Will Loose Lips Mean the Kiss of Death? Unscripted Moments that Spelled Trouble on the 2006 Campaign Trail

Modern political campaigns are scripted to a tedious fault--except when they're not. Sooner or later, candidates will say or do something off the cuff that their opponents just will not let them live down. Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen may have torpedoed his re-election bid with a perceived racial slur caught on video in August, and former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry did his party no favors when he proved that he doesn't know how to tell a joke. Sometimes the errors prove fatal, sometimes not, but they're almost always unforgettable. Here's a sampling of stumbles from the current campaign season.

In July 2006 Montana, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns approached a group of elite firefighters at the Billings, Mont., airport and harangued them for doing a "piss poor job" of fighting fires in his state. He later apologized, saying he wished he'd chosen his words more carefully, but the damage was done: Democrats put Burns's words in an ad, claiming the outburst proved the senator was angry and out of touch with the kind, honest values of his state.

Jeannine Pirro's bid to challenge Hillary Clinton in the New York Senate race was dead the day Pirro launched her candidacy. In the August 2005 address announcing her plans to run, the contender stopped for an excruciating 32 seconds as she searched for a missing page. "Could I have page 10?" she finally asked an aide. Unable to outlive her moment of muteness, Pirro dropped out of the race four months later.

Ned Lamont's decision to go on vacation in Maine the day after winning Connecticut's Democratic senatorial primary. Believing his own hype (and ignoring his small margin of victory in the primary), Lamont thought voters needed "a break" from his assault on his opponent, Sen. Joe Lieberman. As a result Lieberman--who re-entered the general election as an independent--was able to shake up his staff and repurpose his candidacy in the first three days of the general-election campaign.

The White House decision to move ahead with terrorism legislation without winning the prior agreement of its own GOP senators--especially John McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham.
Their opposition helped stop the president's strategy to campaign on terrorism well before the eruption of the Mark Foley scandal over sexually explicit e-mails to congressional pages.

The failure of the Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean, to agree on strategy with his House campaign counterpart, Rahm Emanuel. Their highly public falling out left Republicans relishing the thought that Democrats would fail once again to build a turnout machine to rival the GOP's.
--Contributed by Jonathan Darman and Richard Wolffe