Mitt Romney (up): During his presidential run, Mitt Romney has seen a lot of front-runners come and go (mostly go.) And while he can’t seem to get above 23 percent in the polls, as long as there are half a dozen also-rans in the race, that may be all he needs to get the nomination.
Emanuel Cleaver (up): After the CBC’s raucous “for the people” jobs tour, it seemed the caucus’ influence was on the wane. With just 42 Democratic members (plus Allen West,) they can’t move legislation in the House. But Cleaver has steered the CBC back on course with President Obama, and scored White House face time, and influence, in the process.
John Boehner (down): Who runs the House? Apparently, not Rep. Boehner, the Speaker who can’t seem to speak sense to his freshman Republican caucus. Those 87 tea party members keep rejecting the deals Boehner cuts with the White House, and the undermining has left Boehner looking weak.
Eric Cantor (up):As a deputy, Eric Cantor is not exactly what you’d call demonstrably loyal. His behind-the-scenes palling around with the freshmen has hobbled Speaker John Boehner, but Cantor is well positioned to steal his gavel if there’s a leadership challenge.
The Clintons (up): Once a politically polarizing twosome, the Clintons have staged the mother of all comebacks. Hillary as Secretary of State has sky-high approval ratings and is America’s most admired woman, per Gallup. Former president Bill is the third most admired man (after Presidents Obama and George W. Bush) and he gets global love for his charitable work.
Van Jones (up): When Glenn Beck helped chase him from his White House green jobs “czar” position in 2009, the Fox News crowd thought he was finished. Now, Jones is back as a prominent voice in the “occupy” movement. Meanwhile, Color of Change, a group he co-founded, help drive Glenn Beck off Fox News over racially-charged comments about President Obama.
Newt Gingrich (down): Newt had a few good weeks as the GOP presidential front-runner, but it all fell apart when he revealed his genius plan to turn poor kids into janitors, and the media exposed his past positions on global warming, the individual mandate (for it before he was against it) and Freddie Mac (he made millions as their …um … “historian.”)
Michele Bachmann (down): When she won Iowa’s Ames straw poll, pundits thought Rep. Bachmann – the self-named legislative queen of the tea party – was on her way to front-runner status. Instead, Bachmann’s poll numbers have stayed in single digits, despite some solid debate performances. And she’s gotten more publicity for serving water than for being a potential nominee.
Maxine Waters (down): Maxine became the breakout star of the CBC’s jobs tour, threatening to “unleash” the black caucus on President Obama. It turned out, polls showed Obama’s black base is solid, and Maxine’s passion only distanced her from the seat of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Meanwhile, ethics probes continue for the California Democrat.
Sarah Palin (down): Palin ends 2012 as a virtual non-entity. Having decided not to run for president, she’s down to posting her opinions on Facebook, and is reportedly even feuding with her Fox News patriarch, Roger Ailes. By this time next year, someone else will be the Republican running mate, and only Fox may be hanging on Sarah’s every status update.
Herman Cain (down): The Hermanator may have had 999 reasons to run for president, but he couldn’t pronounce “Uzbekistan,” forgot his own position on Libya, and then multiple claimed he sexually harassed or even groped them. By the time Ginger White came forward to claim they’d had an affair, Cain’s front-runner status was gone like the last slice of pizza.
Ron Paul (up): Who would have thought the grandfatherly libertarian, who believes people should be allowed to drink raw milk, but shouldn’t be able to have Medicare to pay the bills when it makes them sick, would be at the top of the GOP polls? Well that’s Iowa for you. Now, if Paul could just explain away those race-baiting newsletters from the ‘90s…
Deval Patrick (up): After Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in January 2010, Republicans thought Massachusetts – birthplace of the original (Boston) tea party, was theirs for the taking. But Patrick, only the second black elected governor in U.S. history, won re-election last November despite the national GOP wave.
Tea Party (down): The media has fallen out of love with them, they’re deeply unpopular according to the polls, and their sparsely attended rallies don’t even attract people in period costumes anymore. Meanwhile, their favorite presidential candidates, from Donald Trump to Herman Cain, keep dropping the ball. Could be time to switch to coffee.
President Obama (up): 2011 started rough for the POTUS, with fights over the debt ceiling and a U.S. credit rating downgrade. It ends with O beating his opponents on the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance, and thanks to Occupy Wall Street (and a weak GOP presidential field) on issues like income inequality, taxes and just plain sanity.
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2011 was a great year for politics — particularly if you like your politics with a touch of the bizarre. From Donald Trump’s fictional campaign (and would-have-been presidential debate) to Uzbekibekibekistan, it’s been an up and down year for political stars on both sides of the aisle. Here’s a look at who ended the year on a high, and who’d just as soon sleep through New Year’s.