The 5 Most Memorable Gaffes of the 2014 Elections

5 minute read

As much as political types love to obsess about gaffes, their importance is probably overstated, especially in a year like this one where many voters are tuned out.

Still, gaffes can be revealing of bigger issues in a campaign, like the presidential burden of Democrats in red-states and a candidate’s carpetbagging. And while gaffes aren’t as important as get-out-the-vote efforts or the state of the economy, they’re certainly hard to forget for us political nerds.

Here’s a look at five of the most memorable gaffes this election cycle.

President Barack Obama

I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.

It’s obvious why Democratic strategists made every opportunity this cycle to frame this election as one between the two candidates on the ballot. In Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia—four of the most completive Senate races this cycle—Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney beat Obama by an average of 16 percentage points in 2012. Since then Obama’s sinking popularity has hung around the neck of Senate Democratic candidates even in states he won. The GOP used Obama’s comments, made on Oct. 2 during a speech at Northwestern University, to help fire up the base in a slew of ads, stump speeches and debates. While not a true gaffe—Obama’s remarks were prepared—the President’s comments were definitely a mistake. Even former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said so.

Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley

If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice—someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Conservative opposition group America Rising released a video of the above remarks back in March and outside groups have continued to replay them in ads through October. Iowa’s agriculture sector is a significant factor to the state’s economy and candidates there abide by a simple political rule: don’t criticize farmers. Braley quickly apologized to Grassley but still clearly regrets the comments he made at a January Texas fundraiser.

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin

In this Senate race, I’ve been watching some of these ads. And there’s sort of this sense that ‘Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice.’ Well, I got to thinking about that. I don’t care if she’s as good-looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.

On Sunday night, BuzzFeed reported that retiring Democratic Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin called Braley’s GOP rival Joni Ernst “really attractive” at the Story County Democrats’ annual fall barbecue last week. The line—cheered by the crowd of Harkin supporters—gave Ernst the easy opportunity to rebut the remarks as sexist and to quote Swift’s new single. “Shake it off,” she replied. Braley, who needs the female vote, certainly didn’t need another head-slapper right before Election Day.

Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts

Every time I get an opponent—I mean, every time I get a chance, I’m home. I don’t measure my record with regards as a senator as how many times I sleep wherever it is.

In July, Roberts slipped-up and fueled the fire sparked by a New York Times report that he doesn’t own a home in Kansas and stays with two donors when he’s in the state. “I have full access to the recliner,” the senator joked to the paper in February. Five months later, he flubbed in an interview with a local radio station that he only returns to the state when he gets an opponent. In August, Roberts’ campaign manager referred to the candidate’s residence in Virginia as his “home” before catching himself. In September, Roberts said in a debate with independent Greg Orman that he had been “home” in Dodge City “about seven” times this year.

New Hampshire Senate Republican candidate Scott Brown

What I’ve heard from the Republicans up here is they’re thankful that I’ve been around for a year, helping them raise money, helping them raise awareness as to the issues that are affecting not only people here in Massachusetts—uh, in New Hampshire, but also in Massachusetts, obviously.

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has understandably had some mix-ups in his New Hampshire bid this cycle. In December, four months before he announced his candidacy, Brown flubbed, interchanging New Hampshire for the Bay State to reporters in Londonderry. In last week’s debate, Brown had another snafu, calling a county in New Hampshire “up north” instead of as part of the western or even southwestern portion of the state.

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