2012: A year in politically damaging gaffes

2012 was an election year. That means it was a year rife with political stumbles, fumbles and misstatements.  Some of the most noteworthy this year were memorable because of the political damage they did. FoxNews.com takes a look back at the biggest gaffes of 2012.

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    'You Didn't Build That'

    For a while, it was the gaffe that re-invigorated the Mitt Romney campaign. On July 13, at an event in Roanoke, Va., President Obama went on a tear about how successful people owe some measure of that success to others.  "You didn't get there on your own," Obama said, adding: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help."  But then he chose the ill-assembled words: "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that."  The fallout turned into an epic semantics debate. Obama was talking at the time about the public education system and infrastructure like roads and bridges, so some tried to argue that Obama was merely stating the obvious -- that business owners didn't build those roads.  Republicans, though, accused the president of effectively saying business owners were not responsible for their own success.  The Romney campaign cut ad after ad hammering the quote, which echoed for weeks across the airwaves. It became a theme at the Republican convention in Tampa.  Even Obama eventually said he regretted the "syntax" of his remarks.
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    The '47 Percent'

    While Obama had "you didn't build that," Romney had "47 percent" -- a gaffe that deeply damaged his presidential campaign and was used as a bludgeon by his political opponents.  The controversy erupted when Mother Jones posted secretly recorded remarks from a May fundraiser. Romney could be heard saying that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income tax believe they are "victims."  "My job is not to worry about those people," Romney said, while suggesting they would back his opponent no matter what.  The remarks fueled criticism that Romney did not care about 100 percent of America -- but also led some to point out that some of those 47 percent aren't necessarily freeloaders, but retired seniors. Romney later said his remarks were "completely wrong."
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    Biden's 'Back in Chains' Warning

    Speaking to a mixed-race audience in Virginia on Aug. 14, Vice President Biden warned the crowd that Republicans wanted to "unchain Wall Street."  Pausing for effect, he then said: "They're going to put y'all back in chains."  The comment was immediately panned by Republicans, and some Democrats, as racially charged. Obama campaign officials, though, insisted the veep was merely talking about a push to roll back financial regulations.
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    'Legitimate Rape'

    Rarely has a Senate candidate so swiftly been condemned by his own party. But Todd Akin, the Republican congressman running in Missouri against Sen. Claire McCaskill, drew the ire of the GOP when an interview surfaced Aug. 19 in which he argued that a woman can often prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."  "It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," he told Fox affiliate KTVI, speaking of pregnancies that occur in cases of rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."  Akin later apologized and said he misspoke. But many in the party launched a pressure campaign to squeeze him out of the race. Akin refused, and gradually brought some Republicans back to his side. He ended up losing to McCaskill in November.
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    Give My Regards to Vladimir

    Obama could have done without this hot mic moment.  At a summit in South Korea on March 26, a live microphone caught a brief conversation between the U.S. president and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev. In it, Obama could be heard assuring Medvedev that after the election, "I have more flexibility."  Medvedev, using rather comical phrasing, pledged to relay the message to Vladimir Putin, the prime minister at the time who would later assume the presidency once again.  "I will transmit this information to Vladimir," Medvedev said.  The moment could be, and was, interpreted a number of ways. Some saw it as a reference to scaling back on anti-missile shield plans.  Mitt Romney called the exchange "alarming and troubling."
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    'Etch A Sketch' Mitt

    Romney was dealing with accusations that he bends with the political winds even before he launched his second presidential campaign. So when close adviser Eric Fehrnstrom casually compared his campaign to an "Etch A Sketch," the gaffe became ready material for his opponents.  The comment came March 21 during an interview on CNN. Fehrnstrom was asked whether Romney might be forced so far to the right during the primary campaign that he has trouble appealing to moderates in the general election.  "I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign," Fehrnstrom said. "Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."  Oops.  
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    Never Heard of Him?

    Stephanie Cutter, the Obama deputy campaign manager, was nothing if not a good soldier during the 2012 race. But to critics, she stretched too far when, in an interview Aug. 8, she claimed to know little about the man at the center of a damning super PAC ad.  That ad, by the Obama-tied Priorities USA, showed former steelworker Joe Soptic recalling how his wife died of cancer -- after he lost health insurance when his plant was shuttered after a takeover by Bain Capital. Some said the ad effectively tied Romney to her death.  Cutter claimed she didn't "know the facts" about the case.  But, as it turned out, Cutter herself had hosted a conference call in May in which Soptic detailed that case to reporters. Soptic also had appeared in Obama ads and was featured in a profile on the campaign website.
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