All of the memorable gaffes, zingers and general awkwardness this cycle's had to offer
In this Oct. 22, 2012 file photo, Mitt Romney and President Obama walk past each other on stage at the end of the last debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Credit: AP)
Two years, 10 candidates, several sex scandals, too many rape scandals, one open-marriage scandal, and so many wonderful gaffes. Here is your definitive guide to the best quotes of the 2012 election from the early days of the circus GOP primary to key Senate races to Election Day.
65. For Pete’s sake: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.” — Mitt Romney at a GOP debate in October 2011.
64. O Captain! My Captain!: “Both Mitt and I have summer places up in New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee. And a few summers ago I was taking my grandchildren and children to town in the boat for ice cream … And I realized there was nobody in the boat to help me dock the boat, handle the ropes, do anything … And I looked up and there was Mitt Romney. So he pulled me in, he tied up the boat for me. He rescued me just as he’s going to rescue this great country.” — Marriott chairman Bill Marriott explaining how Romney will rescue America’s yachts, quoted by Politico in late September 2012.
63. Huntsman crush: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” – Jon Huntsman in a tweet sent in December 2011. It was the beginning of his breakup with the GOP.
62. Marriage is like … “Marriage is what marriage is … It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage.” — Rick Santorum in an interview while campaigning in Iowa in August 2011. He also compared gay marriage to a napkin, not a paper towel; to water, not beer; and to tea, not basketball.
61. Big stick: “The president has a big stick.” — Joe Biden in April 2012.
60. Rape again: “Life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” — Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in October, 2012.
59. Mitt doesn’t have a job: “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed … I’m networking. I have my sight on a particular job.” — Mitt Romney, doing one of his uncomfortably awkward “sit-downs with Real Americans in a casual setting” events. Florida in June 2011.
58. And poor! “We can be poor in spirit, and I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing.” — Ann Romney, in an interview on Fox News in March 2012.
57. But the poors are fine: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it.” — Mitt Romney told CNN in early February 2012.
56. Let him die: An Tea Party activist yelled from the audience of one of the first GOP debates in September 2011 as Rep. Ron Paul was answering a question about whether an uninsured young man should be allowed to just die.
55. Me, stimulus? “I never asked for stimulus.” — Rep. Paul Ryan, quoted by ABC News, before being forced to admit that he did in fact request funds from President Obama’s economic stimulus package. August 2012.
54. Arithmetic: “Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: Arithmetic.” — Bill Clinton, during his fiery speech at the Democratic National Convention.
53. Global warming, LOL: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans. And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” — Mitt Romney, at the Republican National Convention in late August 2012, mocking global warming.
52. Self-disqualified: “Frankly, if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president.” — Mitt Romney on his tax returns in July 2012. It later came out that he had paid more than was legally due. He did not drop out of the race.
51. It’s alive: “I’ve got a little bumper sticker for you: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” — Joe Biden on the stump in early September 2012 deploying a line he would repeat often.
50. You people: “We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life.” — Ann Romney to ABC on her tax returns in July 2012.
49. Some of my best friends: “I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners.” — Mitt Romney, quoted by CBS News, when asked whether he follows NASCAR in February 2012.
48. Also: “I’ve got a lot of good friends — the owner of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets — both owners are friends of mine.” — Mitt Romney, in an interview with an Alabama radio host Paul Finebaum in March 2012.
47. It’s not as big as yours: “I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.” — Barack Obama to Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate in October 2012.
46. Binders full of women: “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.” — Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate on Oct. 16, 2012. Romney’s story about the binders full of women turned out to be false, but comments instantly became a viral meme and sparked websites and even Halloween costumes.
45. Your Olympics suck: “There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.” — Mitt Romney told NBC’s Brian Williams just before the start of the Summer Olympics in London, prompting a diplomatic row that had Romney taking flak from London’s mayor and the U.K.’s prime minister.
44. Quote. Funny. Weird: “Lemon. Wet. Good.” — Mitt Romney, quoted by ABC News, when asked how a glass of lemonade tasted on July 4, 2012.
43. Kill Big Bird: “I like PBS. I love Big Bird … But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.” — Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate. The comment became a meme.
42. $10,000 bet: “I’ll tell you what. 10,000 bucks? Ten-thousand-dollar bet?” — Mitt Romney offering to bet Rick Perry in a December 2011 GOP debate over a disagreement over Romneycare.
41. Fluked: “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?” – Rush Limbaugh on Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke in March 2012. The comments helped push Democrats to be more aggressive on women’s rights.
40. Fire people: “I like being able to fire people.” — Mitt Romney said the day before the New Hampshire primary in January 2012 in a line that Democrats would go on to (unfairly) make hay of.
39. 999: “999 … I can explain it in a minute” — Herman Cain, in October 2011, unveiling his tax plan, which was possibly cribbed from SimCity.
38. Rogue: “With so much at stake in this election, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should ‘go rogue.’” — Sarah Palin, desperately trying to stay relevant in a statement to the Weekly Standard in September 2012.
37. Severely conservative: “I was a severely conservative Republican governor.” — Mitt Romney at CPAC in February 2012.
36. ObamaKills: “If ObamaCare had been fully implemented when I caught cancer, I’d be dead.” — Herman Cain, while campaigning in August 2011.
35. You didn’t build that: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.” — Barack Obama campaigning in Virginia in July. The Romney campaign seized on the comments and made them a central part of their campaign, despite their erroneousness.
34. Beat the press: “I am so mad at the press I could just strangle them!” — Ann Romney told the National Review in February 2012.
