REUTERS: Jason Reed
1 of 8 To full screen

Clint Eastwood's chair takes center stage at the Republican National Convention

The national elections were the biggest political story of 2012. See gallery

Attendees at the Republican National Convention in August were thrilled when they learned that movie star and film director Clint Eastwood was going to be a surprise speaker. Eastwood’s speech was certainly surprising. He arrived onstage with an empty chair, and then pretended that an invisible President Barack Obama was sitting in it. In a rambling, somewhat off-color conversation, Eastwood addressed “Obama,” questioning the president’s abilities and how he had handled campaign promises. “What do you mean shut up?” he asked the chair at one point. The Twittersphere exploded when the speech was over and photos of empty chairs became an Internet meme. Eastwood later admitted that no one from the Romney campaign had vetted his speech because he didn’t know what he was going to say or do until just before he took the stage. 

See more:  The stars, scandals and stall-tactics of the year in politics

AP Photo: J. Scott Applewhite
2 of 8 To full screen

Bill Clinton steals the show at the Democratic National Convention

You can always count on the Big Dog to bring the crowd to its feet, and former President Bill Clinton did just that when he delivered a rousing nomination speech for President Barack Obama in September. The Obama campaign needed a boost after the president’s lackluster performance in his first debate with Mitt Romney. Clinton’s 45-minute speech proved to be just the jump-start the campaign needed. In his speech, Clinton rebutted Republican arguments made at the RNC convention, saying the nation was in better shape than four years earlier. “We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down,” Clinton said. The speech energized the Democratic base, and it not only showed that past differences between Obama and Clinton had been laid to rest, but cemented Clinton's reputation as the party's top "explainer-in-chief."

Watch:  Bill Clinton's DNC speech

REUTERS: Kevin Lamarque
3 of 8 To full screen

First presidential debate: Romney turns the tables

Entering the ring as the underdog, Republican nominee Mitt Romney achieved a solid recovery from his earlier “47 percent” remark and other missteps when he took on President Obama in the first presidential debate of the 2012 election on Oct. 3. Obama appeared lethargic and uninspired as he debated his challenger on domestic policy issues like taxes and the deficit. Romney, meanwhile, struck a comfortable yet aggressive demeanor and made repeated statements advocating for the middle class and small business, in an apparent effort to dispel the perception that he was an out-of-touch elitist. Evidently it worked: Pundits and commentators broadly declared victory for the GOP nominee, and a CNN/ORC poll found that 67 percent of people surveyed agreed that Romney had won. His support among likely voters got a considerable boost, with a host of national polls propelling Romney into the lead and tightening the race in several battleground states.

Find: 2012 presidential debates

REUTERS: Kevin Lamarque
4 of 8 To full screen

Joe Biden's election-isms

Things don’t always come out of the vice president’s mouth the way he intended them to, and election season was no exception. Some were snicker-worthy zingers like "I’ve known eight presidents – three of them intimately” and “I promise you, the president has a big stick” that made late-night comedy writers’ jobs all too easy. Others were slightly more off-putting, such as the “they’re going to put y’all back in chains” remark at a campaign rally in Virginia, which he meant as a reference to big banks, but was taken by many as racially-charged. When Biden commented that the middle class had been “buried for the last four years,” in regards to taxes, he apparently forgot that it was his boss who had been in charge during the time in question – an off-script blunder that Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan enjoyed milking for considerable mileage.

AP Photo: David Goldman
5 of 8 To full screen

Mitt Romney introduces us to "binders full of women"

The words “binders full of women” were barely out of Mitt Romney’s mouth during the second presidential debate in October before the Internet hive-mind turned them into a meme. The GOP hopeful was trying to explain how he would address inequality in the workplace — as governor of Massachusetts, he said, he hoped to hire more women for his cabinet and turned to women’s groups, who supplied him with said binders of potential applicants. But the bizarre turn of phrase spawned a Facebook page, a Twitter account, satirical reviews of binders on Amazon and countless snarky Photoshop jobs. Romney’s opponent, President Barack Obama, was quick to take advantage, telling the crowd at a campaign stop, "We don’t have to collect a bunch of binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women.”

Read more:  Best memes of the 2012 elections

AP Photo: Sid Hastings
6 of 8 To full screen

Todd Akin discusses "legitimate rape"

Pro-life Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri showed a unique understanding of biology in August when he told a St. Louis TV station that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely become pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Democrats jumped on his comments as an example of the disconnect between the GOP and women’s issues — bolstering their “War on Women” narrative — but Akin claimed he merely used “the wrong words in the wrong way” and refused to end his bid for the Senate. Another would-be senator, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, claimed in an October debate that pregnancy from rape is “something that God intended.” Both lost their Senate races.

See more:  The stars, scandals and stall-tactics of the year in politics

REUTERS: Jason Reed
7 of 8 To full screen

President Obama wins re-election

President Barack Obama won his second and final bid for the White House on Nov. 6, defeating Mitt Romney in the nation’s most expensive presidential campaign. The economy and jobs loomed large in debates and political ads as the nation sputtered toward recovery from the recession.  Other popular topics of contention included health care, the nation’s debt and, a perennial favorite, taxes.  Despite the deluge of hard-hitting ads and 24/7 news coverage, only an estimated 58 percent of eligible voters chose to cast their ballots, which was down 4 percent from the 2008 election. Of those who voted, the most recent data showed that 50.9 percent chose Obama, while 47.4 percent chose Romney. The president won 27 states and the District of Columbia for a total of 332 electoral votes, while Romney won 24 states and 206 electoral votes. The two-term limit on U.S. presidents means plenty of political jockeying between now and 2016 for who will next sit in the Oval Office.

MSN News: Joe Dyer
8 of 8 To full screen

Voters approve pot legalization and gay marriage measures

Just say “yes.” Colorado, with its libertarian leanings, and Washington, with its liberal bent, voted to become the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, defying federal law. More than a decade ago, the two were among the first states to approve marijuana use for medical reasons, which is now allowed in 16 states and the District of Columbia. No word yet on whether federal authorities will sue to block the latest state efforts to decriminalize pot. Washington voters also approved same-sex marriage, along with Maine and Maryland – the first time it was passed at the ballot box. It was a triple victory for gay-rights advocates who’d seen similar efforts voted down 30 times previously. Same-sex couples can now marry in nine states and the District of Columbia, though in 30 state constitutions, marriage remains defined as being between a man and a woman.

Read more:  See which states approved gay marriage

See more:  As pot goes proper, a history of weed