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Mitt Romney had 3 of top 2012 search memes, and not in a good way

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December 03, 2012|By James Rainey
  • Mitt Romney, seen delivering his concession speech, was among Yahoo's top search terms in 2012, but not in the way that his campaign would have wanted.
Mitt Romney, seen delivering his concession speech, was among Yahoo's… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

Online news giant Yahoo! announced its top search terms of 2012 Monday and, no surprise, the 2012 election topped all other topics, including the iPhone 5, which registered the second-most searches; Kim Kardashian, who attracted the third most and swimsuit model Kate Upton, who ranked fourth.

Mitt Romney's campaign for president also created three top-searched memes on all of Yahoo! this year, though, as shall be shown, those instances offered proof that a lively presence online is not always a good thing.

It probably could have been guessed that the two presidential contenders would be the politicians who the public searched for most frequently during the year. A onetime politician who was not on a ballot anywhere -- Sarah Palin -- was the third-most searched in the political category.

Although Palin eventually announced she would not run for president, the former Alaska governor's long flirtation with the idea at the start of the year drew waves of attention from the media and the public.

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The rest of the Top 10 most searched political figures, according to Yahoo!: Ron Paul, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rick Santorum, John Edwards, Paul Ryan, Elizabeth Warren and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The ins and outs of the democratic process cropped up in a few other places in Yahoo’s year-end count. The term "political polls" was the eighth-most-searched term for all topics during the 2012.

"Kony 2012" went down as the most-searched meme of the year. The nonprofit organization devoted to bringing down African warlord Joseph Kony became a viral sensation.

It was in the "meme" category that Republican presidential challenger Romney left an indelible digital mark, thanks to three awkward episodes.

"Binders full of women" was the second-most-searched meme of the year. It exploded out of the second presidential debate in mid-October. After suffering from a "gender gap" among female voters throughout the campaign, Romney tried to show his sensitivity to women by talking about how he hired women into his Cabinet as governor of Massachusetts.

"We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet," 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 statement made Romney look wooden and careless, rather than compassionate.

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In eighth place among the most-searched memes of the year was "eastwooding." When actor Clint Eastwood took the stage at the Republican National Convention in August, he faced off with an empty chair meant to represent President Obama. Americans took to mailing and tweeting pictures of themselves talking to empty chairs, a phenomenon dubbed "eastwooding." The episode drew attention to the movie icon and away from the candidate he was supposed to help.

Ninth-most searched among memes was "Etch-a-sketch." Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom invoked the children's toy in March to suggest how the candidate might pivot to more moderate policy positions in the general election (something Romney actually did, incidentally).

“Everything changes," Fehrnstrom told CNN. "It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."

Romney opponents jumped all over the comment as proof that he would not remain true to his conservative policy positions. The campaign said the statement only related to mechanics, not the candidate's core beliefs. But the damage had been done.

Many firms during the campaign season touted their ability to increase the candidates' mentions on blogs and social media. The Romney gaffes offered proof, if any more was needed, that not every mention is a good mention.

PHOTOS: Paul Ryan's past

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james.rainey@latimes.com

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