The Washington Post

John McCain: Romney aide’s Etch a Sketch remark blown out of proportion

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) on Thursday dismissed a gaffe by a campaign staffer for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as “one statement by one aide” that has been blown out of proportion by a titled media.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks to the Arizona supporters of presidential candidate Mitt Romney last month at his victory party celebration after the Republican primary. Romney won the primary. (DON EMMERT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Coming during the height of the financial crisis, McCain’s comment was considered a major and potentially campaign-altering gaffe that showed McCain did not have a strong handle on the unfolding economic collapse. But years later, McCain insists his statement was accurate and that he received unfair criticism for it.

“I remember when I said the fundamentals of the American economy are strong,” said McCain, who has endorsed Romney. “I was beaten up for weeks for saying what we all knew—that the fundamentals of the American economy are strong. Which, by the way, the president later said also.”

“So I get a little bit tired of this kind of exaggeration of what one aide said. Romney didn’t say it,” McCain said. “In fact, Romney’s been saying the opposite. Shame on the media.”

McCain, one of Romney’s most prominent supporters on Capitol Hill, said the focus has been misplaced on a statement by Romney adviser that the campaign would reset following the primaries like an “Etch A Sketch —you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney addresses an audience during a campaign stop at an American Legion post in Arbutus, Md., on Wednesday. (Steven Senne)

Afterward, tea party conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) had kind words for Romney, though he stopped short of endorsing him outright.

“I don’t have any immediate plans to do an endorsement, but I think we all need to look at this presidential primary and encourage the candidates to do a little self-reflection here — what’s good for our country,” DeMint said, according to CNN. “The sooner we can make a decision, I think the sooner we can focus on the real problem which is Obama.”

McCain said he encouraged fellow senators to coalesce around Romney at a Republican lunch Wednesday, arguing it has now become mathematical impossible for former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum or former House speaker Newt Gingrich to win the nomination.

“The sooner we unite behind the nominee the sooner we’ll be able to engage in the battle with President Obama,” he said.

As for Fehrnstrom’s remark, McCain complained that the media does not seize on gaffes by Vice President Biden.

“It’s kind of typical of the liberal media, that take one statement by one aide and explode it to a huge issue,” he said.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.


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