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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump race to redraw a few positions

Etch A Sketch used to be just

Etch A Sketch used to be just a kids' toy, but in the 2012 election was a metaphor for how presidential candidates change their messages for primary and general election voters. Credit: The Associated Press

Four years ago, Eric Fehrnstrom created a tempest with his instantly viral “Etch A Sketch” remark.

As a key aide to candidate Mitt Romney — then en route to the Republican nomination — Fehrnstrom was asked how the candidate would pivot from primaries to the general election.

He explained that it was like the famous children’s drawing toy that you can turn over, shake, erase and sketch over again.

Rivals and critics jumped on the remark to say Romney wasn’t on the level. But it actually gave a good, if lampoonish glimpse of what happens every four years. Contenders pander first to party members, then to a different audience of general-election voters.

And those Etch A Sketch screens are shaking again.

During the GOP primaries, Donald Trump issued a plan that the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said would give the top tenth of 1 percent of income earners a tax cut of 19 percent or $1.3 million, versus 5 percent or $2,700 on average for middle-class payers.

As a presumptive nominee, Trump on Sunday said on ABC News that taxes on the wealthy “will go up a little bit. . . . In my plan they’re going down, but by the time it’s negotiated, they’ll go up.”

In November, Trump said wages as well as taxes were too high. Asked anew about the minimum wage, he said during the weekend: “I am looking at it and I haven’t decided in terms of numbers.” He said “people have to get more.”

Unraveling Trump’s answers to moderators’ questions doesn’t always give a clear sense of just where his position started, where it ended or what it all meant.

So let’s just say he’s changed his responses on some issues, which he likes to say he’s allowed to do.

Early in the fray, Democrat Hillary Clinton likewise did some shifting and tweaking of her own.

In October, before her first debate against Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton took a stance against the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership deal.

In 2012, in Australia, she had said: “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”

As presidents, her ex-boss Barack Obama and spouse Bill Clinton clearly supported an expanded role for charter schools. She had written and spoken in support of charters as tools for improvement in the 1980s and 1990s.

In November, Clinton won teacher-union applause when she said most charters “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”

This summer, the major parties will craft platforms on which their candidates run.

It will be compelling to see what shakes out.

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