Spectacular Fails

Weiner, Akin, Dean & More Campaigns That Crashed & Burned (PHOTOS)

From Anthony Weiner to Rick Perry and Todd Akin, relive 10 of the most spectacular campaign flameouts.

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Failed Campaigns

Fresh revelations that Anthony Weiner continued to sext even after leaving Congress have turned his New York City mayoral bid into a circus. From Rick Perry to Charlie Crist, relive the most spectacular campaign flameouts.

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Anthony Weiner

In 2011, Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress in disgrace after first denying and then admitting that he had sent pictures of his junk to women on Twitter. The 2013 New York City mayoral race was supposed to be his redemption tour, and for a while it looked as if it might be. He was holding a slight lead over his Democratic primary opponents, but all that fizzled by late July, when it was revealed that Weiner was still up to his old tricks. Within days of news breaking that he was still sexting with other women even after he left Congress, his poll numbers plummeted and Democrats in New York started calling on Weiner to quit the race. So far, he’s refused.

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Howard Dean

During the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, little-known Vermont Gov. Howard Dean looked as if he might come out of nowhere to beat party insiders such as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry for the nomination. Dean rose to frontrunner status on the strength of his anti–Iraq War message, but things started to go south sometime after Thanksgiving 2003. By the time the Iowa caucuses rolled around, Dean’s campaign had lost momentum, thanks to a handful of angry outbursts. Then there was that scream after he lost the caucuses. Dean dropped out of the race soon after.

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Rick Perry

Few politicians’ arrival onto the national stage have been heralded as Rick Perry’s. He was, after all, the man the Republican Party had hoped would energize a weak 2012 GOP presidential primary field. But then his candidacy fizzled out after a serious of poor debate performances—remember the time he couldn’t remember the third agency he’d cut? Oops! There was also that little problem of Perry’s hunting camp, named “Niggerhead.”

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Todd Akin

For a while, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin must have thought he was going be upgrading to a Senate office at the U.S. Capitol. He was leading the Democratic incumbent, Claire McCaskill, but then two words derailed his campaign in stunning fashion: legitimate rape. Akin was asked whether he believed abortion should be legal in cases of rape. “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare,” he responded. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Almost immediately the GOP establishment asked Akin to step aside and let someone else try to unseat McCaskill. He refused and got pummeled at the polls, losing by about 15 points.

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Rudy Giuliani

On the strength of his mayoral leadership in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Rudy Giuliani was primed to make a run at the Republican nomination for president in the 2008 election. Giuliani had built his campaign on carrying big states, and as questions began to arise about some of the nominations he’d made while mayor, his support began to dwindle. The former mayor had always been suspect with the social conservative wing of the GOP, and revelations that he had cross-dressed fueled that distrust. That plus his checkered marital past made it difficult for Giuliani to connect with Republican voters in key primary states. Unable to rebound from the mounting attacks, his plan to win big states was a bust. After a loss in Florida on Super Tuesday, his campaign was over.

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Gary Hart

In 1987, Gary Hart was the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then a senator from Colorado, Hart had been plagued by rumors of womanizing but still managed to break away from the rest of the pack. That was, until the Miami Herald published a report that Hart had an extramarital affair with a model named Donna Rice. The pair had taken a cruise together on a yacht named Monkey Business. Hart tried to contain the damage, but when a Washington Post reporter asked him if he’d ever committed adultery, he wouldn’t answer. Faced with the prospect of yet another affair coming to light, Hart withdrew from the campaign in May.

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Richard Mourdock

In 2012, just days before the November election, Republican Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock doubled down on rape and abortion. During a debate, Mourdock said, “I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” The GOP establishment was not pleased and rushed to condemn his statement. He went on to lose to Democrat Joe Donnelly by six points.

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George McGovern

In what was possibly the greatest political drubbing in American presidential history, George McGovern’s 1972 campaign went down in spectacular fashion. The three-term senator from South Dakota came up against one obstacle after another until he lost all but one state, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia on Election Day. One of his biggest problem? McGovern’s choice of running mate. Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri was forced to withdraw after news broke that he had been treated for mental health issues, and his replacement, Sargent Shriver, didn’t do much to energize the ticket.

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Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist had been doing pretty well as the governor of Florida, so he decided to try for a Senate seat in 2010. Moderately popular, Crist turned off Florida voters when he accepted stimulus money from the federal government. He also couldn’t stem the rising popularity of Tea Party darling Marco Rubio, the Florida House speaker. So Crist withdrew from the Republican primary and ran as an independent. But that didn’t help his chances: he wound up losing the general election to Rubio by more than a million votes.

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Jack Ryan

Things seemed to be going fine for Jack Ryan the 2004 Republican nominee for Senate in Illinois. Then several Chicago media outlets sued to have his sealed divorce papers made public. What they found were allegations from his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, that he had tried to take her to sex clubs while on vacation. Both Ryans tried to stop the release of the documents, in which Jeri alleged that Jack guilted her into visiting a club “with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling,” and that he wanted her to “have sex with him there, with another couple watching.” Ryan was forced to drop out. Barack Obama, then a little-known state senator, went on to win the race and then the presidency.