Top 5 Winners and 5 Losers in Historic 2010 Election

Why Sarah Palin won and Chris Matthews lost in yesterday's elections.

By + More

There were more winners and losers in Tuesday's elections than ever before, and that's not even counting those impacted by the Republican wave like President Obama's agenda. That's a huge loser. And even some winners were losers, like embattled Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank who won reelection but will lose his chairmanship of the influential House Financial Services Committee when the Republicans take control in January. So instead of a long, drawn out list, we've done some analysis and picked the five top winners and five top losers in the elections. [See a slide show of 5 winners and 5 losers in the election.]


1. New Hampshire Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte. She's a rare New England conservative who is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-death penalty, anti-stimulus, anti-cap and trade, and anti-healthcare reform. Senate GOP leaders are already calling her their "rising star."

2. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. None of his picks lost and the GOP gained seats in a year when several Republicans had decided to quit. While he didn't take control of the Senate, just a year ago the talk in Republican circles was about how the NRSC would be happy keeping it's 41 seats. There is some buzz about Cornyn being a potential 2012 presidential candidate. [See photos from the campaign trail.]

3. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. The possible 2012 presidential candidate headed the Republican Governor's Association in a year of historic gains. The GOP added 10 governors to its ranks, now totalling 28. Barbour campaigned furiously for his team, raised millions and also pushed to elect Republican legislatures that will have a role in the upcoming congressional redistricting effort. [See cartoons about the 2010 election.]

4. Sarah Palin. While unable to bring some notable Tea Party candidates like Delaware's Christine O'Donnell across the finish line, she proved to be a huge fund raising boon for candidates. She also succeeded in getting her team tons of media attention, so much that GOP officials are angry that the press spent far more time covering O'Donnell's uphill election campaign than winner Ayotte's. Many of the 47 candidates she endorsed won, though she didn't hit them all out of the park, most notably with Joe Miller in Alaska. [See photos of Sarah Palin and her family.]

5. Ohio Rep. John Boehner because he's the new House Speaker. Boehner said recently that he has always wanted the job and now he's got it and should have it for a while unless the GOP reverts to it's old spending ways and gets rejected in two years.


1. Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. Even after she got crushed, the chatty Tea Party candidate lashed out at the GOP establishment for not backing her enough, despite polls showing her losing big. Republicans in Washington are happy she won't be coming to the Senate and will make sure they have an alternative next time a Senate seat comes open.

2. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will hand over her speaker's gavel to Boehner in January. She played hardball to push through President Obama's agenda and it cost her team. There are reports that she might not seek to stay in leadership and will instead resign or retire after her two year term is up in 2012.

3. Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine. His party got whacked and the former Virginia governor was unable to even save three incumbent House Democratic members. He might not get a top cabinet post as some had rumored.

4. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, arguably the leader of the Tea Party movement in Washington. His Tea Party Express didn't do badly, but the group of Tea Party candidates coming to the Senate isn't as big as he wanted and the GOP leaders blame him for pushing weak candidates like O'Donnell and Sharron Angle who lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Still, there is talk he might run for president as the Tea Party representative. [Read 10 Things You Didn't Know About Sharron Angle.]

5. MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who blurted out some classic lines last night. He mocked House Tea Party "troubador" Rep. Michele Bachmann who ignored his line of questions to give her talking points. Matthews, always entertaining, asked her, "Are you hypnotized?," and later said she was "moronically looking directly at the camera..." .

  • See a gallery of Tea Party cartoons.
  • See a gallery of political caricatures.
  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.