The Biggest Political Blunders of 2012

PHOTO: President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney exchange views during the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
David Goldman/AP Photo

If we had to give the 2012 political calendar a name, it would be the Year of the Gaffe. Verbal or physical blunders played an outsized role on the campaign trail, often overshadowing the entire campaign narrative for a week or more.

It's true that most of these gaffes were often pointless, but some actually opened an unexpected window into the thinking of a given candidate. And that's why these are some of the biggest political blunders of 2012.

Romney gaffe
Youtube
Self Deportation, Mitt Romney

The 2012 election could be remembered as the campaign when Latino voters came into their own as a political force.

They made up 10 percent of the electorate for the first time in history and President Barack Obama won 71 percent compared to Romney's 27 percent.

Romney's percentage came as no surprise given how the GOP alienated Latino and other minority voters, who make up a larger portion of the electorate than ever. There was no greater symbol of that narrative than Romney's suggestion that undocumented immigrants "self deport."

Romney's 47% comment
MotherJones/Youtube
47 Percent, Mitt Romney

So much ink has been spilled over Romney's theory that 47 percent of Americans are committed supporters of the Democratic Party because of their dependence on government and victim mentality. We won't bore you with a lengthy recap, but this was arguably the most significant moment during the final stretch of the campaign. That's because it played directly into the caricature of Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat who disdained the lower classes.

The comments drew a tremendous backlash after they were uncovered in mid-September, drawing a response from Democrats and Republicans alike. And while Romney was able to generate a bounce after the first debate, he never truly recovered.

Here's some irony: Romney's final vote tally was just a shade above 47 percent.

Clint Eastwood talks to a chair
ABC/Youtube
RNC Speech, Clint Eastwood

How did Clint Eastwood become better known for being a joke on the web than for his signature movie line: "go ahead -- make my day"?

Eastwood improvised his speech, which was largely addressed at an empty chair meant to symbolize President Obama. Romney's staff OK'ed the speech. But aides later used the terms "strange," "weird," and "theater of the absurd" to describe the actor's rambling performance, according to The New York Times.

Here's how the internet responded: #eastwooding:

Obama gaffe
Screenshot/Youtube
"You Didn't Build That," Obama

Here's how a mid-July Obama gaffe turned into a Republican rallying cry for the rest of the campaign.

Speaking in Roanoke, Va., the president talked about his vision of government and public institutions, and how they can help facilitate individual success.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life, somebody helped create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges; if you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

The Romney campaign and his allies seized on the "you didn't build that" line and it quickly became their chief slogan against Obama. It played perfectly into their portrayal of Obama as the anti-business, pro-big government candidate. It was used in campaign videos and stump speeches. Romney even made "We Built It" -- a riff on Obama's remark -- the theme of his convention's first night.

Fact-checking organizations dubbed Romney's attacks that used the comment misleading. But the ascendance of the "you didn't build that theme" showed how powerful memes were in the 2012 campaign, regardless of context.

Obama gaffe
Youtube
"The Private Sector Is Doing Fine," Obama

During a June press conference, President Obama said that "the private sector is doing fine" and that the reason for sluggish job growth are state and local governments that are in the red.

Romney immediately pounced on the president's comment.

"Is he really that out of touch? I think he's defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people," said Romney at a campaign stop in Iowa. "For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history."

Some defended the president for pointing out that indeed, private-sector job growth has dramatically outpaced public-sector job growth. But even some of Obama's allies chided the president for making his remark.

"You know, that was an unfortunate line. The president bungled the line. The truth is, the private sector is doing better than the public sector which is not well enough," economist Paul Krugman said on CBS.

Biden gaffe
Youtube
"Put Y'all Back In Chains," Biden

Vice President Joe Biden is known for his glib tongue, and it showed during an August campaign rally. Biden told an audience in Danville, Va., a town that has a population that is almost half black, that Romney and Republicans want to "put y'all back in chains."

The Romney campaign called Biden's comments "a new low." Biden has a history of making racially-tinged comments. On the day he launched his own presidential campaign in 2007, Biden praised Obama for being "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean" to run for president. And in 2006, he said "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking,"

Biker Photo, Biden

Also, this.

PHOTO: This Sept. 24, 2012 file photo shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaking, in Kirkwood, Missouri.
Jeff Roberson/AP Photo
Moon Base, Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is revered by Republicans as a foremost conservative "ideas man." But one idea proposed by the GOP primary candidate in January spelled that the end of his campaign was nearing.

Gingrich floated the idea of a colony on the moon during a stop along Florida's space coast during the state's early primary contest, even joking about a "moon primary" in future elections. The comments may have been well-received by some in the region, which has been ravaged by job losses due to the end of the space shuttle program. But others scoffed at the pie-in-the-sky nature of Gingrich's proposal, especially considering the down economy and the willingness of Republicans to tighten the belt of the federal government.

Gingrich wouldn't officially drop out of the primary until early May. But his loss in Florida stunted the momentum he gained by winning the previous primary in South Carolina. Many interpreted his comments about the moon to be a sign of desperation at a time when he was bombarded on the airwaves by Romney attack ads.

One good thing came out of it? It produced this photo for posterity.

Legitimate rape comment
Screengrab/Youtube
"Legitimate Rape," Todd Akin

Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin essentially sank his chances of winning with his infamous legitimate rape comment.

When asked during an interview about whether abortion should be legal in the case of a pregnancy produced by rape, Akin said no in a baffling way.

"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said.

Akin was challenged by medical experts on the accuracy of his claim and Republicans urged him to get out of the race, particularly because they viewed his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the field.

But Akin remained in the race and McCaskill cruised to a resounding 16-point victory.

The meme "binders full of women" took off.
bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com
"Binders Full of Women," Romney

What do you remember most about the second debate between Obama and Romney? It probably isn't anything that was said about taxes, Libya, or immigration. It was likely Romney's "Binders full of women" comment.

Romney was asked about equal pay for women by an audience member at the debate, and the Republican candidate responded with an answer about how he found women to fill administration positions when he was governor of Massachusetts.

"And I said, 'Well, gosh, can't we — can't we find some — some women that are also qualified?" Romney said. "I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women."

The internet and Halloween costume makers, milked it for all it was worth.

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