Mitt Romney may have offered a gift to his opponents on Monday when he said, in the midst of a longer answer about insurance companies, that he likes "being able to fire people." Opponents and reporters pounced on the quote and his remark added fuel to the already tense and competitive primary stage in which his rivals are doing what they can to exacerbate the image of Romney as a "greedy corporate raider." While Romney's remark may not necessarily be a game-changer in the race for the GOP ticket, here is a list of comments, photos and footage that did dramatically alter a candidate's political campaign.
During Gary Hart's 1988 presidential campaign, rumors were rampant regarding his marital infidelity. When a New York Times reporter confronted Hart about the rumors, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination responded with this challenge: "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."
The Miami Herald had been digging up dirt on Hart for weeks, documenting various rendezvous he had with a woman later identified as part-time model Donna Rice. The Herald broke the story the same day the Times ran Hart's challenge in print, and his political career never recovered. To add insult to injury, the Herald later received a tip that Hart spent the night with Rice in Bimini on a yacht called Monkey Business. Hart withdrew from the race one week later.
The now infamous moment when George Bush appeared bewildered by a supermarket checkout scanner during his 1992 reelection campaign fueled his opponents' eagerness to paint him as an out of touch politician.
When the president visited a national grocer's convention in Florida, the media was quick to jump on what observers called Bush's "amazement" at the supermarket technology years after the advent of scanners. The story was first reported by Andrew Rosenthal in the New York Times. Other publications and reporters followed suit, and despite claims that Rosenthal's report was mischaracterized, the story exacerbated the idea that the politician's "cushioned reality" rendered him incapable of understanding economic hardships that face everyday Americans.
In a 1999 interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Blitzer asked Gore why Democrats should support Gore instead of Senator Bill Bradley for the presidential nomination. Gore responded (in part): "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country's economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system."
Taken out of context, his remarks led to the creation of the nationwide myth that Gore claimed to have "invented the internet." Despite Internet pioneer Vint Cerf's attempts to defend him, his comments resulted in a large setback to his political career. Gore later poked fun at the controversy on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2000, saying to the audience: "Remember, America, I gave you the Internet, and I can take it away!"
In 2005, Gore was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for three decades of contributions to the Internet at the Webby Awards. He was introduced by Vint Cerf, who joked: "We all invented the internet."
In 1988, Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis visited the General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Michigan for a photo op in an M1 Abrams tank, hoping to show he was not soft on defense issues. The photo would become the most infamous image of his campaign.
The photo of a grinning Dukakis with a huge helmet aboard a tank was used by the Bush campaign to ridicule the then-governor as soft on defense and unfit for the position of commander-in-chief. Dukakis continued to be mocked by his opponents for the image, and it seriously damaged his presidential campaign.
During an appearance at Marshall University in 2004, John Kerry addressed his vote against an $87 billion supplemental appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and famously told the crowd, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it."
Kerry later called the comment "one of those articulate moments," but the Bush campaign quickly jumped on the opportunity and used the footage to show that Kerry flip-flops on issues, specifically the war in Iraq. Throughout the campaign, the GOP often attacked Kerry for voting against the funding for the military operation after voting to authorize Bush to take military action in Iraq in the first place. The comment became one of the most quoted lines of the 2004 presidential race, and Kerry could not shake his perceived flip-flopper persona.