Attacks Gone Awry: Candidates Raise Big Money After Rivals' Attacks Backfire

There is one thing most politicians have in common: attacks. But while every campaign -- from city council to commander in chief -- if rife with criticisms, some politicians are better than others at finding that sweet spot between harsh and over-the-top.

These five politicians were miles from the mark when they lashed out at their opponents over everything from military heroism to supporting contraception.

Here's a look at five of the most epic political attack fails.

PHOTO: Joe Walsh
Alex Wong/Getty Images
'True Hero' Trip-Up

Attacker: Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.

Attacked: Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth

Attack: During a town hall in early July, Walsh said Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, was not a 'true' hero because she often referenced her military career on the campaign trail.

"My God, that's all she talks about," Walsh said. "Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, my God, that's the last thing in the world they talk about. That's why we are so indebted and in awe of what they have done."

Duckworth had both of her legs amputated after an RPG shot down the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting during her first tour of duty in Iraq.

Backlash: In the 10 days following Walsh's criticism Duckworth raised $85,000 in online donations, a huge spike from the "couple thousand" dollars her campaign typically raises in a week, according to her campaign.

PHOTO: Still from Pete Hoekstra campaign ad
Pete Hoekstra Campaign
Broken-English Backlash

Attacker: Michigan Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra

Attacked: Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Attack: Hoekstra, a former U.S. House member, sought to blame Stabenow for American jobs being lost to China in an ad that aired in Michigan during the Super Bowl. But the ad, which featured an Asian-American actress speaking in faked broken English while riding through rice paddies, instead ended up offending the Asian-American community and being condemned as racially "offensive."

Backlash: Hoekstra was widely condemned for the ad and ended up scrubbing it from the Internet. It no longer appears on his website, Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Stabenow launched an online "money bomb" off of the ad that raised close to $170,000, about $25,000 more than Hoekstra spent on the ad.

Hoekstra has since rebounded from the negative publicity surrounding the ad and is likely to win his GOP primary race on Aug. 7. Since the ad aired in February, Hoekstra has cut Stabenow's lead in half, although he still trails by 12 points according to a Jun 25 NBC News/Marist poll.

'Corporate Raider' Gone Awry

Attacker: GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry

Attacked: Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney

Attack: During the cutthroat Republican primary, Gingrich and the super PAC supporting him dug into Romney for his tenure as the head of Bain Capital. Gingrich criticized Romney for laying off workers, and Gingrich's super PAC dubbed Romney a "corporate raider."

Fellow GOP contender Rick Perry jumped on the Bain attack line, as well, calling Romney a "vulture capitalist."

Backlash: A slew of Republicans criticized Gingrich and Perry for what some deemed anti-free-market attacks.

"It's ignorant, dumb, it is building something we should be fighting in America: ignorance of the economic system, playing on the dumbest most ridiculous ideas about how you grow jobs," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said of the attacks in an January interview with Fox. "What they are doing to Mitt right now is totally, absolutely unfair and bad for the Republican Party."

Both candidates soon backed off attacks on Romney's tenure at Bain.

PHOTO: Political commentator Rush Limbaugh, left, and Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University and former president of the Students for Reproductive Justice group there, are shown in these file photos.
Getty Images
The Fluke Attack

Attacker: Conservative radio tycoon Rush Limbaugh

Attacked: Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke

Attack: After Fluke testified before Congress in support of health care coverage for contraception, Limbaugh took to his golden microphone and went on a tirade against Fluke, calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute."

"She wants to be paid to have sex," Limbaugh said. "She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps."

Backlash: More than 40 advertisers pulled their ads from Limbaugh's two-hour radio program in response to his comments. His criticism sparked two "Stop Rush" websites, a "Boycott Rush" Twitter hashtag, an anti-Rush Twitter handle and a petition signed by more than 400,000 people calling on advertisers to abandon the show.

Limbaugh eventually apologized, saying his choice of words was "not the best." Fluke said his apology "changes nothing." President Obama called Fluke personally to offer her his support.

Ballot Access Blunder

Attacker: Massachusetts Democratic Party

Attacked: Mitt Romney

Attack: When Romney returned to Massachusetts to run for governor after living in Utah for three years, the state's Democratic Party tried to get him disqualified from the ballot.

The Democrats argued that because Romney paid taxes in Utah for three years while running the Salt Lake City Olympic games, his candidacy violated a Massachusetts law requiring gubernatorial candidates to live in the state for the seven years prior to their candidacy.

The Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission threw out the Democrats' challenge, pointing out that Romney owned a house in Massachusetts and had for the past 30 years.

Backlash: The bipartisan commission's unanimous ruling in Romney's favor boosted his candidacy and made the Democrats look petty for challenging his residency.

After the ruling, Romney said the challenge was "designed to be an embarrassment and it ended up being an embarrassment not to me but" to the Democrats, the New York Times reported at the time.

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