Rothenberg’s End of the Year Awards for 2010

by Stuart Rothenberg December 10, 2010 · 11:02 AM EST

Every year, I look back and nominate a number of politicians, campaigns and politically related entities as the “best,” “worst” or even “weirdest” of the cycle. I’m doing it again this year, because — let’s be honest — it’s a way of combining political analysis with personal animosity.

So here are my finalists for various categories. Please send your votes to Chris Cillizza of The Fix. Just don’t send them to me.

Most Overhyped Candidate Of 2010
• Connecticut GOP Senate nominee Linda McMahon
• Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink
• New York GOP gubernatorial nominee Carl Paladino
• Pennsylvania Democratic Congressional candidate John Callahan
• Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White

I always thought that Paladino was a joke and that much of the media attention he received after his primary win was delusional. McMahon fell far short of defeating Democrat Richard Blumenthal, but there was a time when she looked credible. I’ll never believe Democratic statewide spin about Texas — at least not until they finally win one.

That leaves Sink — who couldn’t even beat a guy whose company paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud — and Callahan, who Democrats insisted would defeat Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). Callahan drew 39 percent of the vote — 17 points less than President Barack Obama did in 2008. My pick: Sink.

I’m Over Them: Candidates and Personalities I’m sick of
• Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
• Any other member of the Palin family
• Any “personality” on Fox News after 3 p.m.
• Any “personality” on MSNBC after 3 p.m.
• Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D)

No, you can’t vote for all of the above. I’m so tired of the Palin coverage — it’s like the media is on Palin heroin and can’t resist reporting on anything that she or her family does, no matter how irrelevant. I’m voting for Spitzer in this category. Every intelligent, reasonable woman I’ve ever spoken to refuses to watch the CNN show because of him. You would think that might disqualify him as a host, but the former boss of CNN apparently figured that fame — even the kind of fame that makes one infamous — is enough. Wrong.

I’m Over Them: Candidates Who Shouldn’t Run Again
• Washington GOP Senate nominee Dino Rossi
• Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)
• Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell
• Colorado GOP gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes
• Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D)

Another difficult choice. Rossi has lost three competitive races in a row. He can run again, but only if he’s absolutely sure it’s in the bag. O’Donnell has also run three times and lost. Hopefully, that will be enough for her. Maes drew 11 percent of the vote as a major party nominee. Even he’ll figure out that he shouldn’t run again.

That leaves Barnes and Grayson as the best choices. I’m going with Grayson, who is so arrogant and self-centered that he probably figures his 38 percent showing is enough reason to run again. It isn’t, Alan. Trust me. It isn’t.

Worst Political Hair of the Cycle
• Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott (R)
• Stuart Rothenberg
• Missouri GOP Senate candidate Chuck Purgason
• Charlie Cook
• Rep.-elect Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)

One bald guy, one guy who traded his toupee for the naturally bald look (but still lost) and a guy with a comb-over problem. Plus, two analysts who sometimes have hair issues. I’m forced to disqualify myself.

Most Embarrassing Primary Loss
• New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio
• Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
• South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Vic Rawl
• Florida GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill McCollum
• Delaware GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mike Castle

I’m going with all of the above.

Biggest Upset of 2010

• Renee Ellmers (R) over Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.)
• Joe Miller (R) over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
• Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R/write-in) over Joe Miller (R)
• Michael Grimm (R) over Michael McMahon (D-N.Y.)
• Joe Walsh (R) over Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.)
• Ann Marie Buerkle (R) over Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.)

All surprises. I was caught flat-footed on Bean’s loss, but I think a victorious statewide write-in trumps all. My choice is Murkowski’s Senate win.

I’m Betting You Haven’t Seen The Last of Them
• Arizona Democratic Senate nominee Rodney Glassman
• Pennsylvania Democratic Congressional candidate John Callahan
• Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell
• Wisconsin Democratic Congressional candidate Julie Lassa
• Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.)

I fully expect the four Democrats on this list to seek other office (sooner rather than later). They are all ambitious. O’Donnell will certainly seek fame and fortune in the limelight rather than get a real job. Like a bad penny, she’ll be back, though hopefully not as a candidate.

Newest GOP Rising Star in the House
• Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger (Ill.)
• Rep.-elect Steve Stivers (Ohio)
• Rep.-elect Kristi Noem (S.D.)
• Rep.-elect Cory Gardner (Colo.)
• Rep.-elect Scott Rigell (Va.)

Keep your eyes on all of them, but Noem has the early edge, for obvious reasons. Don’t overlook Stivers, though.

Cockiest Candidate of the Cycle
• Michigan GOP Congressional candidate Rocky Raczkowski
• Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Peter Schiff
• Pennsylvania Democratic Congressional candidate John Callahan
• Rep.-elect Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)
• Arizona Democratic Senate nominee Rodney Glassman

Holy cow, as Phil Rizzuto used to say, there’s a lot of ego in this bunch. But this is a pretty easy choice for me. Only one of them had no experience in politics yet figured he knew everything and was smarter than anyone else in the room — no matter who else was in it. Take your bow, Peter Schiff, the smuggest and most clueless of them all.

Better Start Worrying About 2012 Already
• Rep.-elect Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)
• Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.)
• Rep-elect Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)
• Rep.-elect Charlie Bass (R-N.H.)
• Rep.-elect Tom Marino (R-Pa.)

Farenthold and Bass are in tough districts, and they are likely to draw serious opponents next year. Gibbs and Kissell ran unimpressive races. Gibbs caught the wave (but may get help from redistricting), while Kissell had a weak opponent. That leaves Marino, who shouldn’t take his re-election for granted, even in this very Republican district. Even Republicans acknowledge that he is so damaged that he probably will draw a credible primary opponent.

Worst Self-Inflicted Wound Of 2010 by a Member or Congressional Candidate
• Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) censure
• Ohio Republican Tom Ganley’s sexual assault charge
• Rep. Bob Etheridge’s (D-N.C.) video “macaca moment”
• Former Rep. Mark Souder’s (R-Ind.) extramarital affair
• Former Rep. Eric Massa’s (D-N.Y.) sexual harassment complaint

I don’t think this one is all that close. It’s Etheridge by a mile. The North Carolina Democrat never would have lost had he not treated a young video tracker roughly.