With John Edwards currently on trial for using unreported campaign finance donations to hide an affair he was having on his cancer-ridden wife back in 2008 (wow, that sounds really bad when you type it out), it is safe to say that his political career is over. At the very least, he has messed up bad enough that he won't be on the presidential campaign trail ever again. With that in mind, here is a look back at 12 of the biggest political blunders men have made since World War II during their presidential campaigns.
No. 12 - Jesse Jackson Insults Jews
In 1984, Jackson became just the second African American to mount a nationwide campaign for president. Running as a Democrat, he surprised many who thought he didn't have a chance at winning the nomination by winning five primaries. But any chance he had at becoming the Democratic candidate was destroyed when it was revealed that he referred to New York City as "Hymietown" during a conversation with a black Washington Post reporter. He also was quoted as saying he was "sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust." These remarks, and the fact that many saw Jackson as hostile to Israel and far too close to Arab governments, were a campaign killer.
No. 11 - Howard Dean Screams Like a Banshee
Considered one of the Democrat's front-runners to take on President Bush in the 2004 election, Howard Dean was dealt a blow when he finished third to John Kerry and John Edwards in the Iowa caucuses. He probably could have bounced back if he hadn't ended his concession speech that night with this rowdy rant that ended with the "Dean Scream." It was widely rebroadcast and portrayed as a media gaffe that ended his campaign.
No. 10 - Barry Goldwater Thinks He's Always Right
If you think that Rick Santorum is wildly conservative and right-winged, you should read about Barry Goldwater. When he took on recently sworn-in President Lyndon Johnson (due to the assassination of JFK) in 1964, with his Old Testament style of campaigning, he was criticized for being too conservative, an extremist, and out-of-touch. He even alienated moderate members of his own party, including former president Eisenhower. Despite all this, Goldwater maintained that his way of thinking was right (as in correct), and that everyone should just realize that. In fact, the most used slogan of the Goldwater campaign was, "In your heart, you know he's right." Unfortunately for Barry, you don't win votes based on how high your morals are, and he lost in a landslide.
No. 9 - Gerald Ford Says "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe."
Here's a fun historical fact: Gerald Ford was Vice President and President of the United States of America, but was not elected to either position. That's because he became VP for Nixon in 1973 when Spiro Agnew resigned, and then president the following year when Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal.
Already facing negativity for being associated with Nixon and controversy for pardoning him, Ford sealed his fate with a blunder in the second debate against Jimmy Carter in 1976. His exact quote was, "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration." This was patently false, and the mistake halted the surge Ford was making in catching Carter in the polls. He went on to lose the election by a very slim margin, less than two percent of the popular vote.
No. 8 - Mitt Romney Makes Ford Field Folly
This may prove to be a greater mistake down the road for Romney, but for now it is just the biggest one he has made so far. On February 24, Romney was set to make a "big speech" in Detroit at Ford Field. The problem? More people turned up to protest outside of the stadium than actually attend the speech inside. Addressing the Detroit Economic Club in a nearly empty stadium looked bad enough, but Romney made it worse by casually mentioning that his wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs," adding support to many people's belief that he is out of touch with the normal American because he is so rich. Recently, he added fuel to this fire by telling students they should just borrow money from their parents to go to college, making him seem oblivious to the financial hardships most parents face these days.
No. 7 - Rick Perry Tries to Debate
Rick Perry was supposed to make a strong push and challenge Mitt Romney this fall for the Republican nomination, so shortly after announcing his candidacy, he jumped into the debate circuit ready to shake things up and tell the country exactly what he was going to do. Unfortunately, he forgot what he was going to do. Oops.
No. 6 - John Kerry Leaves $15 Million on the Table
Perhaps John Kerry was screwed from the get-go, but he definitely didn't do all he could to defeat President George W. Bush in 2004. Kerry declined to campaign at all in certain states, basically handing Bush electoral votes. When it was all said and done, Kerry failed to spend $15 million of his campaign money; money that could have been spent in certain swing states he ended up losing in order to change the outcome of the election.
