There are winners and losers in politics, but not everyone loses gracefully.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is still in the race, but his chances of speaking on the critical debate stage are severely diminished following a disastrous interview where he couldn’t identify a major focal point of the Syrian conflict.
Johnson is certainly not the only presidential contender to fail on stage or in an interview — here are the top 7 presidential career-ruining moments in recent political history.
1. Libertarian Gary Johnson (2016)
Johnson has consistently polled between 9 and 10 percent, but a recent four-way poll put the Libertarian challenger at 12 percent, closer to the 15 percent Johnson needed to gain entrance to the debate stage. Although polling has not yet been published during the time frame of the gaffe, the answer will undoubtedly cost him foreign policy credibility with voters in November.
2. Republican Jeb Bush (2016)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush seemed poised to win the Republican nomination in the spring of 2015. A fully-loaded super PAC, solid polling numbers, and a national campaign movement scared away many potential challengers until Republican nominee Donald Trump entered the race.
The above clip played on late-night comedy shows and political ads painting the former governor as desperate. The seemingly hopeless refrain coupled with poor debate performances ended Bush’s presidential aspirations for 2016.
3. Republican Sarah Palin (2008)
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was practically unknown before her selection by Republican nominee John McCain. Her off-the-cuff interview style landed her in hot water with staffers and voters multiple times. But her inability to identify former President George W. Bush’s foreign policy and to share what news sources she read were by far the most famous gaffes.
Palin still endorsed candidates in 2016, including Trump and Paul Nehlen, who challenged Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Nehlen only earned 15 percent of the vote against Ryan.
4. Republican Marco Rubio (2016)
Although no Republican candidate was able to beat then front-runner Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio appeared to have a good chance. Rubio’s poll numbers dropped dramatically after he repeated the same memorized speech four times on the debate stage. Rubio dropped his presidential bid shortly afterward.
5. Democrat Howard Dean (2004)
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean had just won third place in the 2004 Iowa Democratic caucus, an honor Dean was evidently excited about. The results were particularly astounding because Dean had 3 percent in the polls, according to 538’s “The Dean Scream.” The scream at the end of his emotional speech made voters question his ability to be president of the United States.
6. Democrat Michael Dukakis (1988)
Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis ran against former Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988. Dukakis did well in the polls, leading Bush during the months of May and June. But then the Bush campaign published footage of Dukakis on a tank, footage that made the Democratic nominee look weak.
Dukakis’ presidential aspirations were dashed in the September 1988 debate when he answered an absurd and violent question about his wife with no emotion. Bush won the election 53 to 46 percent.
7. Republican Rick Perry (2012)
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry attempted to remember three major government agencies that he would shut down if he was elected president. The 2011 Republican debate was full of challengers to front-runner Mitt Romney, but Perry’s $17 million war chest was not enough to weather the wave of bad press that came about as a result of the gaffe. Perry attempted another run in 2016, but was unable to shake the stigma that he was unprepared for the office of president.
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