TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Pushed to the bottom of the toy box by video games and other high-tech gadgets, the 1960s drawing toy Etch A Sketch is suddenly getting lots of attention thanks to a gaffe in the race for the White House.
Ohio Art, maker of the classic baby boomer toy, is sending a big box of Etch A Sketches to the presidential campaigns to say thanks for the publicity and a boost in sales.
It started when Mitt Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom was asked Wednesday about the candidate's politics now versus next fall. He likened the Republican's campaign to an Etch A Sketch: "You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."
Democrats and Republicans alike seized on the remark, saying it was evidence that Romney is a flip-flopper willing to alter his positions for political gain.
Republican rival Newt Gingrich told voters in Louisiana that "having an Etch A Sketch as your campaign model raises every doubt about where we're going." Rick 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." Santorum's staff also handed out miniature Etch A Sketches to reporters.
While Romney's opponents are hoping the remark will erase his momentum and reframe the debate, the biggest winner might be Ohio Art.
Its stock, which trades over the counter, had nearly tripled by Thursday afternoon to $9.65, and major stores reported a jump in sales, said chairman Bill Killgallon.
"We're proud that one of our products is shaking up the debate," he said.
Ohio Art has sold more than 100 million Etch A Sketches worldwide since its introduction in 1960. The toy, with its familiar gray screen and bright-red frame, allows youngsters to draw things by twisting two white knobs. A quick shake erases the image and lets the player start over.
Etch A Sketches were made in Ohio until 2000, when the company moved production to China because of increasing costs.
Over the years, Ohio Art and Etch A Sketch have benefited from millions of dollars in free advertising from movies and television. The company saw a big jump in sales after Etch A Sketch landed a role in "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2."
In fact, the toy gets so much free publicity that Ohio Art spends very little on advertising it.
The company, based in Bryan, Ohio, doesn't release annual sales figures but says Etch A Sketch has a steady market. It's most popular with grandparents and mothers who are looking for a bit of nostalgia.