Unexpected Political Winners of 2012

From House members to journalists to children of politicos, this group won praise.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Sandra Fluke, waves at a campaign event at the University of Colorado Auraria Events Center, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in Aurora, Colo. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cathy who? The Washington Republican was an early supporter of Mitt Romney and an oft-deployed campaign surrogate when it came to discussing issues affecting women. But maybe she wasn't used enough, as Democratic accusations of a GOP "war on women" helped sink Romney's White House bid. But McMorris Rodgers, about to begin her fifth term, was rewarded for her work by being named chairman of the House Republican Conference. The House leadership role makes her the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress and as the GOP tries to repair its image with women voters, McMorris Rodgers is guaranteed to see her profile continue to rise.

Jon2012girls

So Utah Republican Jon Huntsman never really made much of a splash in the Republican presidential primary, but his daughters sure did. Launching their own Internet campaign, their Twitter account Jon2012girls – manned by Mary Anne, Abby and Liddy – went viral and (rightly or wrongly) became the most notable part of Huntsman's bid. The three, all in their 20's, have since built on their own success, regularly writing opinion pieces or providing political commentary on cable shows.

Sen. Jim DeMint

DeMint has had the dubious reputation of being loathed almost as much by members of his own political party as the opposite, thanks to his dogmatic stance on tax and spending issues and willingness to back GOP primary candidates running against colleagues. But while he never accomplished any legislative victories in the Senate, he's landed a plumb job as head of the Heritage Foundation, a well-known and influential conservative think tank. In addition to his sweeter salary, DeMint will now be an even more powerful player in conservative politics.

Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley

The newswomen, Raddatz of ABC News, and Crowley of CNN, moderated two of the four presidential and vice presidential debates this year, garnering much praise for their no-nonsense styles. In addition to holding the line on long-winded politicians, the pair was quick to press for follow-ups to political platitudes as well as inject facts into the discussion. After PBS' Jim Lehrer lead off the debates with a nearly non-existent presence on the stage, the women journalists stood out for their ability to be tough and fair, while not overbearing.

Sandra Fluke

Probably the most unanticipated political "winner" of the year was Fluke; a Georgetown University law student who rocketed into the campaign cycle after Rush Limbaugh labeled her a "slut." Fluke earned the title from the conservative talk show host after Republicans refused to let her testify before a congressional panel discussing the importance (or lack thereof) of whether or not health insurance companies should be mandated to cover contraception. Fluke became the poster child of what Democrats labeled the GOP's "war on women" and garnered a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. She's continued to speak out on cable networks and could well end up capitalizing on her fame by running for office herself someday.

Check out the U.S. News picks for the biggest political losers of 2012.

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