The List

13 embarrassing political typos [Updated]

President Obama's re-election campaign proves it's better at math than English, joining Mitt Romney in the mangled-spelling hall of fame

President Obama hasn't always had the most cordial relationship with Congress, especially the Republican-led House. So maybe there was some subliminal animus in his re-election campaign's misspelling of the legislature's budget scorekeeper in a new video. Of course, Obama isn't the first politician, or even the first one in this presidential race, to have apparently turned off the spellchecker. Here, a look at Team Obama's flub, plus 12 other embarrassing political typos:

1. Obama and the "Congrssional Budget Office"
The president's re-election campaign wants you to know that Mitt Romney is offering misleading information on the national debt, and it lays out its evidence in a new video featuring Team Obama policy director James Kvaal. "You don't have to take my word for it," Kvaal says, and the screen flashes to the nonpartisan source that backs up his numbers: The "Congrssional Budget Office." For all his focus on math, perhaps Kvaal should have put more effort into English.

2. Booker's "Barak Obama"
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker just can't catch a break when it comes to Obama. After earning the wrath of Democrats by calling Team Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney's Bain Capital "nauseating," Booker tried to make amends by taking out a full-page ad urging voters to "re-elect President Barak Obama." Ooof, says Brett Smiley at New York. "In case you missed it, like the ad's proofreader, there's a missing C" in Obama's first name. Sure, everything else in  Booker's ad is spelled correctly, but Barack is one word he "really, really, shouldn't have bungled." (See the ad here.)

3. Akin's "your," "your're," "you're"
Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin, struggling to revive his battered campaign after a mind-boggling declaration about rape and abortion, launched a page on his website asking supports to rally behind him. "I made a mistake," he said, referring to his preposterous claim that victims of "legitimate rape" can't get pregnant. "I used the wrong words in the wrong way." Above the quote, the campaign asked fans to "tell [Democrat Claire] McCaskill your standing with Todd Akin." It was supposed to be "an effort to move on," says The Huffington Post. Instead, it was a fresh, albeit minor, embarrassment. Giddy critics immediately spotted the error and tweeted their glee to the world, ribbing Akin for "using the wrong word" to "apologize for using the wrong words." The campaign quickly corrected the error, or tried to, spelling it "your're," before trying a third time and getting it right.

4. Obama's "Oiho"
President Obama and some supporters had a bit of trouble spelling the name of the great state of Ohio recently. At a campaign stop, Obama joined three young men in an attempt to make like the state's college football fans and spell out Ohio with their arms and bodies. They got their signals crossed though, and Obama, who was third in line, threw his hands up to make the "H" instead of the "I," and the man in the No. 2 spot made an "I" instead of the "H." It was all in good fun, of course, so the smiling group gave it another shot, and quickly spelled the state's name correctly. (See the images here.)

5. Romney's "A Better Amercia"
After Mitt Romney locked up enough delegates to secure the GOP presidential nomination in May, his campaign launched an iPhone app, "With Mitt," to celebrate. It was supposed to be "a fun, easy way to showcase support" for the newly confirmed nominee, Romney digital director Zac Moffatt tells Mashable: Romney fans take a photo with their iPhone, choose one of 14 "I'm With Mitt" overlays — including "I'm a Mom for Mitt," "I Stand With Mitt," and, until it was fixed, "A Better Amercia" — then email the Mitt-framed photo to friends. Almost immediately after the app dropped, the mockery began, says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Twitter, especially, went haywire, as people mirthfully pondered "just what Amercia stood for and what kind of policies Romney had planned for Amercia."

6. Romney's Ronald "Regan"
Just a week after the "Amercia" mistake, the Romney campaign made another forehead-slapping typo, misspelling the name of one of the GOP's most-revered figures, former President Ronald Reagan. Campaign pollsters showed big-money bundlers a slideshow contrasting the approval ratings of presidents the May before their re-election attempts, and "Ronald Regan" was listed as having 53 percent approval. Between this mistake and "Amercia," says Abby Ohlheiser at Slate, it's "no wonder the Romney campaign is searching for a copywriter." 

