The top 10 political quotes of 2012

December 28, 2012

The year 2012 is in the rearview mirror, and 2013 is just around the corner.

What better time to look at the soundbites that defined the year that was -- politically speaking, of course.

Below, we recap the top 10 political quotes of the year, with special deference for quotes that defined the election in some way, shape or form.

To the line!

10. “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.” – Newt Gingrich 

Gingrich's campaign defined the word "grandiose." The candidate often seemed shocked that his opponents could be beating someone of his intellect. And his plans for a moon colony exemplified the disconnect between Gingrich's own vision of himself and the way the public perceived him. The National Review even ran a cover featuring Gingrich's face on Marvin the Martian's body.

9. "I wish they weren't called the 'Bush tax cuts.' If they're called some other body's tax cuts, they're probably less likely to be raised.” – George W. Bush

Bush's admission of his own status as an albatross even four years after his presidency was telling. Republicans struggled to argue that they would be the better stewards of the economy than President Obama, even though he was the incumbent, and much of that struggle has to do with lingering memories that it all started on Bush's watch.

8. "(Florida Gov.) Rick Scott doesn't seem to have any political skills at all. I'd give him a 'B' for governing. I'd give him an 'A' for strangeness." – Former Florida GOP chairman Tom Slade

This quote makes our list mostly because it's totally awesome. But it also pretty well sums up the adjustments made by many tea party-backed politicians who were elected in 2010. Many of them proved unconventional, to say the least, and Scott heads that list.

7. “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.” – Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom

Fehrnstrom's ill-advised metaphor, delivered during a TV interview toward the end of the primary season, once again called into question just how genuine Romney's political evolution over the years had been. Romney-as-flip-flopper wasn't the reason he lost, but it did feed the narrative of a guy who was out of touch and a little slippery.

6. "Rick, I'll tell you what. Ten thousand bucks? Ten thousand dollar bet?" -- Romney

Romney's awkwardness is hard to sum up in one quote; his campaign was replete with moments like this. But betting another candidate $10,000 on stage at a debate? He might as well have donned a monocle.

5. “There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 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.” – Obama

We're including the context of Obama's remarks here, but most people never saw them. All they saw was "You didn't build that" -- a pithy little soundbite for the GOP to tie Obama to big-government policies.

4. “What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. I can't tell him to do that to himself. You're crazy. You're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.” – Clint Eastwood, talking to an empty chair at the GOP convention

The most bizarre moment of the 2012 campaign was easily Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he engaged in a halting, improvised conversation with an empty chair that was supposed to be Obama. This line got laughs -- as did some others -- but the fact that this charade took place right before Romney's address made the whole thing awkward to say the least. (Side note: "The Outlaw Josey Wales" is still an amazing film.)

3. “It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.)

Akin's odd and offensive theory turned a likely pickup for Senate Republicans into a sure loss on Election Day. And if there's one moment that really seemed to turn the battle for the Senate in Democrats' favor, it was this. Democrats, whose majority was supposed to be in jeopardy, instead gained two seats.

2. "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive." – Vice President Biden

Perhaps no 10-word statement better summed up Obama's reelection than this one. Bin Laden was Obama's big foreign policy success, and the successful auto bailout was both a big success domestically and a big political win, likely delivering Obama key votes in Ohio.

1. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent 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 health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” – Romney

This was the most damning quote of the entire election. Romney's campaign was totally knocked off its game when hidden camera video featuring this quote was released, and it never really recovered. Suddenly, he was a plutocrat dismissing nearly half the country as freeloaders.

Sean Sullivan and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | December 28, 2012