In an 1895 newspaper column, "Mr. Dooley," a character created by the writer Finley Peter Dunne observes: "Sure, politics ain’t bean-bag. ‘Tis a man’s game, an’ women, childer, cripples an’ prohybitionists ‘d do well to keep out iv it." The saying — minus the part about women and cripples and prohybitionists — stuck, and has become a popular political aphorism to this day. You'll often hear it mentioned in a discussion about negative attacks. For example:
Reporter: "Your latest ad claims that your opponent shoots baby ducklings for sport. Does that cross a line?"
Candidate: "Well, as they say, politics ain't bean bag."
As the Republican race has gotten nastier over the past month, the vast gulf between bean bag — which may have been some kind of turn-the-century Skip-It — and politics has been remarked upon with increasing frequency. Especially by Mitt Romney, as recently as this morning. The only thing is, he never says it right. Ever:
''As someone said a long time ago,'' he told a Friday night crowd on the subject of how campaigns can get a little rough at times. ''Politics ain't beanbags.''
"I'm ready for what anyone wants to bring my way. Got to have broad shoulders in this business. As — as was said long, long ago, politics ain't beanbags."
“Anything wrong, I'm opposed to. But, you know, this ain't, this ain't the bean bag.”
"Politics ain't bean bags and I know it's going to get tough."
“There's no question that politics ain't bean bags.”
As far as we can tell, Romney has not accurately recited the aphorism a single time during this entire campaign. Nitpicking? Sure. Romney is usually only off by one letter. Still, "politics ain't bean bag" has been repeated for over 115 years now. It's four words long. It shouldn't be too difficult to master.