There's been a rich supply of PR meltdowns this year. Some worthy contenders: Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino, getting fired after a motorcycle accident revealed an inappropriate relationship with an athletic department employee (she was riding on the back of his hog when it crashed); Francesco Schettino, captain of the liner Costa Concordia, who hit a reef and reportedly abandoned the ship shortly after it sank; Angus T. Jones, the "half" in CBS' Two and a Half Men found God, told people to stop watching the "filth" he believes his show to be, but didn't quit, apparently deciding his hefty paycheck was more important than his moral turpitude.
But let's face it. If we're talking about the biggest PR blunders of 2012, than the list is the exclusive purview of the Republican Party and its standard-bearer, Willard "Mitt" Romney.
Dishonorable Mention: Eighteen hours before the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Michigan House Republicans rammed through a bill making it legal to carry a gun into a school or day care center.
10. Romney Communication Adviser Outlines "Etch a Sketch" Strategy
Asked whether Romney would shift toward the ideological center during the general election, Eric Fehrnstrom answered, "Well, 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." For a serial flip-flopper, this was a very bad day for Mitt.
9. Mitt's Excellent Overseas Adventure
During his first international trip as the presumptive Republican nominee, Romney hoped to establish some foreign policy gravitas. Instead, he ended up insulting our closest European ally. After arriving in Great Britain, he insulted his British hosts after he was asked if London was ready for its moment in the Olympic spotlight. "It's hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting," Mitt opined. British Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to mock Romney's stewardship of the Salt Lake City Olympics, saying: "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
8. Impressive Celebrity Endorsement #1
Lindsay Lohan, actress and economist. Her reason for backing Mitt? "I just think employment is really important right now."
7. Romney Spokesperson Tells Reporters to "Kiss My Ass"
As Romney's overseas disaster snowballed his traveling press secretary, Rick Gorka, offered some advice to the press corps. Not exactly effectual media relations.
6. Impressive Celebrity Endorsement #2
Mormon Romney jets to Las Vegas to get the blessing of reality show host and enthusiastic presidential birther, Donald Trump.
- "Corporations are people, my friend... of course they are."
- "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me."
- "I'm not concerned about the very poor."
- "Middle income is200,000 to250,000 and less."
- "I was a severely conservative governor."
- "[I don't follow NASCAR] as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends that are NASCAR team owners."
- "This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know, the trees are the right height."
- "Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea."
- "As president, I will create 12 million new jobs."
- "Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs." -- 45 minutes later.
- "I went to a number of women's groups and said 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women."
- "I'm not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said. Whatever it was."
4. Impressive Celebrity Endorsement #3
So this happened.
3. Karl Rove's Election Night Meltdown
On election night, the GOP's doughboy strategist refused to accept Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama, effectively ending Romney's bid for the presidency. His on-air meltdown became an instant television classic.
2. Clint Eastwood Hijacks Romney's Big Night
Whoever made the decision to put Clint Eastwood onstage minutes before Romney was to accept the GOP nomination for president committed political and PR malpractice. The old actor/director took the stage with one prop: an empty chair, which he proceeded to address as if President Obama had been sitting in it. The performance was bizarre to say the least. Mostly it was horribly off-message and it was the only thing people were talking about the next day. Exactly not what a presidential candidate needs. In short, a major lost communications opportunity.
1. Mitt Romney's 47 Percent
When Romney's op-ed on the auto industry bailout, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" was published, I knew he had just lost Michigan. When the tape of his remarks given at a private fundraiser was revealed, his electoral fate was sealed.
Here's what the worst Republican presidential candidate since John McCain said:
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. [..] My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
The final irony of course, is that Romney's percentage of the popular vote was 47 percent. He did win however, our number one spot... so he's got that going for him.