Politicians and pundits are reaching for some awfully extreme language to describe the 2012 presidential race, and few of the superlatives are positive. As the GOP contest drags on, a sampling of 10 of the most excessive and entertaining phrases that people have employed to describe the race:
1. "The worst campaign I've ever seen in my life"
Former First Lady Barbara Bush weighed in on the race on March 5, at Southern Methodist University. "I think it's been the worst campaign I've ever seen in my life," she said, adding that "I would like this campaign to be over."
2. "These candidates are terrible beyond my wildest imaginings"
"Sounds like [Bush] means it in a 'I can't believe how mean people are to the RINOs' way," Hot Air's Allahpundit said on March 5, half-agreeing with Barbara Bush. "I mean it in a 'these candidates are terrible beyond my wildest imaginings' way. But let's not quibble over petty differences. Let's find common ground. Worst campaign evah."
3. "The most volatile [race]... since the advent of polling"
Between May 2011 and the first vote being cast in Iowa, "the lead in the Republican nomination race... changed seven times" said Gallup's Lydia Saad on Jan. 2. "Historical comparisons of primaries can be problematic given differences in the number of candidates.... It seems clear, however, that this phase of the 2012 Republican nomination process has been the most volatile for the GOP since the advent of polling."
4. "The weakest frontrunner ever"
"Iowa confirms Mitt Romney as the weakest frontrunner ever," said Jason Easley at Politicus USA on Jan. 4. After tying Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, "Romney went from the destined GOP to nominee to being the frontrunner who conservatives won't vote for.... Santorum exposed all of Romney's weaknesses. Conservatives aren't excited by him. Conservatives don't trust him, and if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee there is no guarantee that they are going to show up to vote for him in November."
5. "The most important election since 1860"
Newt Gingrich, talking to a crowd on New York's Staten Island on Dec. 3, 2011, called the race "the most important election since 1860," the year Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Gingrich made a similar claim on June 25, 2011, in Indianola, Iowa: "I think 2012 is the most important election since 1860 in defining our future as Americans." Rick Santorum apparently agrees. He said in Tulsa, Okla., on Feb. 9 of this year: "I believe this is the most important election in your lifetime, no matter how old you are."
6. "The ugliest, nastiest, dirtiest campaign in American history"
"The nation is now almost surely on the cusp of the ugliest, nastiest, dirtiest campaign in American history," TIME's Michael Scherer wrote on Jan. 31. "Both [Obama's and Romney's] campaigns have made clear that their paths to victory run straight through destroying their opponents' reputations."
7. "The biggest debate gaffe of all time"
"Texas Gov. Rick Perry's 'oops' moment Wednesday night was one of the biggest debate gaffes of all time," said The Washington Post's Rachel Weiner on Nov. 10, 2011, referring to Perry's cringe-inducing inability in a GOP debate to remember the third federal department he was proposing to cut.
8. "The worst presidential campaign... in American history"
"Rick Perry is the worst presidential campaign-slash-candidate in American history," Democratic strategist James Carville said on CNN on Jan. 3. "Who is worse? He was on fire. He was on fire for awhile. There's nobody that had worse debates than he did.... For somebody who started as a major-tier candidate, we were ready to be blown away here, and I'm sorry, he was the worst ever."
9. "The worst campaign ad ever"
"Herman Cain makes the worst campaign ad ever. Or maybe the best?" BuzzFeed's Dave Stopera said on Oct. 24, 2011, referring to an ad the Cain campaign released featuring the candidate's cigarette-smoking chief of staff, Mark Block. "Either way, it's amazing." Gawker's Max Read describes the ad: "As far as we can tell, Block is drunk, and outside an Olive Garden? And the cameraman is some guy with an iPhone, also drunk, whom Block met at the bar?"
10. "The most negative campaign"
"My concern about the November election," The Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan said on March 8, is that "unaccountable super PACs run by billionaires, a recovering economy, [and] a Republican candidate who once agreed with Obama on universal health care and has no credible economic strategy" will all "combine to create [one of] the most negative campaigns since... well the current primary.... I suspect we're all going to have to take multiple showers once this is over."