Obama: Illinois State Senate Confrontation, June 2002
On June 11, 2002, as a state senator, Obama and fellow state senator Rickey Hendon nearly threw down on the Senate floor. At issue was a bill that would close a child-welfare office in Hendon’s district. Obama voted in favor of the bill — accidentally, he claims — but Hendon was irate. “There’s a rift between the African-Americans on the West Side and South Side here in Chicago,” says David Mendell, Tribune reporter and author of an Obama biography. “They’re competitive, and [Hendon] was saying that Obama voted against his project because he wanted to placate some fiscal conservatives, and it was a West Side–South Side thing.” Obama at one point put his hand on Hendon’s shoulder as a friendly gesture, but Hendon slapped it away. It didn’t take long before both men were engaged in a heated shouting match on the floor of the Senate. When they took their argument to a different room, Obama allegedly had to be restrained. “According to people I interviewed who were there, they said Obama was ready to throw some punches,” says Mendell.
Romney: Shouting Down Hecklers in Iowa and New Hampshire
Although he has had a number of well-documented private angry moments, the times when Mitt Romney has let the public see his angry side are few. Over a few weeks in August, Romney faced a pretty raucous crowd in Iowa, not somewhere he’s especially loved — after all, he lost the state to Mike Huckabee in 2008 — and a particularly forceful questioner at a town hall in New Hampshire. In both cases, if you looked closely, a bit of steam began coming out of Romney’s ears. In Iowa, he had to literally yell down a heckler, saying, “If you want to speak, you can. But it’s my turn.” In New Hampshire, after a woman stood up in favor of protecting government services and said, “I wish you would speak to the truth rather than say something that you think is a platitude,” Romney cut her off and retorted, “Do you have a question? Do you have question? And let me answer your question.” A few minutes later, when the voter tried to repeat her question, Romney was having none of it. “You had your turn, madam, let me have mine.” In both cases, maybe aware of the rolling cameras or trying to win back part of the crowds, he brought back that winning smile, as if this little tiff was “healthy dialogue,” and even joked at the Iowa event that “these guys up front won’t be voting for me.”