As expected of every election season, political gaffes were bound to happen. Gaffes have been associated with campaign exhaustion, an unsuccessful attempt at humor, or a lack of emotional discipline. Aside from acting as fodder for jokes or fuel for opponents, flubs made by political leaders and candidates alike can create a personal insight that their political image would not allow.
Even after a successful 2014 reelection bid, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) still managed to land himself in hot water this year. A cultural misfire in a letter sent from Walker emerged in early December, which landed the conservative Governor a center stage spot on Stephen Colbert’s, Colbert Report.
Walker’s letter concluded with the word “Molotov” instead of “Mazel Tov” an unfortunately turn of phrase to say the least.
Publication of the letter comes at an odd time as Walker has publicly stated a likelihood to run for president in 2016. Chances are his support from the Jewish community and even the Republican Jewish Coalition won’t be jeopardized after this foul up, but it should make for some interesting small talk on the campaign trail.
In an attempt to shore up support for Democrat midterm candidates Michelle Obama offered her support by providing stump speeches nationwide. But, her attempts to use her star-power to bring attention to candidates may have backfired as the media and opponents leapt on any and every blunder.
In Iowa the first lady’s support provided campaign fodder for Bruce Braley’s opponents after referring to Braley by the wrong name – “Bailey” -multiple times during her speech. This was Michelle’s first major blunder during the 2014 midterm but it would not be her last.
Later, in Colorado, she mixed up the backgrounds of incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D) and his opponent Congressman Cory Gardner. During her speech she referred to Udall as a “fifth-generation Coloradoan”. Udall was actually born in Arizona – Gardner is the native Coloradoan.
Sen. Pat Roberts
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) had a PR problem going into his 2014 reelection campaign. In addition to a low approval rating, he had become considered a creature of the capital after several decades in Congress. His Senate re-election campaign began amid allegations of being out of touch with the voters in his home state, Kansas. Criticism over Roberts’ residency stems not only from his social and congressional dealings but a perception of where his primary residence actually is. Roberts owns a home with his wife in Fairfax County, Virginia in the suburb of Alexandria, which is listed as his principle residence on a signed Deed of Trust in 2003.
The Senator’s rented house in Dodge City, Kansas is the one listed on his voting address but is owned by his supporters. Roberts jokingly referred to it in the past saying, “I have full access to the recliner.”
But Roberts slipped during a radio interview with KCMO when questioned about his loyalty to Kansas saying,
“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 the hunt for a Senate seat, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) changed his primary residence from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. A move which drew sharp criticism from his opponent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D). Four months before officially announcing his midterm candidacy Brown flubbed which state he would seek his candidacy in during an interview with reporters.
“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 effecting not only people here in Massachusetts–uh, in New Hampshire, but also in Massachusetts, obviously, in Maine.” Brown continued saying, “I’ve been to Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, I’ve been all over the New England area, certainly, talking and helping people raise money.”
In March, organizers held a private male-only fundraiser honoring Congressman Steve Southerland (R) at the University Center Club. The event’s invitation inartfully called for attendees to fight for Southerland’s return to office and preventing the gavel returning to Pelosi’s hands. The event takes on an antiquated tone as the invitation urged men to ‘leave their wives at home.’ The invitation read,
“Good men sitting around discussing & solving political & social problems over fine food & drink date back to the 12th Century with King Arthur’s Round Table. Tell the misses not to wait up because the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many.”
Southerland’s opposition Gwen Graham (D) was keen on bringing such an event to light during the race by calling for voters to send the congressman home.
Political mistakes by any name are a foreseeable occurrence for any candidate or political actors. The image we expect and the image politicians wish to portray are in sync. Gaffes are merely the human aspect of our various political actors.