No. 5 - Thomas Dewey Doesn't Say Much at All
When Dewey, the Republican candidate, ran against Harry Truman in 1948, he knew that he wouldn't have to do much to defeat him. Truman's popularity was at an all-time low, and the Democratic Party's support was split three ways. However, Dewey's fear of making any mistakes led him to basically say nothing of significance his entire campaign. According to an editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal, his speeches could be boiled down to these four sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead.
Boring. Meanwhile, Truman campaigned his ass off. He publicly criticized and ridiculed Dewey, who chose to focus on the positive aspects of his campaign and ignore Truman's criticisms. This proved to be a big mistake, as Truman was able to win voters while Dewey looked meek. And although the Chicago Daily Tribune infamously printed up hundreds of papers that said "Dewey Defeats Truman," the opposite was true.
No. 4 - Ross Perot Drops Out, Then Reenters Race
In 1992, Ross Perot took on the major party candidates (incumbent George Bush and Democratic candidate Bill Clinton) as an independent. And in June of that year, he actually led them both in the polls with 39 percent. Although his numbers had slipped a little, Perot was still in good shape a month later when he went on "Larry King Live" and announced that he would not run for the presidency. The reason he gave was that he did not want the House of Representatives to decide the election if the result caused a split electoral college. But it was later disclosed that the real reason was that the Bush campaign was going to release digitally altered photographs of Perot's daughter's wedding, and he did not want to deal with the public embarrassment. Whatever the reason, his reputation was badly damaged by dropping out, as many of his supporters felt disappointed and betrayed.
Then on October 1, Perot announced that he would reenter the presidential race. He was facing a negative public opinion now, though, and support in the polls for him was only around 9 percent. He was able to gain some ground in the debates, but it was too little, too late. He ended up getting 19 percent of the popular vote, making him the most successful third-party candidate in the last 100 years, but won no electoral votes.
No. 3 - Gary Hart Gets Busted for Monkey Business on a Yacht Named "Monkey Business"
In 1987, Hart was considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the 1988 election. He declared his candidacy on April 13, 1987, and almost immediately afterward rumors began circulating that he was cheating on his wife. Hart responded by daring the media to follow him around and see if he was doing anything scandalous. Little did he know that two reporters from the Miami Herald already were doing so, and ran a story that Hart was having an affair with 29-year-old model Donna Rice. Hart denied the allegations, but then the Herald obtained this photograph of Hart with Rice sitting on his lap on the luxury yacht, "Monkey Business." By the time the photo appeared on the cover of the National Enquirer on June 2, 1987, Hart had already dropped out of the race.
No. 2 - John McCain Lets Sarah Palin Talk to Katie Couric
This campaign killer was just part of the larger blunder of choosing Palin as his running mate in the first place, but for McCain's campaign it was the beginning of the end. The series of Couric/Palin interviews aired in September 2008, and were widely seen as a disaster for Palin's image. Among some of the bloopers were Palin saying she had foreign policy experience because Alaska is close to Russia, a meandering, clueless response to a question about the bank bailout, and failure to name even one newspaper or magazine she read to stay informed about current events. Palin's interview was described as "dreadful," "pathetic," and a "train wreck." Ultimately, it turned the tide of public opinion against Palin, and against McCain for choosing someone so ill-equipped to be the vice president.
Next: 7 Spoofs of the Time Magazine Cover
No. 1 - Michael Dukakis Takes a Tank Joyride
Once Gary Hart dropped out, the man to challenge Vice President Bush for the presidency in the 1988 election was Mike Dukakis, the liberal governor of Massachusetts. Dukakis was actually the early favorite to win the presidency, as the nation had just gone through eight years of Reagan conservatism, and most felt a change was needed. The one problem was, Democrats were generally viewed as being weak when it came to national security and defense, whereas George Bush was respected in that regard and well-known for being a Navy hero during World War II. In order to take this on and demonstrate his own strength, Dukakis filmed himself driving around in a tank. Unfortunately, the footage looked silly, and Dukakis himself resembled Rocky from "Rocky & Bullwinkle." It would have been an non-issue, but the Bush campaign ran an attack ad that listed over the footage of him riding in the tank all the ways Dukakis opposed defense systems America had developed. The final image of Dukakis with a big helmet on looking like a doofus in a tank, with the text "America can't afford that risk," was devastating. Mike Dukakis now appeared weak and foolish, and Bush went on to win the election.