Verbal stumbles on the campaign trail don't always mean much. Few eyebrows go up when John McCain confuses the Steelers with the Packers or Barack Obama mixes up St. Louis and Kansas City. But every so often, one of these rare, unguarded remarks seems to get closer to that most elusive of political concepts: the truth. Here is a collection of some of this campaign's most unforgettable gaffes:
Bitter. Amid a Pennsylvania primary where he'd been portrayed as an Ivy League elitist, Obama was quoted at a San Francisco fundraiser seemingly dismissing the cultural norms of the rust belt. "The jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And it's not surprising then [voters] get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them...to explain their frustrations." Hillary Clinton won the state by 10 points.
Translators. Eager to display his foreign policy expertise in an interview this spring, Obama reiterated a common campaign theme, claiming the deployment of troops—and Arabic translators, in particular—in Iraq was pulling resources away from Afghanistan. "We only have a certain number of [translators], and if they are all in Iraq, then it's harder to use them in Afghanistan," Obama said. The only problem: Most Afghans don't speak Arabic. They speak a half-dozen local languages, including Pashtu, Dari, and Farsi. Obama un-gaffed his gaffe by immediately correcting himself.
Fundamentals. On the morning of "Black Monday," while the crisis in the financial markets was taking down Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch and sending the Dow into a tailspin, McCain seemed remarkably out of touch. "The fundamentals of our economy are strong," he said. Aides said he meant American workers were strong. A week later, McCain suspended his campaign to return to a Washington paralyzed by the economic crisis.
Homes. In a war of words over which candidate better understood the lives of struggling voters, McCain was stumped by a reporter who asked him how many homes he and his wife own. "I think...I'll have my staff get to you," he said. McCain's staff eventually reported the senator and his wife own "at least" four homes, some worth more than $1 million.