7. Dan Quayle's "potatoe"
In one of the most notorious campaign flubs of all time, then–Vice President Quayle visited a New Jersey grade school in June 1992 to promote boss George H.W. Bush's education policy. Quayle gamely agreed to help judge the school's spelling bee, but when 12-year-old William Figueroa correctly spelled "potato," Quayle called him back and insisted the kid "add one little bit on the end," mouthing the letter "e." Quayle "later blamed a typo on the flashcard he had been handed by the teacher," says Ben Jacobs at The Daily Beast, but it was too late: The "potatoe" blunder had "left him a national laughingstock."

8. Rick Santorum's "pubic" schedule
In March, Santorum's campaign shot out an email advertising, in bold, uppercase letters: "MEDIA ADVISORY: SANTORUM'S PUBIC SCHEDULE." Accidentally leaving the "L" out of public is always amusing, even if it's an understandable error by "sleep-deprived staffers," says Grace Wyler at Business Insider. "But this gaffe is particularly unfortunate, given the candidate's strong opinions on all things pubic." Team Santorum sent out a corrected email about 15 minutes after the "pubic" one, without acknowledging the mistake.

9. "Rich Whitey" Whitney
Whitney was the Green Party candidate for Illinois governor in 2010, in the race to replace jailed Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). He didn't win for a number of reasons, but it couldn't have helped his long-shot bid that his name appeared on the ballot in 23 wards as "Rich Whitey." About half the 23 wards were predominantly black. Whitney was understandably upset about the typo, says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, but for whatever reason it couldn't be fixed, even though the misspelling was "on electronic machines, rather than on paper ballots."

10. Jon "John" Huntsman
Huntsman meticulously planned out every aspect of his 2012 presidential campaign kickoff, held in front of the Statue of Liberty, just like Ronald Reagan in 1980. Meticulously, that is, "except for one minor detail," says ABC News' Sarah Kunin: The gathered reporters were handed press passes for the launch of "John Huntsman for America." A few weeks later, the Huntsman campaign made the same mistake, in mailers to New Hampshire voters. "If only the votes for John Huntsman could be combined with the votes for Jon Huntsman," says Ilya Gerner at Indecision, "2012's most sane Republican contender would... still have lost."

11. Martha Coakley's "Massachusettes" Senate run
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) was heavily favored to beat Scott Brown (R) in the race to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat — right up until the moment Brown beat her. The pundits suggested Coakley should have attacked Brown sooner, but her first ad hitting him was not a good omen: The mandatory tag line at the end said the ad was "paid for by Massachusettes Democratic Party." 

12. Pat Buchanan's "Conferenece" for English-only education
In 2009, one-time GOP contender and full-time conservative commentator Buchanan hosted a meeting on strategies to help Republicans regain the upper hand in elections. One of the panel discussions featured Buchanan and "white nationalist" Peter Brimelow touting the electoral advantages of pushing to make English the only official language — underneath a big banner for their "2009 National Conferenence." Needless to say, says Lee Fang at Think Progress, "the panelists pressed on with their anti-bilingualism diatribe without noting the irony of the obvious misspelling on the banner."

13. Sarah Palin's "refudiate" tweet
One of the issues roiling the summer of 2010 was the plan to build an Islamic mosque and cultural center a few blocks away from New York's World Trade Center site. Palin jumped into the debate with a "lexicologically inventive" Twitter post, asking that "peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate" the "Ground Zero Mosque." The fusion of "refute" and "repudiate" went viral, and Palin embraced the word, saying in a follow-up tweet: "English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!" Somewhat implausibly, "this strategy ended up being successful for Palin," says The Daily Beast's Jacobs. "Refudiate" was named the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2010 word of the year.

This article — originally published on May 31, 2012 — was last updated on October 3, 2012.

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.


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