With public confidence in our politicians at a historical low, you might expect this year's candidates for office to be upping their game. But, given some of the elementary blunders made by House and Senate hopefuls, that doesn't seem to be the case. Here are some examples from the 2010 campaign of what not to do when running for office:
Don't plagiarize the most influential speech of the decade
Perpetrator: Vaughn Ward (R)
This would-be Idaho Congressman's campaign could serve as a "how not to..." guide all on its own. On his rap sheet: Calling Puerto Rico a country (it's a U.S. territory); revealing he did not vote in the 2008 election even while working for John McCain; and plagiarizing Barack Obama's historic address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention (Watch the video here). "Worst. Candidate. Ever," says Ben Frumin at Talking Points Memo. No wonder he lost the primary.
Don't describe your cynical re-election strategy to the press
Perpetrator: Arlen Specter (D)
After more than four decades in the GOP, Specter switched party allegiances last year to run as a Democrat. Of course, everyone suspected he did so to give himself a better chance of winning a fifth term as a Pennsylvania senator. But, fatally, he acknowledged as much. "My change in parties," he told the press, "will enable me to be re-elected." This hubristic admission — repackaged in a devastating attack ad by his rival — helped Rep. Joe Sestak prevail in last week's Democratic primary.
Don't confuse yourself with Jesus
Perpetrator: Tim D'Annunzio (R)
Many political candidates have inflated egos, but the Republican candidate for North Carolina's 8th District once claimed to be the Messiah. During the 1990s, D'Annunzio also attempted to raise his stepfather from the dead, claimed to have found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona, and predicted that a 1,000-mile-high pyramid would descend from the heavens and land in Greenland. He is currently ahead in the polls.
Don't make your (non-existent) war record a topic of debate
Perpetrator: Richard Blumenthal (D)
There is still debate about whether Blumenthal technically lied about his military service record — but at the minimum, he uttered phrases that strongly suggested he served in Vietnam, rather than stateside in the Marines Reserve. The controversy has certainly damaged Connecticut's attorney general in his bid to win a Senate seat: "There is now a very long and deep scratch in Blumenthal’s Teflon," says the Cook Political Report, "and the tougher the Teflon, the more damaging the scratch."
Don't spell your opponent's name wrong
Perpetrator: J.D. Hayworth (R)
The man hoping to upset Arizona's long-serving Sen. John McCain has been regularly derided by the former Presidential candidate's team as "dumb" thanks to his misguided comments on WWII (he incorrectly asserted that the U.S. never declared war on Germany) and his apparent endorsement of "Birther" theories. But it's fair to say Hayworth isn't helping himself with elementary gaffes like calling his Senatorial opponent John "McCail" in the headline of a press release. This "isn't exactly the sort of thing that's going to disabuse people of the notion that you are one of America's Dumbest Congresspersons," says Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
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