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.”
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.
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.
HERMAN CAIN FINDS FOREIGN NAMES SO, ER, FOREIGN: In an October 2011 interview, a Christian Broadcasting Network host asked former Pizza company executive Cain how he would react if asked to name the leaders of foreign lands, like Uzbekistan. “ I’m ready for the ‘gotcha’ questions and they’re already starting to come,” said Cain, as he was surging in the primary season polls. “And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, ‘You know, I don’t know. Do you know?’ And then I’m going to say, ‘How’s that going to create one job?’ ”
CLINT EASTWOOD, THE CHAIR AND ALL THAT: Republicans planned on the Hollywood icon providing a rousing introduction to nominee Romney on the final night of the Republican National Convention. Many of the GOP faithful loved Clint’s snarling at the empty high chair that he designated as Obama’s. But others, like Ann Romney, wished that Romney’s fellow Mormon parishioners and their glowing accounts of the candidate’s humanity had taken the prime-time center stage. The final verdict: TV viewers remembered Eastwood’s meandering chat more than the candidate’s big speech.
THE HEIGHT REPORT: One would expect that Romney, who began his career as a management consultant, would prefer a certain amount of order. But who knew that extended to Mother Nature? Many times over his two campaigns, Romney has returned to his native Michigan and rhapsodized about his love of the state and his love, in particular, of its trees. Last February, he told an audience: "I love this state. The trees are the right height." He’d said the same thing a few days before and back in November 2011: “Everything seems right here. You know, I come back to Michigan; the trees are the right height. The grass is the right color for this time of year, kind of a brownish-greenish sort of thing. It just feels right.” The tree stand turned out to be one of Romney’s most consistent positions of the entire campaign. And just what is that ideal tree height that Mitt so loved? We were unable to find it anywhere in the record.
PERRY’S MAPLE SYRUP RAPTURE: OK, he finished out of the money. But the Texas governor’s odd public turns are just irresistible. Another came in October 2011 when Perry ended a loosey-goosey speech in New Hampshire and received a bottle of maple syrup from his hosts. The candidate became so giggly-satisfied, like a boy who'd just gotten his first G.I. Joe. Imagine, a civic group in the maple capital of the world giving out … maple syrup! Perry toyed with the bottle of liquid gold, then hugged it to his chest. If he runs for president again, you’ll surely see the video. Or you can see it right now.
Staff writers Robin Abcarian, Cathleen Decker, John Hoeffel and Paul West contributed to this report.