In a year consumed by partisan politics, it is no surprise to see the biggest lie told and the best quote of 2012 both came from the bitterly contested presidential race.
Not coincidentally these unfortunate distinctions belong to failed Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
It’s interesting how little separated Romney from being president versus his rejoining the board of directors of Marriott-International.
With over 120 million votes cast, Barack Obama won re-election by only a couple million. That was plenty to create a wide disparity in the Electoral College, 332 to 206, but a close election by popular vote standards.
With the economy not recovering nearly as well as Obama had promised, the opening was there for a Romney upset. He pledged to make things better for individuals by creating more jobs.
This argument had merit, and was significant enough to build a winning strategy around.
But Romney strayed from the high road, choosing tax and budget strategies that clearly favored the wealthy, and refused to detail where he would cut funds to save costs or what deduction loopholes he intended to close.
This created a conflict for voters considering Romney, because his message said one thing and his intentions another.
Still, the race remained close.
Romney’s true undoing began with the secret taping of his remarks at a private fundraiser in May.
With all the uproar surrounding his declared exit from Bain Capital and Romney’s refusal to turn over additional income tax returns, there already was an elitist image forming around the GOP challenger.
Then Romney was recorded saying:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what… who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. These are people who pay no income tax… and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
This was the year’s top quote according to Fred Shapiro, associate librarian at Yale Law School, who released his seventh annual list of the most notable quotations of the year.
Romney also secured the second most infamous quote with his classic line from the third presidential debate about finding a female to work in his cabinet after becoming governor of Massachusetts.
“We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet (in Massachusetts). I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks?” and they brought us BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN.”
That line exploded in the cyber-universe instantaneously.
“It contributed to an image of him [Romney] as being somewhat out of touch and maybe particularly out of touch with issues related to women,” said Shapiro.
This set the table for the campaign going into its last weeks. Obama continued to lead overall, but the race had tightened and Romney was tied or within the margin of error in most battleground polls.
It was coming down to OHIO once again, and that was a problem.
There was no way to get around the fact that Romney had not supported Obama’s auto-industry bailout. That saved a lot of jobs, and those workers and their families in Ohio were thankful to the president.
I imagine Romney’s internal polling showed there was a gap he could not counter, which meant he had a choice; either continue campaigning with dignity and ride it out, or lie.
Romney chose the low road, once again, and opted to fire a Hail Mary pass towards the end zone and see if he could trick Ohio voters into believing Chrysler was pulling its plants out of Ohio due to Obama, and moving its Jeep production to China.
This earned PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year.”
It drew a rare, direct rebuke from Chrysler itself – rejecting the claim publicly, saying the company was reviewing adding production in China, not moving out of the United States.
Making matters worse, when a media firestorm erupted around this lie, Romney doubled down and steadfastly stood by the inaccuracy.
“People often say that politicians don’t pay a price for deception, but this time was different. A flood of negative press coverage rained down on the Romney campaign, and he failed to turn the tide in Ohio, the most important state in the presidential election,” said PolitiFact’s Angie Drobnic Holan.
It all came down to a few moments, when Romney’s unflappable exterior belied him, and his true personality was exposed.