Sexy Youtube supporters? Infamous blue collar workers? Controversial priests? That's so 2008. In the opening salvo of the 2012 presidential race, the iconic figures like Obama Girl and Joe the Plummer who captured headlines throughout the campaign are flying below the radar.
But the people who were propelled to nationwide fame during 2008 aren't all sitting on the sidelines. From newly launched political campaigns to blossoming acting careers, here's a look at what the media sensations of 2008 are up to in 2012.
The girl who had the "biggest crush on Obama" in 2008 is planning to resurface this time around to support her man one YouTube hit at a time in his bid for re-election. But while the Obama Girl character will always stand behind Obama, Obama Girl actress Amber Lee Ettinger said her support for the president has faded over the past four years.
"I always will feel like I have a connection to him, but this time around I am still undecided about who I will vote for," Ettinger told ABC News on Tuesday.
Ettinger, who recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, said that her Obama Girl gig has upped her name recognition but has also closed some doors.
"If you're on YouTube, some people don't see you as an actress," she said.
In a 2010 interview, Ettinger said she would give Obama a B-minus because he was "doing OK" as president. The YouTube sensation said she would have liked to see Obama focus more on jobs and the economy instead of health care reform, which she told the New York Post was "definitely a distraction because of the economy being as bad as it is."
Despite Ettinger's skepticism, Obama Girl has already re-emerged in 2012. In a video released last month, Obama Girl appears as a spoofed version of the lead character in "Girl With a Dragon Tattoo" and sabotages the GOP candidates' presidential campaigns.
Ettinger said there's "definitely" more to come on the YouTube front for the 2012 campaign .
"As this election starts heating up all the excitement has started to grow again," Ettinger said. "People kind of want to see what [Obama Girl] is up to."
|Joe the Plumber|
In the heat of the 2008 general election between Barack Obama and John McCain, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, 38, went from a little-known blue collar worker in Ohio to a nationally known symbol of candidate Obama's tax policy.
The McCain campaign used the plumber to personify small business owners who would be hurt by Obama's plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire for upper-income brackets, plummeting Wurzelbacher into the media firestorm of the heated presidential race. He appeared alongside McCain at campaign events, was cited in stump speeches and mentioned at debates.
Four years later, the previously nonpolitical plumber has launched his own political campaign, running to represent Ohio in the U.S. House.
"Politicians keep playing politics with our lives. I'm sick and tired of it," Wurzelbacher said in an October speech announcing his candidacy. "I'm not doing this because I want to be a congressman. I'm not doing this because I want power. I am going to run because I've been there. I know how it is to live paycheck to paycheck."
Wurzelbacher is running in a contested Republican primary, and if he emerges the nominee will face long-time Reps. Dennis Kucinich or Mary Kaptur, who were redistricted into the same district and are battling it out in a Democratic primary.
Wurzelbacher's campaign spokesman said he is not planning to endorse a Republican presidential candidate but is running fiercely against Obama's economic policies, which are "making EVERYONE poor" Wurzelbacher writes on his campaign website.
"We all have to work to stop this insanity," Wurzelbacher writes. "I am choosing not to be a spectator in the governing of this country. I am choosing to fight the power grabs and corruption that is permeating every level of our government."
Reille Hunter's extra-marital affair, love child and sex tape with Democratic senator–turned- presidential -candidate John Edwards was one of the juiciest scandals to hit politics in the 21st century. And despite Edwards' nearly complete withdrawal from politics, the scandal is still making headlines four years later.
When the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer first broke the story in late 2007 that Edwards was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with Hunter, then a videographer for his presidential PAC, Edwards' vehement denials were enough to discredit the tabloid scandal.
But after leaving the presidential race in January 2008, Edwards confessed to the affair in August, soon after which Hunter gave birth to baby girl. Edwards would not admit that he was the child's father until January 2010. Within weeks of admitting paternity, reports of a sex tape emerged and Hunter broke her silence.
Since then Hunter has discussed the affair, the child and the sex tape in multiple interviews, including one with Oprah and one for GQ Magazine.
But neither party has yet to close the book on the tabloid-topping scandal, as both of them are still battling out the details in court. Edwards is on trial for a six-count federal indictment alleging that he helped funnel cash from wealthy donors to keep his pregnant mistress from being exposed during his presidential bid.
Hunter hits the courtroom in March in a lawsuit to recover the sex tape she and Edwards made from Edwards' former campaign aide Andrew Young, who originally claimed paternity of Hunters' child in an attempt to shield Edwards from the political backlash.
|The Rev. Jeremiah Wright|
In 2008, he was the character who threatened to topple Obama's lead over Hillary Clinton in the bitter Democratic presidential primary, but in 2012 the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has excluded himself from the political spotlight.
Wright, Obama's pastor for more than 20 years, became the focal point for Obama's critics after ABC broke the story that Wright had preached that America was to blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and told his congregation, "God Damn America."
The Obama family left the church in May 2008, in the midst of the Democratic primary, following months of controversy over Wright's comments.
Wright retired as the senior pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in late 2008 and has kept a relatively low profile since then. He still occasionally preaches at his old church and travels the country giving sermons and speeches.
Wright was in Washington, D.C., last month to give a sermon at Howard University honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day. During the sermon, Wright's plea that worshipers plow forward through tough times seemed to echo the current calls of his former parishioner-turned-president.
"This ain't no short-term battle, no brief skirmish. This is a protracted war," he said, according to the Washington Post. "Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out."