33. 7/11 bakery: “I’m not sure about these cookies … They came from the local 7/11 bakery, or whatever.” — Mitt Romney, visiting a local bakery while campaigning in Pittsburgh in April 2012. (The baker later told MSNBC he was offended by Romney’s remarks.)
32. Fancy raincoats: “I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” — Mitt Romney mocking a group of NASCAR fans’ plastic ponchos at the Daytona 500 in February 2012.
31. Hey, sport: “I met a guy yesterday, 7 feet tall. Yeah, handsome, great big guy, 7 feet tall! … I figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn’t in sport.” — Mitt Romney in June 2012, deploying his blue blood refusal to add an “s” to the end of “sport.”
30. Harvard pot meet Harvard kettle: “We have a president, who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps.” — Mitt Romney, who has two Harvard degrees, in April 2012.
29. Um? “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.” — Mitt Romney in May, 2012.
28. Some of my best friends are corporations: “Corporations are people, my friend.” — Mitt Romney campaigning in Iowa in August 2011.
27. Ubeki-beki: “When they ask me who’s the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, you know, I don’t know. Do you know? And then I’m going to say how’s that going to create one job?” — Herman Cain, in an interview with David Brody in October 2011.
26. Birther jokes: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.” —Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan in August 2012.
25. Snob: “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!” — Rick Santorum speaking to Tea Party activists in Michigan in February 2012.
24. Who does spend half a million on jewels? “It’s a normal way of doing business.” — Newt Gingrich, defending his $500,000 debt to Tiffany in July 2011.
23. Eastwood vs. chair: “I can’t do that to myself!” — Clint Eastwood, speaking to an empty chair that had told him to go fuck himself at the Republican National Convention.
22. Please proceed: “Please proceed, Governor.” — Barack Obama, in the second presidential debate, setting a trap for Mitt Romney. The Republican went on to mischaracterize the president’s response to the attacks in Libya, prompting a correction from the moderator.
21. The best statement ever: “But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead.” — Former Newt Gingrich spokesperson Rick Tyler deploying some epic poetry in May 2011.
20. Open marriage: “Oh, he was asking to have an open marriage and I refused.” — Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife to ABC News in January 2012.
19. No one wanted to be Romney’s VP: “As long as it’s not me, I’ll be cool.” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), quoted by CNN, when asked whom he thought Mitt Romney would choose as his running mate in early August 2012.
18. “Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about.” – Republican Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh at town hall meeting in July 2012, criticizing opponent Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs in combat.
17. Aspirin: “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.” — Foster Friess, the GOP billionaire who spent millions on the campaign, to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in February 2012.
16. Gotta catch ‘em all: “I believe these words came from the Pokémon movie. ‘Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It’s never easy when there’s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There’s a mission just for you and me.’” — Herman Cain, withdrawing from the presidential race in December 2011.
15. Liby-wha? “Okay, Libya. President Obama supported the uprising, correct?… No, that’s a different one. I’ve got to go back, got all this stuff twirling around in my head.” — Herman Cain, struggling for five uncomfortable minutes to remember what happened in Libya in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in November, 2011.
14. Moon bases: “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.” – Newt Gingrich said during a speech in the city of Cocoa, on Florida’s Space Coast, in January 2012.
13. Secret meetings with kings and queens: “Each and every day that I’ve been a United States senator, I’ve been discussing issues, meeting on issues, in secret meetings with kings and queens and prime ministers and business leaders and military leaders talking, voting, working on issues every single day.” — Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., quoted by the Boston Globe in June 2012.
12. Couple of Cadillacs: “I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually. And I used to have a Dodge truck. So I used to have all three covered.” — Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan in February 2012. This line comes from the same speech as …
11. Trees are the right height: “This feels good, being back in Michigan… You know, the trees are the right height.” — Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan in February, 2012.
10. TMI: “I think the best answer is as little as possible.” –Mitt Romney, when asked what he wears to bed at night on ABC in September 2012.
9. Maybe if he got a better tan: “The American people probably aren’t going to fall in love with Mitt Romney.” — House Speaker John Boehner, quoted by Roll Call in July 2012.
8. Consistent: “I’ve been as consistent as human beings can be.” — Mitt Romney, in an editorial board meeting with the Seacoast Media Group in November 2011.
7. Tip the hand: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” — Pennsylvania Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, giving away the game as reported by Politics PA in July, 2012.
6. Legitimate rape: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin in August 2012. “I mean, this is somebody who kind of makes Michele Bachmann look like a hippie.” — Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on Morning Joe in September.
5. Horses and bayonets: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets.” — Barack Obama in the third presidential debate in late October 2012, refuting the legitimacy of Romney’s charge that the Navy was at its smallest since World War I. The line became a viral hit.
4. Oops: “I would do away with Education, Commerce, and let’s see — the third one I can’t. I can’t. Oops.” — Rick Perry’s epic brain fart during a GOP debate in November 2011 that was the beginning of the end for Perry’s much-feared campaign.
3. 47 percent: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.” — Mitt Romney speaking at a high-dollar fundraiser in a video released in September 2012 by Mother Jones.
2. Etch-A-Sketch: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.” — Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom to CNN in late March 2012.
1. How about those gaffes? “What about your gaffes?” — Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker, shouting to Mitt Romney in Poland in July. Because, really, what question better sums up the 2012 campaign? As Alex Pareene wrote at the time, “it’s a perfect beautiful little 2012 campaign zen koan that should be buried in a time capsule that is never ever dug up.” (Sorry, Alex.)