Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

Awards for the Best and Worst of Politics in 2013

Yes, folks, it’s time again for my end-of-the-year awards. It’s been a weird year, but face it: Weird is the new normal in politics.

Eight weeks ago, everyone was talking about the shutdown. A month ago, it was the launch of Obamacare. Now it’s, well, I’m not sure. In early October, it looked as if John A. Boehner’s speakership might not survive the year. And now, many are wondering how Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has survived this long.

I nominated a number of formidable contenders for each category before picking my own winner. If you don’t agree and would like to complain, please send a single-spaced letter outlining your reasons for disagreeing with my selection (along with citations to support your argument) to Edward Snowden. Just leave my name out of it.

Worst Political Decision of 2013

The nominees:

  • Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., runs for mayor of New York City
  • Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., buys cocaine from undercover cop
  • Weiner doesn’t drop out of New York City’s mayoral race
  • Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, D-N.Y., runs for comptroller in NYC
  • Huma Abedin doesn’t make Anthony Weiner drop out of NYC mayor’s race

And the winner is … anything to do with Anthony Weiner. Take your pick.

Biggest Surprise of 2013

The nominees:

  • Bill de Blasio wins the New York City mayor’s race
  • The Red Sox win the World Series
  • Republican former Gov. Mark Sanford is elected to Congress in South Carolina
  • The final play of the Alabama-Auburn football game
  • Stuart Rothenberg not yet fired by Roll Call

And the winner is … Alabama-Auburn, of course. On the other hand, the year isn’t over quite yet, so I’m still in the running.

Most Vulnerable Incumbent Up in 2014

The nominees:

  • Rep. Gary G. Miller, R-Calif.
  • Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
  • Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
  • Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz.

And the winner is … all of the incumbents on this list are in deep trouble, but the one most likely to lose is DesJarlais. (I don’t handicap Canadian contests.)

My Most “Interesting” Candidate Interview of 2013

The nominees:

  • Annette Bosworth, a GOP Senate candidate in South Dakota who was both charismatic and compelling, with quite a personal story. But did it all add up? Plus, I rarely see candidates who have absolutely no clue how to put together a winning campaign.
  • Daylin Leach, a Democrat seeking Pennsylvania’s 13th District. He’s a funny, smart congressional hopeful who seemed to understand that being relaxed and natural in a candidate interview isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • Mead Treadwell, the GOP lieutenant governor of Alaska who is running for Senate. Memorable because the candidate couldn’t get his chip off his shoulder. Never has a candidate spent so much time complaining about an earlier article about him.
  • Carl DeMaio, who is challenging freshman Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif. He’s an openly gay Republican who supports abortion rights and sounded just as fiscally conservative as any Republican I’ve met — and who certainly looks like a winner.

 And the winner is … in the eye of the beholder, right? I’m not beholding right now. Come back at the end of 2014 for an answer, after I’ve interviewed more candidates.

Biggest Story of 2013

The nominees:

  • The IRS “scandal”
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and the government shutdown
  • The NSA “scandal”
  • Typhoon Haiyan
  • The Obamcare website meltdown
  • President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt being deposed
  • The birth of Prince George
  • Installation of Pope Francis
  • Boston Marathon bombing
  • The death of Nelson Mandela

 And the winner is … University of Connecticut women win their eighth basketball title, routing Louisville 93-60. It’s my column. I’ll pick who I want. If you don’t like it, get your own damn column.

Phrases You Should Never Utter

The nominees:

  • “Mission accomplished.”
  • “If you like your [insurance] plan, you can keep it. Period.”
  • “I’ve never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind, and I never will.”
  • “Have I tried (crack cocaine)? Um, probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”
  • “It’s my column. I’ll pick who I want. If you don’t like it, get your own damn column.”

And the winner is … “It’s my column. I’ll pick who I want. If you don’t like it, get your own damn column.”

The Most Ridiculous Campaign of 2013

The nominees:

  • Barbara Buono for New Jersey governor
  • E.W. Jackson for Virginia lieutenant governor
  • Elizabeth Colbert Busch for Congress in South Carolina
  • Steve Lonegan for New Jersey Senate

And the winner is … Well, it’s not Buono, who was abandoned by her party. Colbert Busch wasn’t entirely ready for prime time, but the district was against her. Neither Jackson nor Lonegan had a chance from the start, so their campaigns were irrelevant. That would seem to eliminate them. So, on a write-in, the award goes to the delusional delegates of the Virginia Republican convention, who kicked away the state’s number two office by nominating a candidate who never had a chance. Smart move, guys.

Biggest Mistake of 2013

The nominees:

  • Shutting down the government
  • Changing the filibuster rule
  • Not delaying the launch of Obamacare by a year
  • The retirements of Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.
  • My decision to write this column

And the winner is … changing the filibuster. The slide down the slippery slope has begun. Congratulations, the Senate is now on its way to becoming more like the House. That should encourage cooperation and compromise. But those Senate retirements — and the loss of both institutional knowledge and some thoughtful senators — are really, really depressing.

  • Glenn

    I would suggest adding Scott Peter (D-CA) to your list of most vulnerable incumbents in 2014 since Carl DeMaio is running against him

    • kind67

      Rep. Scott Peters, not Scott Peter

  • DragonAtma

    Just as exceptionally bad films can “win” multiple razzies, “Shutting down the government” is the “winner” for biggest mistake, worst political decision, biggest story.

    It *should* be the winner of biggest surprise as well, but given the jokers in congress, it’s not even close. *sigh*

  • dweasson

    You had me right up to the point you said the retirement of Saxby Chambliss is a loss to the Senate. He is certainly not an elder statesman, being only in his second term. And he proved himself is a royal SOB beneath even today’s low standards for political behavior for the disgusting campaign he ran against war hero Max Cleland. Good riddance to him, I say.

    • southerndemnut

      I agree, Chambliss has not been as offensive a Senator as some others, but as a veteran, I have yet to forgive him for his treatment of then Sen. Max Cleland in the 2002 campaign. He could have run some other way than to challenge his “patriotism.”

    • teapartyidiots

      I agree. Chuck Hagel and John McCain were aghast. He called a man with one non-bionic limb and a silver star a coward and not a patriot. It was reprehensible.

  • CAHeidelberger

    Mr. Rothenberg, I’m amused to read your assessment of Annette Bosworth’s cluelessness. She’s also not very good at paying her taxes, paying her employees, or conducting honest raffles: http://madvilletimes.com/2013/12/minnehaha-county-mentions-annette-bosworths-tax-delinquency-intervention-time/

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