A few weeks back, we wrote a piece noting that in the 2012 campaign there are no molehills, only mountains. What we meant is that in the world of Twitter, 24-hour cable news and content aggregators galore, virtually every misstatement, slip up or generic gaffe is treated as though it will be a major pivot point in the campaign.
While we do believe that small things often can turn into big things — John Kerry’s love of windsurfing and his order of Swiss cheese on his cheesesteak created an image of him as an out-of-touch elitist, for example — there are some developments in the campaign that are not really worth the amount of attention they draw.
Below is our look at ten of the top mini-scandals of the campaign to date. They are ranked in terms of their importance — and lasting impact — on the campaign. (Worth noting: None of these “scandals” are likely to have any major impact on the election.)
Whenever you do something like this, you inevitably leave off someone’s favorite mini-scandal. So, which one(s) did we miss?
To the Line!
10. Ann Romney’s $990 shirt: The Romneys are rich — shocker! — and sometimes they use that money to buy expensive clothing. Plenty of other public figures — including First Lady Michelle Obama — do the same. Yet because this particular clothing item was so distinctive, some people seized on it as another example of the Romney’s out-of-touchness.
9. Romney’s car elevator: The candidate’s remodeled San Diego mansion will have elevators for his cars, a fantastical detail seized on by Democrats as — you guessed it! — a sign that Romney’s wealth makes him out of touch with the average voter.
8. Seamus/Dog meat: Obama’s supporters have repeatedly sought to bring Romney’s alleged mistreatment of his dog Seamus — strapped to a car roof 25 years ago — into the public conversation. Republicans found a way to (mostly) silence that critique: a previously-unnoticed line in his memoir “Dreams of My Father” in which Obama admits to eating dog meat in Indonesia. Is this the end of the dog wars? Obama joked about both stories at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner:
7. Caterpillars: As Republicans pushed back on Democratic claims of a the GOP’s “war on women,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued that the media was helping the Democrats: “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars.” Of course, Democrats then accused Priebus of comparing women to insects.
6. Silver spoon: Obama said recently that he “wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” a subtle jab at Romney that became much less subtle when misquoted on Fox News and sparked a class warfare debate:
5. Ted Nugent: The aging rocker declared he would be “dead or in jail” if President Obama won a second term, earning him a visit from the Secret Service. Romney once said it was “fun getting to know” Nugent, and the musician endorsed him, so Democrats were quick to tie the two together.
4. Foster Freiss: Rick Santorum’s biggest financial supporter became a liability when he suggested on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” that the contraceptive debate was silly because “it’s so inexpensive. Back in my day they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.” The off-color joke only made Santorum, who had expressed reservations about birth control, look more retrograde.
3. Richard Grenell: Foreign policy spokesman Grenell has managed to created headaches for Romney without ever actually working a day on the job. The aggressive, Twitter-happy, openly gay flack has suggested he resigned due to criticism from the religious right of his sexuality, leading to scrutiny of Romney’s hiring practices.
2. Hilary Rosen: Rosen, a Democratic strategist, created an opening for Republicans to play offense with women voters, thanks to a few poorly-chosen words. Those words? Ann Romney “has never worked a day in her life.”
1. Etch-a-sketch: Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom gave Democrats a handy metaphor for the Republican nominee’s shift to the center when he said the start of the general election is “almost like an Etch-a-sketch — you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.” Democrats have promised to make it an issue all the way through November.