Etch a Sketch comment. “I’ve known nothing similar in his history in Massachusetts.”
After the 2008 campaign, Fehrnstrom, Myers and a third Romney adviser, Peter Flaherty, started a consulting firm, Shawmut Group. They were the architects of Scott Brown’s 2010 campaign for Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat.
This year, Fehrnstrom is juggling work for Brown and Romney, helping both candidates craft often divergent messages. The former is embracing the Massachusetts-moderate label; the latter is running away from it.
For instance, after Rush Limbaugh recently used a slur to describe a Georgetown University law student who had testified in support of birth control, Brown tweeted that his comments were “reprehensible” and called on the radio talker to apologize. Romney, meanwhile, said only that Limbaugh’s was “not the language I would have used.”
Fehrnstrom’s work for Brown got him in some hot water in the summer, as he used a fake Twitter identity, @CrazyKhazei, to fire off snarky quips about one of Brown’s Democratic opponents, Alan Khazei. His hand was exposed when he accidentally sent one of his nastygrams under his own Twitter handle, @EricFehrn.
On Wednesday, when Fehrnstrom spoke with Romney about his Etch a Sketch comment, Romney is said to have taken it in stride. Campaign officials circled the wagons and insisted Fehrnstrom had not erred. Privately, some expressed shock at the media attention Fehrnstrom’s remark drew.
On Thursday, Fehrnstrom brushed off his gaffe with humor. After Ohio Art Co., the maker of Etch a Sketch, reported that shares soared, Fehrnstrom tweeted: “Etch A Sketch stock is up? Psst, I’ll mention Mr. Potato Head next. Buy Hasbro.”
In an interview, Fehrnstrom brought up Vice President Biden’s frequent slips of the tongue.
“I thought it was pretty clear with that Etch a Sketch comment I was referring to the race, and not the candidate, but such is politics,” he said. “I’m expecting a call from Joe Biden thanking me for taking the heat off him for a couple of days.”