Washington Extra – Etch A Sketch

March 21, 2012

Ah, if life were only like an Etch A Sketch, a little shake would allow us to erase those mistakes and messy parts. But to invoke the magical toy to explain Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes might have been a mistake, one worth erasing with a shake.

It seems that every Romney win is followed by a Romney gaffe. This time, after his Illinois victory last night, it was not the candidate who stepped in it, but rather his adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, who wanted to talk about what Romney would be like in a general election against President Obama.

“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again,” Fehrnstrom told CNN.

Conservatives quickly jumped on the flawed analogy, telling voters that Romney would soon revert to his moderate ways.  Rick Santorum told a Louisiana crowd that Romney “is going to be a completely new candidate.” His campaign even handed out Etch A Sketches to people. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, tweeted that Etch A Sketch is “a great toy but a losing strategy.”

Romney called a brief news conference, the kind in which he takes only one question, where he said: “I’m running as a conservative Republican. I was a conservative Republican governor. I will be running as a conservative Republican, at that point, hopefully, nominee for president.”

Etch A Sketch is fleeting, but campaign gaffes, they are forever.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Under pressure from fuel prices, Obama starts energy blitz

President Barack Obama will direct federal agencies on Thursday to speed approvals of one portion of the controversial Keystone pipeline, in a move designed to ease political pressure on the White House as the industry frets about a glut of oil trapped in the region. Obama, who is under pressure from voters over rising gasoline prices, used a stop at a solar panel facility in Nevada on Wednesday to accuse Republicans of ignoring renewable fuels that could help wean the United States off foreign oil.

For more of this story by Jeff Mason, read here.

Santorum has few chances left to stop Romney
Rick Santorum is running out of time and opportunities to stop front-runner Mitt Romney’s slow, grinding march to the Republican presidential nomination. Romney’s convincing rout of Santorum in Illinois on Tuesday, along with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Romney on Wednesday, were a one-two punch that intensified questions about how long Santorum can keep his conservative campaign alive.

For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.

For video of Romney’s victory over Santorum in Illinois, click here.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorses Romney for president

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney to be the Republican nominee for president and urged the party to unite behind the former Massachusetts governor as the best choice to unseat President Obama.

For more of this story, read here.

US lawmakers probe pharmacy ties to drug shortages

Lawmakers are investigating three pharmacies in Maryland and North Carolina accused of passing critical drugs in short supply directly to wholesalers, who are likely to profit from the scarcity of life-saving medicines, rather than to the patients that need them. The Food and Drug Administration has said the number of drugs in short supply, which include cancer, anesthesiology and nutrition medications, had risen to 220 in 2011 from 56 in 2006, the year a clear trend started emerging.

For more of this story by Anna Yukhananov, read here.

Emerging nations mount challenge for World Bank job

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo are set to be nominated to lead the World Bank, according to sources with knowledge of emerging market efforts to find candidates. The candidacies pose a challenge to the United States, whose hold on the top post has never been contested.  But with its majority of votes and the expected support of European countries, the United States is still likely to ensure that another American succeeds Robert Zoellick, who plans to step down when his term expires at the end of June.

For more of this exclusive story by Lesley Wroughton, read here.

U.S. top court backs landowners, limits power of EPA

The Supreme Court ruled that landowners can sue to challenge a federal government compliance order under the clean water law, a decision that sides with corporate groups and puts new limits on a key EPA power. The justices unanimously rejected the government’s position that individuals or companies must first fail to comply with an EPA order and face potentially costly enforcement action before a court can review the case.

For more of this story by James Vicini, read here.

US on track for Afghan deal by NATO summit-Clinton

The United States said it appears to be on track to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan charting their future relations during or before a late May NATO summit. U.S. and Afghan officials have been trying to negotiate an accord for a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan beyond a 2014 deadline for most NATO combat forces to withdraw, allowing advisers and possibly some special forces to stay on.

For more of this story, read here.

From elsewhere…

Afghan shooting suspect joined Army, dodged judgment

The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan left for war without paying a $1.5 million judgment for defrauding an elderly client in a stock scheme, and remains shielded from the obligation as long as he remains in the military, legal experts said.

Before beginning his military career in November, 2001, Bales worked almost five-and-a-half years at a series of largely intertwined brokerages that received repeated regulatory censures, according to regulatory records.

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Stringer (undated publicity photo from Disney/Pixar  film “Toy Story 2″)

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