Texas Gov. Rick Perry, seen in a 2010 file photo, holds the honor of landing… (Ben Torres / Dallas Morning…)
Every presidential campaign leaves a few indelible moments. Some can be game changers. Others go down as nothing more than odd non sequiturs. The Politics Now crew brings you nine moments we won’t soon forget:
YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT: One of President Obama’s most inartful, or misinterpreted, moments came July 13 at a rally in Virginia. In full context, fact checkers said, the president made clear he was talking about how America could accomplish some big goals only through collective action. He went on to mention the moon shot, the Internet and the construction of Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. But before he cited those examples, he said this: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Those targeting Obama as a relentless collectivist didn’t bother to tack on his conclusion: “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
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THE 47%: Romney was already coming off a tepid convention performance, in which TV viewers remembered Clint Eastwood more than the nominee, when Mother Jones magazine released video of the candidate talking to a group of fat-cat donors in Boca Raton, Fla. In what will go down as Romney’s biggest blunder, he spoke of 47% of voters who will vote for Obama “no matter what,” adding: “All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.” He’d probably already alienated half the country, but then Romney capped it with this: “Our message of low taxes doesn’t connect ... so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
NEWT’S MOON COLONY: Campaigning in January on Florida’s Space Coast, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich declared: “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.” He called for new propulsion technology to deliver humans more quickly to the moon. "Does that mean I'm visionary?” he asked. “You betcha." But budget-conscious fellow Republicans scoffed at Gingrich’s big-money dream. The conservative National Review put a cartoonish Gingrich, in full space suit, on its cover.
RICK PERRY’S DEPARTMENT GOES MISSING: The Texas governor had already been stumbling in his primary bid, but got on a roll at one late-2011 debate about the wonders of his state. Then he segued into talk about how he would transform the federal government by cutting three departments. “Commerce, Education and what’s the third one there ... ? Let’s see.” Fellow candidates tried to interject with answers (“The EPA?”) to bring some relief during the most cringe-worthy moment of the campaign. When CNBC’s John Harwood demanded: “So you can’t name the third one?” Perry looked like someone had run over his pet kitten. “I would do the Education,” Perry began, but hesitated again, before someone fed him the Commerce Department as No. 2. Perry fumbled with his notes. “Let’s see. I can’t. I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” It didn’t matter that Perry recalled, about 15 minutes later in the debate, that the Energy Department would be the third he would kill. He never again made a serious run at the Republican nomination.
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ROMNEY’S SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE IT OFF BABY: When CNN asked if other GOP primary candidates had pushed Romney too far right, aide Eric Fehrnstrom said the former Massachusetts governor would simply change his tune. “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom told the cable outlet. “It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.” The brazen admission of a rebranding campaign got Republican rival Rick Santorum to buy four of the children’s toys. He said the Fehrnstrom statement proved that Romney didn’t intend to remain a true conservative.