U.S. politics quiz: Gaffe edition

By: Bri O.
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

From minor mistakes to campaign-ending blunders, this quiz covers political mess-ups of all sorts. How much do you know about U.S. political gaffe trivia? Let's find out!

According to Mitt Romney, what percent of U.S. citizens don't pay income taxes?

In May of 2012, then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a private speech to donors in which he blasted supporters of his opponent, President Obama, claiming "forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax." Many believe the controversy sparked by Romney's comments lost him the election.

How much money did Mitt Romney bet Rick Perry in a 2011 Iowa debate?

In an attempt to settle a dispute with then-Governor Perry over his healthcare record, Mitt Romney suggested they wager $10,000 on the answer. Perry declined the bet, but the damage had already been done. The average person can't afford to casually gamble with $10,000, and the gaffe made Romney look out of touch with voters' reality.

Which 1976 presidential candidate claimed, "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe"?

In a presidential debate against Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford claimed Eastern Europe was free of Soviet influence, baffling his opponent and millions of Americans. This mistake followed him throughout his campaign and contributed to his defeat.

"Who am I? Why am I here?" are the campaign-damaging words of which 1992 vice presidential candidate?

In an attempt to poke fun at his lack of political experience, VP candidate Admiral Stockdale opened the debate by asking, "Who am I? Why am I here?" The audience wasn't sure if anyone, including the candidate, could answer the question.

It wasn't what he said, but what he did. What blunder cost Al Gore during a 2000 presidential debate?

During one of presidential nominee George W. Bush's debate responses, Al Gore stepped away from his lectern and moved within inches of Bush. Because of this behavior, future debates set rules regarding participants' movement.

In 2010, this Republican senator from Delaware implied that the First Amendment doesn't include the separation of church and state - who is it?

In a failed attempt to school her debate opponent on the Constitution, O'Donnell asked Coons: "You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?" Unfortunately for O'Donnell, it is.

2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry couldn't remember the name for this cabinet-level department, which he said he would eliminate if elected. It's 2017, and he's now the secretary for that very department. What is it?

When asked which departments he would eliminate, Perry replied: "Commerce, Education, and the, uh, um, what's the third one there, let's see." After further questioning, he still could not remember, digging himself an even deeper hole by saying, "I can't, the third one, sorry. Oops."

The 3rd runner-up in the 2004 Iowa presidential nominating caucuses is now known as:

After a tough and unexpected defeat, Dean tried to reassure his supporters with a motivational speech that ended with a primal-sounding screech. The media spun the moment to cast Dean as unhinged, further damaging his chances in the subsequent primaries.

Sarah Palin has been mocked for her statements about being able to see what country from an Alaskan island?

While it is true that you can see Russian territory from an Alaskan island, Saturday Night Live and Tina Fey ruthlessly mocked Palin for suggesting as much.

Who was caught joking about outlawing Russia forever?

In 1984, then-President Reagan was recorded saying, "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever."

This former presidential candidate is infamously known for saying, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it." Who is it?

John Kerry came close to unseating George W. Bush, but this comment sealed his fate in the eyes of voters, who saw him as indecisive and unable to make important decisions. His opponents waved flip-flops around at the RNC.

In an effort to improve public perception of his stance on defense, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis took a ride in what?

The helmet Dukakis had to wear while riding in the tank made him look like a little boy, and the Republican campaign had a commercial about it out within 24 hours.

George Romney claimed his early support for the Vietnam War was due to:

In 1968, George Romney was a favorite for the Republican nomination until he said, "When I came back from Vietnam, I just had the greatest brainwashing that anyone can get. Not only by the generals, but also by the diplomatic corps over there. They do a very thorough job." This mistake was a costly one to his campaign.

What did Gary Hart challenge the media to do in 1988?

In response to rumors of an affair, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hart offered a denial and a challenge to those who didn't believe him: "Follow me." The media took him up on his offer and caught him red-handed with his mistress.

During his "service in the United States Congress," Al Gore "took the initiative in creating" what?

While Al Gore was an early supporter of the internet, he did not create it, and the media never let him forget his misstatement. The gaffe only contributed to the belief that Gore was a notorious exaggerator.

In 1992, Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle visited an elementary school and...

An elementary school student had correctly spelled 'potato' on the board when Quayle, believing he was helping, instructed the student to add an 'e' onto the end. Neither Quayle nor his running mate, Bush, had the best grammar or spelling skills. The media took the incident and ran with it. They lost re-election.

This VP candidate couldn't name a single newspaper or magazine during an interview with Katie Couric. Who is it?

