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Establishment starts to coalesce behind Romney

By Kasie Hunt

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 4:20 p.m. MDT

Fehrnstrom responded: "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 restart all over again." The aide didn't back away from the comment when asked to clarify it. He said only that the general election is "a different race, with different candidates, and the main issue now becomes" exclusively President Barack Obama.

It didn't take long for the Democratic National Committee and Romney's Republican rivals to seize on the remark.

In Louisiana, Santorum brandished an Etch A Sketch and told voters he is a candidate who stands "firmly on the rocks of freedom, not on the sands of an Etch A Sketch toy."

Gingrich stood on stage elsewhere in the state and explained to his audience just what the toys were. "Gov. Romney's staff, they don't even have the decency to wait until they get the nomination to explain to us how they'll sell us out," he said. "I think having an Etch A Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we're going."

Louisiana holds its primary Saturday. Santorum is favored in the state, though Romney's allies are airing TV ads there even though the South has proven less hospitable to Romney.

Beyond Saturday, polls show Romney has the advantage heading toward Maryland's April 3 primary.

For his part, Obama on Wednesday headed to Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma on a trip aimed at answering critics of his energy policies, sure to be a key issue in the fall campaign. His first stop was a plant in Nevada that uses solar panels to power homes, part of an effort to highlight his programs to expand renewable energy sources.

The president's GOP critics poked back at Obama before Air Force One even took off.

Gingrich issued a statement saying Obama was answering a real-world problem with a "solution that is totally disconnected from the practical realities of the world and has little chance of success." Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of a Republican super PAC, launched an ad on TV stations in the areas on Obama's itinerary and on national cable channels faulting the president for "bad energy policies" that are driving up gasoline prices.

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