Although President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney were the stars of the 2012 campaign, plenty of others made names for themselves during the race — and not always in a good way. Look back the campaign's highs and lows.
2 of 22 Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Clint Eastwood and the empty chair
Never has the absence of something stole the spotlight more than when Eastwood gave a bizarre, rambling speech at the Republican National Convention to an "invisible" Barack Obama in an empty chair. But perhaps the only thing better than the memes and parody Twitter accounts the stunt begot was Team Obama's response: "This seat's taken."
3 of 22 Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
The Fox News contributor was her typical politically incorrect self when she called Obama a "retard" on Twitter after the third presidential debate. Her tweet drew ire not only from liberals and activist groups, but from her fellow conservatives as well. "What a stupid, shallow thing to say, Ann," Michelle Malkin tweeted. Not that any of that prompted an apology from Coulter.
4 of 22 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Unlike his GOP VP nominee predecessor Sarah Palin, Ryan was pretty low-key on the campaign trail (save for excessive water drinking during the VP debate). But social media made sure the Wisconsin congressman would go down in (Internet search) history. Between Hey Girl, It's Paul Ryan and @PaulRyanGosling, the World Wide Web kept the laughs coming. And you can't say Ryan didn't give them material with his P90X photo shoot. Hey girl… wanna do a bicep curl?
5 of 22 NBC
An Adelphi University junior, Epstein asked the first question at the town hall-style second presidential debate before a crowd of undecided voters. Epstein nervously asked about job security for soon-to-be-graduates, and both candidates name-checked him throughout the rest of the debate. Move over, Joe the Plumber — Jeremy the College Student has arrived.
6 of 22 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
As the moderator of the first presidential debate, the PBS Newshour anchor was skewered by critics for being steamrolled by the candidates and failing to guide the conversation with strong questions. Lehrer defended himself, noting that the debate was formatted in such a way that made his job difficult. "The format accomplished its purpose, which was to facilitate direct, extended exchanges between the candidates about issues of substance. Part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so."
7 of 22 CTW/PBS
Forget Wall Street vs. Main Street — in the first presidential debate Mitt Romney took the conversation to Sesame Street. When asked how he'd cut government spending, Romney said he'd cut funding for PBS, despite his love of Big Bird.
8 of 22 Alex Wong/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The Candidates' Wives
First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did right by their husbands at their respective conventions. While Romney helped humanize her husband as a family man, Obama spoke of how the political issues her husband fights for start as personal family issues. Like they say, behind every great man…
9 of 22 John Moore/Getty Images
Unlike Lehrer, Crowley firmly stood her ground as moderator of the tense second debate, cutting the candidates short when they went over their time and keeping them honest. One memorable example included Crowley correcting Romney when he claimed President Obama did not call the attack in Bengazi an act of terror. "Can you say that a little louder, Candy?" Obama joked.
10 of 22 Alex Wong/Getty Images
Julian Castro's Daughter
The mayor of San Antonio gave a rousing keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, but it was his 3-year-old daughter Carina who really stole the show. As her dad recalled taking her to pre-school, little Carina flipped her hair just as the cameras cut to her. She's a natural!
11 of 22 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The singer-actor-Celebrity Apprentice contestant endorsed Romney at a Ohio rally before awkwardly singing shouting the lyrics to "America the Beautiful." The end result was anything but.
12 of 22 MSNBC
While it was universally agreed upon that a passive President Obama lost the first debate, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews was a bit more enthusiastic in his critique. "I don't know what he was doing out there," Matthews screamed/said. "I don't know how he let Romney get away with the crap he threw at him tonight about Social Security. ..."Where was Obama tonight?! … We have our knives out. We go after the people and the facts. What was he doing tonight? He went in disarmed!"
13 of 22 Michael Tran/FilmMagic
The former sitcom star ran for president as the nominee for the Peace and Freedom Party, which champions the legalization of marijuana. Her pitch: "Vote for me. I'm not a liar. I'm not a thief. I'm not a whore. And I'm not a politician. I think that uniquely qualifies me to become president of the U.S." Barr ended up on ballots in California and the battleground states of Colorado and Florida and was a write-in candidate in many other states.
14 of 22 RichardTisei/Youtube
While most politicians hurl vitriol with attack ads, Massachusetts Republican congressional hopeful Richard Tisei offered voters a virtual breath of fresh air. His 30-second spot featured a tranquil scene from Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester with the tagline "…because you need a break from all the campaign ads." (But did it work? Nope. Tisei lost by less than 4,000 votes.)
15 of 22 Andrew Burton/Getty Images
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and just days before the election, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg endorsed Obama primarily because of his views on climate change. "We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks," the Republican-turned-Independent politician said. "This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward."
16 of 22 SchlepLabs/Youtube
In an effort to curb a $100 million donation to Mitt Romney's campaign, outspoken comedian Sarah Silverman offered an indecent proposal to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. "Do you know how many Republican billionaires are giving money to Romney? All of them," Silverman said in a YouTube video. "How many of them are getting scissored by a bikini-bottomed Jewess with big naturals? How many, Sheldon?"
17 of 22 Reuters/Sarah Conard/Landov; Chris Bergin/MCT/Landov
Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock
Two Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate came under fire for their comments about abortion, particularly as it pertained to rape of the mother. Akin argued that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant while Mourdock said, "I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." Both men lost their respective races.
18 of 22 Mehdi Taamallah/AFP/Getty Images
The Empire State Building
The centerpiece of the New York City skyline was used to help spread the results of the presidential election. Working in conjunction with CNN's projections, the building glowed in varying amounts of red and blue as the electoral votes were counted. By the end of the night, the building was engulfed in blue, announcing Obama's re-election.
19 of 22 Comedy Central
The creator of the New York Times FiveThirtyEight blog spent weeks monitoring electoral math and predicting which candidate would win the presidency. Although his final estimation (he had Obama with 313 votes to Romney's 225) was slightly off, he did correctly predict Obama's re-election.
20 of 22 Fox
Things got a bit awkward on the Fox News panel when the political analyst and former adviser to George W. Bush questioned the network's decision to call Ohio — and the election — for Obama. After he demanded that the experts at the Decision Desk be questioned, Megyn Kelly walked down the hall where the researchers explained exactly why they were confident in calling the race. Rove quickly backpedaled. "I'm just raising a cautionary concern. When he [called it], we had two-one hundredths of a percent separating these guys," he said.
21 of 22 Jonathan Orenstein/NBC
It's hard to believe that just months ago we were questioning whether Guthrie could fill Ann Curry's shoes on the Today show. As Brian Williams' co-anchor during NBC's debate and election coverage, the network's former legal correspondent moved effortlessly between hard-nosed analysis and breezy charm.
22 of 22 CNN, MSNBC
Forget holograms. In a colorful kaleidoscope of swirling, state-shaped boxes floating over giant touch screens, both NBC and CNN unfurled new technology that broke down the vote by counties, made electoral math a visual feast and gave Comedy Central some great fodder for parody.