The Washington Post:
Although Fehrnstrom is one of Romney’s longest-serving aides, he, like his boss, has no roots in the conservative movement. Fehrnstrom started out as a reporter covering alderman meetings in Boston and lives in liberal Brookline, Mass. His work as a GOP operative has been confined to New England — a region, as he often notes, that’s “pretty rocky terrain for Republicans.”
To some influential conservatives, Fehrnstrom is an enigma. It’s not that conservatives don’t trust him. It’s that some don’t even know him.
“I’ve never heard of him. I’ve been going to conservative meetings since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and I’ve never seen him anywhere,” said Craig Shirley, an adviser to conservative organizations who has worked for Newt Gingrich, one of Romney’s opponents.
Despite the gaffe, it appears unlikely that Fehrnstrom will be demoted or will lose his job. He is one of Romney’s most trusted advisers — if he worked for President Obama, he would be a cross between David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs — and Romney is fiercely protective of his loyalists.
“Eric is the first guy to jump out there and defend Mitt,” said Romney’s communications director, Gail Gitcho. She added that Fehrnstrom, who runs senior staff briefing calls with Romney every morning, provides “very careful counsel.”
Inside Romney’s Boston headquarters, Fehrnstrom is regarded for his determination and steadiness — “he just moves through the water,” senior adviser Beth Myers said — as well as his encyclopedic memory about all things Romney.
This week, when Axelrod told CBS News that he admires the Romney campaign because it has been “doggedly tenacious,” Romney aides believed he was referring to Fehrnstrom.
(...) Fehrnstrom, 50, entered politics in 1994 when Joe Malone, then the state treasurer, plucked him from the Boston Herald, where he had been covering the State House, to be his communications director.
“He is unwavering in terms of his mental toughness,” Malone said. “He’s got, in the best sense of the word, a warrior’s mentality.”
In 2002, while Fehrnstrom was working at an ad agency, Romney confidant Bob White sought him out to run communications on Romney’s gubernatorial campaign. After four years with Romney at the State House, Fehrnstrom became his spokesman and senior traveling aide on the 2008 presidential campaign.
(...) 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.
(...) 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.”