OK, Mitt. This is your moment. You’re down in the polls, you’re being called a wimp, and your campaign needs a boost. You’ve scampered down some steep battleship steps without tripping, you’ve managed to muster up a bit of excitement on a Saturday in the middle of the Olympics, and the country is hanging on your every word. It’s time for the big finale: “Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan!” Oops.
Oh, Obama Did the Same Thing!
Maybe Mitt’s gaffe was a subtle strategic maneuver? In 2008, then-senator Barack Obama also introduced his running mate as “the next president.” Perhaps polling found that Obama’s slipup actually helped him win the election? Mitt clearly copied Obama’s veep-picking dress code, too: white shirt, sleeves rolled just so under the elbow, a tie the color of the opposition party (Mitt: blue; Obama: red). Or maybe they just both choked in the big moment.
I Can’t See Russia From My House (Controlling Eastern Europe)
Remember when the Soviet Union controlled Eastern Europe and imposed—through military force—a communist ideology deeply antithetical to American foreign policy? Of course you do. Well, President Gerald Ford did not. In October 1976, Ford faced off against Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter in a debate and declared: “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Moderator Max Frankel of The New York Times followed up, smirking, and gave Ford a chance to walk back his statement. Instead, Ford doubled down and held that Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia were free from Soviet influence. Then he lost the election.
Who Am I?
Either vice admiral James Stockdale was far more philosophical than the crowd gave him credit for, or his answer to the first question of the 1992 vice-presidential debate—“Your opening statement, please, sir?”—was an disaster of the first order. Ross Perot’s third-party running mate simply asked: “Who am I? Why am I here?” The rhetorical response drew jeers from viewers and pundits alike. Cruelly, the war hero passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2005.
‘Stand Up, Chuck’
What would a list of gaffes be without Joe Biden? The current VP has stuck his foot in his mouth so often he must constantly taste shoe leather. But we’re particularly partial to his asking paraplegic Missouri State Sen. Chuck Graham to stand up for recognition at a rally in 2008. Biden quickly realized that Graham was sitting in his wheelchair and rattled off an awkward “Oh, God love ya, what am I talking about?” Indeed.
Howard Dean’s Scream
Howard Dean was supposed to win the 2004 Iowa Democratic primary. He was also supposed to be the most Internet-savvy candidate in the field. But then everything fell apart. John Kerry and John Edwards surged ahead of him to finish first and second in Iowa. Dean added a shriek to the end of his concession speech, and the Internet erupted in laughter. The “I Have a Scream Speech” was born, and Dean’s candidacy was effectively dead. (At least he gave Dave Chappelle some good material!)