The 12 weirdest political moments of 2012

Sometimes, it’s hard to separate the political news from your favorite “news of the weird” feed.

There was so much weird stuff going on along the campaign trail that it’s hard to select the dozen best. But here’s our best effort:

1. Clint Eastwood and his chair.

It was the most bizarre moment at a political convention in this century. A rambling, unkempt Clint Eastwood looked more like a confused old man than an Academy Award winning director. Yes, he talked to a chair. You truly have to see it to believe it. So here it is. Take a look.

2. Barack Obama doesn’t show up for first presidential debate.

Was he on pain killers? Did he eat a rancid turkey sandwich? Did he get really, really bad advice? Whatever the reason, President Obama sleepwalked through the first presidential debate, allowing Republican rival Mitt Romney to (temporarily) tighten the White House race.

3. The Mitt Romney secret video (plus the sequel).

It was the viral video that changed the presidential election. That grainy secret recording of Mitt Romney complaining about 47 percent of Americans who are dependent on government. It was months old, but it was as timely as can be. It reinforced the image of Romney as an out-of-touch rich guy. Then there was the not-as-secret, post-election recording of Romney blaming his loss on votes “bought” by President Obama. Say good-bye, Mitt!

4. Karl Rove loses it on Election Night.

The Republican political strategist strongly disagreed with his employers at Fox News when they joined other networks in projecting on Election Night that Barack Obama would carry the pivotal state of Ohio. “I think that’s premature,” Rove said on the air. He tried to get the conservative news network to retract its prediction. “That’s awkward,” said Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who consulted on live TV with Fox’s official prognosticators. Rove’s Fox colleagues rejected the GOP guru’s reasoning. Unconvinced, Rove continued to accuse Fox of making “a very early call … It looks a little odd for us to be making a call.” As it turns out, the Fox predictions desk was right on target. The Rove-Fox drama may have been the best television moment of the night.

Watch it for yourself.

5. Vermin Supreme gets higher percentage in New Hampshire than Rick Perry.

Vermin Supreme makes a point at a Democratic presidential forum in New Hampshire.

It’s one thing to lose to Mitt Romney. And Newt Gingrich. And Rick Santorum. And Herman Cain. And Michele Bachmann. But Rick Perry got a smaller percentage of the primary vote in New Hampshire than Democratic protest candidate Vermin Supreme. Yes, that Vermin Supreme! The guy who walks around with a boot on his head. Can’t get much weirder than that.

6. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer goes missing.

It’s one thing for public officials to take vacations. It’s OK to take an out-of-state or international trip. (After all, didn’t Rick Perry go on that business development outing to Italy?) But Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer pulled her own version of the Appalachian Trail routine when she left the state and refused to tell anybody where she was. The press tried to find out but was met with official stonewalling and massive confusion. “Where is she?” Sen. Jon Kyl asked The Hill. “I don’t know.” As it turns out, the mysterious governor was in Afghanistan.

7. Jesus endorses Texas congressional candidate.

We all know that God is officially nonpartisan. But Jesus — well, that could be a different story. Texas Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco used the Christ’s face in a mailer highlighting the two candidates’ differences on social issues. The tactic led Canseco’s Democratic (and Catholic) opponent, Pete Gallego, to declare at a press conference, “I doubt very much that Jesus would have been pleased.” The mail ad the face of a baby and two men kissing each other. Canseco wouldn’t back down, telling the Texas Tribune, “Pete Gallego can have all the press conferences that he wants.” With or without Jesus’ blessing, Gallego unseated the unrepentant incumbent in November.

8. Michigan candidate runs racist TV ad during Super Bowl.

Republican Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra got off to a bad start in his 2012 Senate race when he aired a very strange TV ad on Super Bowl Sunday. In the commercial, an Asian-American actress biked alongside rice paddies and then, in broken English, thanked Michigan’s Democratic senator, Debbie Stabenow, whom she called “Debbie Spend It Now,” for borrowing money from “us” (China) to finance the U.S. national debt. After a national backlash, actress Lisa Chan apologized. Hoekstra did not. Guess what? He lost. Big.

9. Jennifer Granholm’s gesticulation.

In the Democratic National Convention hall in Charlotte, Jennifer Granholm worked the crowd into a lather with a tub-thumping speech reminiscent of William Jennings Bryan. But the former Michigan governor’s wild gesticulations did not translate well on TV, and the consensus of the Pundit Elite was that she looked like she had consumed a six pack before bounding onto the stage.

Check it out. It starts getting stranger about 2 1/2 minutes in. And it gets really strange about 4 1/2 minutes in.

10. Dick Armey’s golden parachute.

Dick Armey gives his side of the story at the National Press Club. (AP photo)

How many politicians get $8 million to leave their job? (Don’t voters do it to them for free?) Well, Dick Armey, the former Texas congressman and House Majority Leader, received a massive, 20-year severance package for leaving the Tea Party group he had made famous, FreedomWorks. Armey thought there was some funny business going on at FreedomWorks and came into the office accompanied by an gun-toting aide. But the big money backers backed Armey’s enemies, and the blunt-spoken Texan took a golden parachute when it was offered.

11. Jim DeMint’s golden parachute.

While Armey was pushed, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint jumped. The leader of Tea Party forces in the U.S. Senate quit suddenly after the 2012 election to become the next boss of the Heritage Foundation. Unlike Armey, DeMint didn’t get a parting gift. But he will be getting a salary speculated to be at least $1 million, a rather large step up from his $174,000 Senate paycheck.

12. Donald Trump’s earth-shaking pile of manure.

“Donald Trump” and “weird” have never been used in the same sentence, right? The King of Weird managed to pull another weird gimmick out of his combed-over hair. Two weeks before the election, the billionaire builder and reality TV host announced on Fox News that he planned a “very, very big” announcement. “Will it change the election?” asked Fox personality Gretchen Carlson. “Possibly,” Trump responded. “It’s very big—bigger than anybody would know.” Bah-low-knee! Turns out he offered to donate $5 million to the charity of the president’s choice if Obama promptly released college documents and “passport information.” More weird conspiracy gossip from the King of the Birthers.