Palin, who was the running mate for John McCain, failed to prep for this important interview and couldn't provide straightforward answers to Couric's questions about Supreme Court cases, newspaper and magazine names, and foreign policy. Unfortunately for the campaign. this was just one of many gaffes that helped to create a public perception of incompetence and would cost them the election.

Dick Cheney was caught holding "the smoking gun" when he...

Dick Cheney is the first sitting vice president to shoot someone since Alexander Hamilton. The lawyer recovered.

The "shoe heard 'round the world" was thrown at which president?

An Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. The internet had a great time making fun of it with parodies and comedy.

This politician's gaffe was more than just career-ending, it was criminal. Who was caught sending sexually explicit messages to underage male pages?

Despite having spent most of his career fighting online predators, Mark Foley was caught sending private instant messages containing sexually explicit content to underage male pages.

Mark Sanford claimed he was "hiking the Appalachian Trail" when he went on hiatus during his campaign. Where was he actually?

Mark Sanford wanted the world to believe he was hiking the Appalachian Trail because he wanted to cover up the fact that he was in Argentina having sexual relations with a local woman.

A Canadian comedy duo convinced Sarah Palin during a prank call that she was actually talking to:

Sarah Palin was clueless as to the true identity of the callers, despite their obvious hints and mockery.

According to 1976 VP candidate Bob Dole, both World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were all what?

Mondale, Dole's opponent, said years later that he believed Dole blew the election with that one line.

This VP candidate is infamous for mansplaining foreign policy to Geraldine Ferraro, the first female VP candidate, during a debate. Who is it?

The exchange went as follows: Bush said, "Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon." The first female VP candidate won the audience over with her response, "Let me just say, first of all, that I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy."

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called her opponent's supporters this word, which potentially cost her the undecided vote. What was the word?

Clinton had no idea of the controversy her words would spark. The blow to her campaign was considered as fatal as Romney's 47% speech gaffe.

According to Jimmy Carter's then-13-year-old daughter, Amy, what was the most important issue facing the United States?

During a 1980 General Election debate, Carter stated that he had asked his daughter "what the most important issue was." He was consequently mocked for taking advice from a 13-year-old, which contributed to his defeat in the election.

Which pair of presidential candidates is known for a General Election debate in which one of them said, "fuzzy math" four times and the other said "lockbox" four times?

It was a 2000 General Election debate. Bush kept accusing Gore of using "fuzzy math" and "phony numbers," while Gore became obsessed with lockbox imagery. "Under my plan, I will put Medicare in an ironclad lockbox and prevent the money from being used for anything other than Medicare."

Did Thad Cochran know about "what happened in Virginia" during a June 2014 Fox News interview?

The then-House Majority Leader out of Virginia, Republican Eric Cantor, was defeated in his primary in what turned out to be the biggest political upset of the year. When asked if he was worried that he'd meet a similar fate, Cochran revealed his complete ignorance on the subject, asking the interviewer: "What happened in Virginia?"

What would former Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson do about Aleppo if elected?

In an interview with MSNBC, Johnson was asked what he would do about Aleppo if elected, but he couldn't answer. He had to ask the interviewer to explain what Aleppo was. Johnson later released a statement saying he blanked on Aleppo because it registered as an acronym, instead of a city, when he heard it.

Which First Lady accidentally called herself "a busy single mother?"

Michelle Obama recovered from the 2013 CBS News interview gaffe by joking, "sometimes when you have the husband as president, it can feel a little single."

How many times did President Lyndon Johnson's campaign air the ad that featured a young girl counting daisy petals aloud as a Nuclear bomb explodes and presumably kills her?

The ad only aired once and was met with much controversy and criticism. Many accused Lyndon of scaremongering.

Bill Clinton's opponent in this debate seemed more preoccupied with the time than the questions. Who was his opponent?

George H. W. Bush appeared out-of-touch and disconnected when he repeatedly checked his watch during a 1992 presidential debate with the charismatic Bill Clinton.

Bad weather turned out to be a campaign-ender for Democratic presidential candidate Edmund Muskie, who appeared to be doing what during an outdoor interview?

The snow melting on his face made it look like Muskie was crying, which didn't bode well with voters. The incident hurt his reputation, and he eventually withdrew his bid.

Whose presidential debate went so badly that candidates would avoid participating in televised debates for the next 16 years?

After a stay in the hospital and contracting an infection, Nixon didn't look his best during the first ever televised presidential debate, especially when compared to the handsome Kennedy sharing the stage. His campaign never recovered.

Former congressman Anthony Weiner accidentally sent an inappropriate tweet that led to his eventual resignation. What was the tweet?

A couple of years later, in his NYC mayoral race, Weiner was caught sending sexually explicit content, yet again.

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