8 gaffes on the road to the U.S. presidency

Mitt Romney's questioning of Britain's readiness for the Olympic Games probably wasn't the most politically astute thing to say before a visit to the country, especially for a trip intended to shore up his diplomatic credentials. But Romney isn't the first candidate to make a gaffe during a presidential campaign. We list some other notable campaign missteps.
Howard Dean makes his famour 'Dean Scream' as he addresses supporters during his caucus night party in West Des Moines, Iowa, back in 2004. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

Mitt Romney's questioning of Britain's readiness for the Olympic Games probably wasn't the most politically astute thing to say before a visit to the country, especially for a trip intended to shore up his diplomatic credentials. But Romney isn't the first candidate to make a gaffe during a presidential campaign.

Here are some other notable campaign missteps:

1. Romney's father, George Romney, then governor of Michigan was considered an early favourite over Richard Nixon in the 1967 Republican primaries. But Romney's comment that he had "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get" — a reference to the military and state department officials who had briefed him during a visit to Vietnam — sank his support.

2. During a 1976 debate with Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter, and at the height of the Cold War, then-president Gerald Ford said, that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration."

When pressed by moderator Max Frankel of the New York Times, Ford insisted that those living in Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland did not consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union, despite the Soviet occupation of those countries. The press pounced on the president, as some questioned his foreign policy wherewithal. Carter went on to win the election.

President Gerald Ford was criticized for his comments on the Soviet presence in eastern Europe during his debate with Jimmy Carter. (Associated Press)

3. In 1979, days before he officially announced his bid to unseat Carter as the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Ted Kennedy was asked by  journalist Roger Mudd why he wanted to be president.  Kennedy gave what is considered a long and rambling answer, that didn't seem to answer the question. Many believe the interview severely hurt his chances.

4. After a disappointing third place finish in the Iowa Democratic caucuses in 2004, candidate Howard Dean attempted to lift the spirits of his supporters at a West Des Moines ballroom. At the end of the speech, Dean, shouting over the loud crowd, said that they were going to continue to fight on. Listing off a number of states, a spirited Dean ended his speech by saying: "And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yaaaaah!" The 'Dean Scream' as it became known, went on to become the source of great ridicule.

5. During an appearance at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, in March 2004, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was asked about a particular vote against funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," Kerry said. Republicans seized on the comment, portraying Kerry as the ultimate flip-flopper.

Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry was mocked by Republicans for his explanation on why he didn't vote for funding military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

6. In the early stages of the financial crisis and with the Lehman Brothers, one of the most powerful investment banks, filing for bankruptcy, Republican presidential candidate John McCain insisted that  "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." He later clarified, saying he was talking about American workers, but he was skewered by the Obama campaign for being out of touch.

7. Speaking in Seattle in October 2008, then vice-presidential Democratic candidate Joe Biden seemed to suggest a vote for Barack Obama could spark international turmoil. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like it did John Kennedy," Biden said.

"Remember I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis to test the mettle of this guy. I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it's going happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate."

Even Obama sought to downplay Biden's remarks, saying "I think Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes."

8. In 2008, at a San Francisco fundraiser during the Democratic primary race, Barack Obama explained the attitudes  some small-town residents in Pennsylvania.

"They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival at the time, John McCain, and Republicans all joined in to condemn the remarks as being elitist and demeaning. Obama later clarified, saying what he said came out the wrong way.