Romney Campaign Gaffe: A Boon for Etch-A-Sketch
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The Fiscal Times
March 22, 2012

It may be the biggest retro toy to hit the 2012 campaign trail so far – and it may not go away as quickly as the Romney campaign folks would like.

Bad for Romney. Not so bad for his rivals or for Etch-A-Sketch -- their stock almost doubled in one day.  The toy is at the center of the election campaign dust-up created late Wednesday afternoon  when Romney’s senior campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the campaign would “hit a reset button” in the general election if Romney became the GOP nominee. He added, “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch – you can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Within minutes, it seemed, both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich pounced. Holding an Etch-a-Sketch in his hands, Santorum said, “Governor Romney is interested in saying whatever is necessary to win the election and when the game changes, he’ll change.”

Newt Gingrich unveiled a new website featuring the Fehrnstrom quote above an Etch-A-Sketch that highlights the former governor’s policy shifts when viewers hit a prompt labeled, “shake.” Yesterday, Gingrich said during a Lake Charles, Louisiana, campaign stop “I think having an Etch-A-Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we’re going.”

Since it was first released in 1959, over 100 million Etch-A-Sketch toys have been sold, according to Tim Walsh, a toy expert and author of Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them, on Thursday morning. But clearly, since yesterday afternoon, a lot more Etch-A-Sketches are flying, sailing, leaping out of stores.

One buyer told Ohio Art this morning that it sold roughly double the number of average units yesterday, according to Larry Killgallon,  senior vice president of marketing and product development at Ohio Art. 

At this rate, look for bucketloads of Etch-A-Sketches to be handed out during the next few Santorum or Gingrich campaign stops. As for the Democrats, the Associated Press has already described them as “positively giddy” over the Etch-A-Sketch gaffe, as it “gave them an opening to resurrect a familiar story line that the former Massachusetts governor will take any position on an issue to get elected.”

The Ohio Art Company, which has made the Etch-A-Sketch for over 50 years (and added various updates to it over the years), said in a statement, “We’re pleased with the added attention being drawn to Etch-A-sketch, which is truly one of the most recognizable, iconic and fun toys ever developed… It’s always sold well with today’s consumer. It is too early to tell, but we are hopeful to see if there is an uptake in the sales, given this recent exposure.”

Here’s more on the toy that’s getting its new shot in the sun:

$4
Closing price of Ohio Art yesterday

$9.65
Current price of the stock http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/oart (as of Thursday 1:15 p.m.)

150 million
Number of units of Etch A Sketch sold since 1960 

35 percent
The amount of toy revenue that Etch-A-Sketch is responsible for at Ohio Art

93,673
Number of shares of Ohio Art (OART) owned by North Star Investment Management Fund, a Chicago-based money management firm – making it the largest institutional owner of the stock

$11.50
Price that Etch A Sketch sells for on amazon right now

$8.41
Price the “travel” version of Etch-A-Sketch sells for on amazon right now

Managing Editor Maureen Mackey oversees scheduling and work flow and also writes and edits features and reports on a wide array of subjects. She spent more than 20 years as a senior book and features editor at Reader’s Digest.