Say Cheese! 6 Political Photo Ops that Failed

There are times when a picture can hurt a candidate's chances more than help.

ByABC News
October 16, 2012, 5:36 PM

Oct. 16, 2012 -- intro: Paul Ryan and his family posed for pictures while cleaning pots and pans at a soup kitchen Saturday, never knowing the appearance would lead to questions from the press. But Ryan's failed photo op pales in comparison with some political bloopers of the past.

Read on to see whose campaign was steamrolled by a photo shoot with a tank, how Newt Gingrich took the etch-a-sketch metaphor to another level and what John Kerry was doing in full-body scrubs.

quicklist: 1title: 1988 General Election category: Michael Dukakistext: Hoping to improve voters' opinions of his stance on defense, Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis posed for a video and photo op atop an M1 tank. But rather than buoy his campaign, that decision sunk it.

George Bush Sr.'s campaign ran an ad with the footage of a helmet-wearing Dukakis grinning and waving under a man's voice accusing the former Massachusetts governor of being soft on defense.

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quicklist: 2title: 2004 General Electioncategory: George W. Bushtext: Before his infamous "mission accomplished" speech, President George W. Bush flew into the USS Abraham Lincoln aboard a jet. The appearance was meant to bolster American attitudes towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but photos of the commander-in-chief in a flight suit were later used to mock the president and even inspired a Top Gun George W. Bush Action Figure.

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quicklist: 3title: 2004 General Electioncategory: John Kerrytext: In late July 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry donned a light-blue spacesuit for a tour of NASA. But when the photos came out and Kerry was mocked as looking silly in a "bunny suit," the campaign complained that NASA leaked them, implying it was for political purposes.

When members of the GOP started handing out the unflattering photos of Kerry, The Associated Press said they were trying to "pull a Dukakis," a reference to the tank photos that flattened another Massachusetts Democrat in the 1980s.

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quicklist: 4title: 2008 Post- Electioncategory: Sarah Palintext: In November 2008, Republicans lost the general election, freeing former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to return to her duties as governor of Alaska. Less than a month after election day, Palin fulfilled her duty as governor by pardoning one of the state's Thanksgiving turkeys.

As if her excuses for the pardoning weren't bizarre enough, the interview that followed landed Palin squarely back on the radar of political bloggers. While the governor talked on about what was next for her, a man in the background could be seen slaughtering one of the birds not fortunate enough to receive Palin's pardon.

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quicklist: 5title: 2012 Republican Primarycategory: Newt Gingrichtext: During a campaign stop at a restaurant about an hour away from New Orleans, one of Newt Gingrich's aides handed the candidate an Etch-a-Sketch. Playing on a comment a Mitt Romney strategist made about elections being like the childhood toy -- everything from the primaries erased to start fresh for the general race -- Gingrich put the toy between the jaws of a plastic alligator.

"There's a Louisiana treatment of an Etch-a-Sketch!" Gingrich said, as he delivered a critique of Romney's record as Massachusetts governor.

The stunt was meant to detract from Romney's momentum, but instead it took away from Gingrich's efforts to portray himself as a serious threat to the more-moderate Republican.

After the election in Louisiana, most voters told The Associated Press that the Etch-A-Sketch comment from Romney's aide made little difference in their choice. Romney beat Gingrich in the state's primary by more than 10 percentage points, but Rick Santorum was the overall winner with almost half the votes.

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quicklist: 6title: 2012 General Electioncategory: Joe Bidentext: The Obama campaign often uses Vice President Biden to reach out to voters on an emotional level, but one snapshot on the trail had voters wondering if Biden got a little too close for comfort.

A photographer from The Associated Press caught a shot of Biden snuggling up to a female biker at a diner in Seaman, Ohio. That photo set the Internet buzzing with speculation that Biden had invited the biker to sit on his lap.

The photographer later clarified that the woman was sitting next to Biden at the table -- not on his lap.

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