Presidential debates are often the birthplace of catchphrases that outlive the race in question—and sometimes the candidates themselves. Sarah Palin's "you betcha," Al Gore's "fuzzy math," and Lloyd Bentsen's "Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy" spring to mind.
It may be too early to discern which phrase will capture the essence of 2012, but the Republican debates so far, particularly this week's CNN/Tea Party debate, are giving us some leading indicators.
Ponzi scheme: Texas Gov. Rick Perry's description for Social Security, a system he has made a habit of calling into question. "Monstrous lie" and "a failure" are a few of his other faves, but Ponzi scheme is just so much … catchier. For the record, Charles Ponzi was a con man in the 1920s who promised investors super high interest rates and then used other investors' money as payment. (Note to Perry: "Madoff scheme" sounds a little more 21st Century.)
Government injection: As in, "To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat-out wrong," arguably Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's most successful line in Monday night's debate. She was referring to a program advocated by Perry requiring all girls entering sixth grade in Texas to be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus, which is linked to cervical cancer. Government injection, vaccine. Potato, po-tah-to.
Obamacare: President Obama's health care plan, as described by most of the leading Republican candidates. Particularly fun when used by Mitt Romney, whose health care plan as Massachusetts governor is said to be a blueprint for Obama's plan. Romney argues otherwise, of course, pledging to grant "waivers from Obamacare" to all 50 states on day one of his presidency.
Crony capitalism: Often used by Palin to refer to the mutually beneficial relationships between politicians and their campaign donors. Also known, on occasion, as "corporate crony capitalism." "I believe in the free market and that is why I detest crony capitalism," she said in a recent Iowa speech. Of course Palin's not officially running for president, but that hasn't kept the phrase out of the debates. Bachmann's aides issued a release Monday night titled "Rick Perry's Crony Capitalism: The 2007 Vaccination Executive Order Fiasco," detailing her accusation that his HPV vaccine executive order made millions of dollars for a drug company that donated money to Perry.
Corporations are people, my friend: OK, this wasn't actually uttered during a debate, but we're betting dollars to doughnuts it pops up in one or more upcoming exchanges. Romney aimed the line at a protester during the Iowa State Fair in August, explaining later, "I hope people understand that when you tax corporations that the concrete and the steel and the plastic don't pay. People pay. And so corporations are people." Which is why he proposed cutting the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Interesting to watch how this meshes with "corporate crony capitalism."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun