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Verbal gaffes are something that hurt both sides of political contests. See: President Obama's "You didn't build that" comment or any number of things Vice President Joe Biden has said over the years. But lately it's been conservatives that have really stuck their foots in their mouths. And I'm not even including the latest buffoonery from Donald Trump. This week alone has shown three high profile examples:

  • Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock whose comment invoking religion in pregnancies from rape has netted him enough bad press that Todd Akin is probably sending him a thank you card.
  • Ann Coulter, the Nickleback of punditry (because millions read her but no one will admit to it), delivered another misstep when, after this week's debate, she called President Obama a "retard."
  • And, last but not least, former Alaska governor, VP candidate, and reality TV star Sarah Palin garnered scorn for using the racially insensitive phrase "shuck and jive" when referring to President Obama.

(No word on how Palin, whose son Trig has Down syndrome and has rallied against the use of the word "retard," feels about Coulter's comment.)

It was all a little much for our own Mary Mitchell, who weighed in with her most recent column and in the video above. Says Mitchell today:

African-Americans have heard so many white pundits use racially insensitive language to criticize the nation's first African-American President, and they have sucked it up.

After all, what first black anything didn't have to endure racist taunts.

But Palin used language that is not only linked to slavery and Jim Crow, but is associated with the kind of "clowning" educated black people frown upon.

Palin doesn't know anything about that.

Be sure to read all of Mitchell's column on the issue here.

It's hard to believe but someone just topped Todd Akin in the "ridiculous rape and abortion remarks" department. During a debate tonight, Richard Mourdock, Indiana's GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, dropped the latest in a line of controversial sound bites by Republican candidates during this election cycle about abortion. During the debate, after saying the only exception for abortion he'd allow is if the mother's life is in danger, Mourdock then explained why he doesn't support abortions in the case of rape: "I've struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from god. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin raised hackles earlier this year when he claimed women who were victims of "legitimate rape" don't get pregnant. Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, locked in a tense battle with Tammy Duckworth for his Congressional seat, claimed abortions were never necessary to save a mother's life.

In Indiana, the latest polls show U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) as holding a slim lead over Mourdock who is currently Indiana's state treasurer. Mourdock's website proudly displays an endorsement from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Update: After the debate, Mourdock backed off his comment, saying, "Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No, I don't think that anyone could suggest that. That's a sick, twisted - no, that's not even close to what I said."

Our sister publication in Merrillville, Ind., the Post-Tribune, has details on the debate.

With the third and final debate in the rearview mirror, here are some memorable moments from Boca Raton, Florida, the site of the final presidential showdown.

Click all photos to embiggen.

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US President Barack Obama (R) greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (L) following the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012. The showdown focusing on foreign policy is being held in the crucial toss-up state of Florida just 15 days before the election and promises to be among the most watched 90 minutes of the entire 2012 campaign.
AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

It was another testy, feisty debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. And just like previous debates, there were several quotable moments for sound bites. But President Obama delivered perhaps the biggest line - and his most harsh - of all the debates when tackling Mitt Romney's assessment of the current state of the U.S. military. Whether it will help or hurt Obama remains to be seen, but it was the biggest punch the president landed.

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Two statuettes depicting President Barack Obama, left, and Republican rival Mitt Romney are backdropped by the Stars and Stripes in a shop which sells Christmas nativity figures in Naples, Italy, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, hours ahead of their third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida. (AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta)


After a whirlwind three weeks that's seen just about everything we thought we could see in an election, the two major party candidates for President of the United States - Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney - hold their final debate of the election season tonight. Going into the first debate less than three weeks ago in Denver, Obama was poised for a runaway win barring any major speed bumps. But that's what happend in Denver when Obama put forth a listless, lackluster performance by the president plus a new populist approach from Romney turned things around and put the wind at Romney's back, changing the entire course of the race. A testy, fiery Vice President Joe Biden turned up in the VP debate against GOP nominee Paul Ryan. And last week, Romney and Obama engaged in a heated, electrice debate, the candidates stalking the stage, often circling one another as they unleashed attacks on the other.

Tonight's moderator, CBS' Bob Schieffer, has experience with debates, having moderated one in each of the last two presidential election, and has already announced his list of topics for tonight's debate, centered on foreign policy:

  • America's role in the world
  • Our longest war - Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • Red Lines - Israel and Iran
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - I
  • The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism - II
  • The Rise of China and Tomorrow's World

Tonight should be a lively debate and we've got our best columnists and pundits along to provide live commentary. Below you can find both live video via YouTube of the debate and, below that, the running commentary from the Sun-Times staff. Before we go live at 7:30 p.m. and throughout the debate, take some time to check out some of our other posts about the upcoming election and check out even more coverage at our Election Page.

