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'Oops' and beyond: Notable quotes from 2012 race

Thursday - 11/1/2012, 2:44am  ET

By NANCY BENAC
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Millions of words have been spoken, shouted, whispered and wasted in the day-in, day-out grind that was the 2012 presidential campaign. Precious few of them will endure past Election Day.

But a few caught people's attention long enough to bring a smile or provoke a head shake.

Some conveyed a truth that the candidates would rather have left unspoken.

Others sent SWAT teams of fact-checkers scrambling.

A look back at some notable quotes from Campaign 2012:

ONE WORD SAYS IT ALL

"Oops."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was simply trying to shrug off his inability to remember the third government agency that he'd like to abolish when he uttered that one word during a GOP primary debate a year ago in Minnesota. But it pretty much summed up his whole short-lived campaign for president.

ETCH A SKETCHY

"I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again."

Sometimes it's a campaign aide who reveals more than intended. In this case, Mitt Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom last March was trying to draw a distinction between the issues that hold sway in the presidential primaries and what happens in the general election. But his comment fed into the notion that Romney was the kind of candidate who would say anything to win votes in the primaries and then shift his stances to win votes in the general election. The little red Etch A Sketch soon became a popular campaign prop for Democrats.

NO CRYING IN POLITICS

"Don't boo _ vote."

President Barack Obama boiled down his turnout pitch to supporters with this oft-repeated rejoinder to fans starting to spout off against his opponent during campaign rallies.

AND HOW

"I had a bad night."

Even Obama had to concede that he bombed in his first debate with Mitt Romney. The president tried to minimize the importance of the debate by dismissing it as an off night, but the event energized Republicans at a critical moment, just when they thought the race might be slipping away from them.

THAT'S IRISH

"That's a bunch of malarkey."

Leave it to Vice President Joe Biden to find a down-to-earth way of dismissing the foreign policy claims of GOP rival Paul Ryan in their October debate. Later in the same debate, he accused Ryan of saying "a bunch of stuff."

When the moderator asked what that meant, Ryan _ like Biden, of Irish ancestry _ helpfully explained: "That's Irish."

"We Irish call it malarkey," Biden added.

CONTEXT WARS, PART I

"I like being able to fire people."

Yes, Romney said it. His critics quickly said it showed he was an out-of-touch elitist. But count this January statement among the many candidate comments in Campaign 2012 that were taken out of context. Romney was talking about the importance of individuals being able to choose among different health insurance policies when they seek coverage.

"That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don't like what they do, you can fire them," he said.

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn't give me the good service I need, I'm going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me."

CONTEXT WARS, PART II

"You didn't build that."

Yes, Obama said it. Republicans had a field day with Obama's comments in July about what it takes to build a small business, claiming he thinks government should get the credit when a company succeeds.

But a fuller look at Obama's remarks shows he was trying to make the point that the government plays an important supporting role in creating a stable environment in which businesses can thrive. As Obama went on to say, "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

BIDEN'S MOTTO

"Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive."

Biden distilled the Obama administration's foreign and domestic policy achievements into a snappy motto that always brought a cheer from Democratic crowds.

ICK

"My expectation is that there will be some popping of the blister after this election, because it will have been such a stark choice."

Obama was trying to make the point in August that he might have more luck working cooperatively with Republicans in Congress in a second term, since his re-election would no longer be a factor. But his imagery was a bit too vivid.

Even deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter called it "disgusting."


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)