GOP boosts Etch A Sketch maker

Flickr user DonkeyHotey
Flickr user DonkeyHotey

(MoneyWatch) Drama! Conflict! Gaffes! The Republican presidential primary race has been a source of non-stop fun for political junkies, as the candidates trade jabs and vow to fix the economy. Now the battle between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum is spilling over into the market and moving stocks higher. Well, one stock.

Ohio Art (OART) is up more than 140 percent today after Romney and Santorum this week turned the company's iconic Etch A Sketch into a political football (at the risk of a mixed playtime metaphor)

Remember Etch A Sketch? It's been around since 1960. You twiddle knobs back and forth to make drawings traced across the inside of a screen. And to start with a clean slate just Flip the Etch A Sketch over, shake, and turn it right side up again. These days, there's even an iPhone app version.

Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom, addressing a question Wednesday from a CNN reporter about whether Santorum and Newt Gingrich would force the former Massachusetts governor to appease conservatives, said:

Well, 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.

In other words, politicians play to their bases during the primaries and then move back toward center for the general election. Unfortunately for Romney, politics almost never allows a clean slate.

The remark was a perfect opening for Santorum, who has charged Romney with flip-flopping on conservative stances. Later on Wednesday, the former senator brandished one of the toys and said that he was starting his "Etch A Sketch tour of America."

All the attention hasn't gone unnoticed by investors. Ohio Art stock, normally sold over-the-counter rather than though one of the big stock exchanges, took a big jump. After closing yesterday at $4 a share, it opened Thursday at $12.50. By noon, it was still at $9.65, for a  whopping 141 percent increase. It's not clear that Etch a Sketch sales will get a long-term boost as a result of the toy's moment in the political spotlight, but Toys R Us told CNBC that sales had picked up this week. Politics sure makes strange play fellows.

Image: Flickr user DonkeyHotey

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.