Bears or Debate? What are you watching?
Roeper: Presidential circus continues
Ghosts of Elections Past: Ohio and Florida
Sifting through presidential endorsements
Googling the next president
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at last week's Alfred E. Smith dinner
Obama campaign rolls out new "Romnesia" stump speech
FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver on The Daily Show

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FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics are two sites that have garnered acclaim and traffic during the election season as voters try to get a leg up of the latest prognostications. While we can't know exactly how the election will turn out, these sites have forecasting down to a science. But there's another website that could give us a peek into who will win this year's hotly contested presidential election: Google. The megabeheamoth search engine is actually a source of tremendous - and entertaining - data and some it of can actually correlate with election outcomes as Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explored at the New York Times.

While so much of the information gleaned from the search data is either ridiculous - the popularity of "Paul Ryan shirtless" - or superfluous - how the number of searches of a candidate in a region corresponds to their popularity in said area - there are some useful tidbits to be pulled for the campaigns, particularly in terms of voter turn-out. Says Stephens-Davidowitz:

If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2008 than in the first half of October 2004, voting rates tended to be higher in 2008 than in 2004. It's true for midterm elections, too. If search rates for voting information were higher in the first half of October 2010 than in the first half of October 2006, voting rates tended to be higher in 2010 than in 2006.

This predictive power was significantly stronger than that of other variables we might use to predict area-level turnout, like changes in registration rates or movement in early voting.


Of course, there's plenty of garbage to sift through as well, as Stephens-Davidowitz notes, including searches about Romney and Mormon underwear as well as Obama and racist epithets. Still, once you look past the noise, there may just be some patterns worth teasing out, adding to the stacks of numbers already being crunched for November 6.

Rep. Joe Walsh and Tammy Duckworth squared off again to debate eachother Thursday night, this time on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" program. You can watch it in its entirety in this video.

More coverage off their latest encounter, the last debate before the election:

While the two candidates have waged one of the most heated congressional campaigns in the country, they were fairly tame in this faceoff, especially compared to their tilt last week, which included a particularly fesity crowd. Thursday's debate was in the relative calm of a studio.


Though the Bill Foster campaign is fuming over a recent campaign ad that charges he personally profited during his time in Congress -- the ad is still running -- with the exception of WGN.

The National Republican Congressional Committee says the ad raises a central question about the timing of the Democrat's personal financial decisions during a critical time in congress -- the 2008 housing market collapse. While some stations asked for more details about the ad before airing it, she said, they aired it after some minor changes.

"Foster got the parachute, you got the crash," the ad says.

"The major Chicago television stations are all running our ad that highlights how Congressman Foster inappropriately used his position on the House Financial Services Committee to personally benefit. We added language to our ad that reinforces the fact that Congressman Foster abused his power," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Katie Prill.

Foster is in the midst of a heated race with longtime Congresswoman Judy Biggert in the 11th congressional distirct. Foster's campaign has steadfastly denied the charge in the ad that implies he took part in a form of insider trading, saying he attended no such closed-door meeting.

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One of the most hotly contested Congressional races in the nation is right here in Illinois as 8th Congressional District incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh, a fiery conservative favorable with the Tea Pary, is taking on Democratic challenger and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth. The last time these two met, early last week, it was a fiery debate in front of a riled up crowd in Rolling Meadows. Things should be a bit more tame tonight with this debate happening in WTTW's studios, but it's sure to still be contentious.

The two have already tangled this week, though not directly, with reports of new money being sunk into anti-Duckworth ads by a pro-Walsh SuperPAC being met with defiance by Duckworth. And Walsh was once again secretly taped by opponents, this time advising business owners to mobilize their employees to vote Republican by telling them they could lose their job if Democrats win.

Below, find our live-blog with running commentary from me, our crack politics reporter Natasha Korecki, and other pundits.

tagg.gifAs if Tuesday's town hall style debate weren't feisty enough, it seems there was another near Romney-Obama physical altercation at Hofstra University.

Tagg Romney, Mitt Romney's eldest son, was asked on a North Carolina radio station Wednesday about his reaction to President Obama's claims that his father was less than truthful.

"I'm going to ask something I think a lot of people want to know, or at least I do. What is it like for you to hear the President of the United States call your dad a liar. How do you react to that?" host Bill Lumaye asks. Tagg's response:

"Jump out of your seat and you want to rush down to the stage and take a swing at him," Tagg responded, laughing. "But you know you can't do that because, well, first because there's a lot of Secret Service between you and him, but also because that's the nature of the process."


Here's the audio from the interview:

Obama never actually used the word "liar" in reference to Romney during the debate, though he did question the truthfulness of many of the governor's statements. You can watch the full debate here for the exact exchanges.