Palin, Bachmann, Scarborough, and Others We Watched in 2010

Looking back at 10 to watch

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Last year at this time, I wrote a new year’s column, “10 Republicans to Watch in 2010.” Let’s take a look at those 10 and see how I did.

Overall, most of them did something worth watching in 2010:

[See 2010: The Year in Cartoons.]

Meg Whitman: At the time I wrote the piece, she hadn’t even won the GOP primary. But after spending $140 million of her own money, she was unable to defeat former Gov. Jerry Brown in the California governor’s race, one of the most widely watched contests of the year.

Mitch Daniels: “Indiana stayed in the black when everybody else went broke” this year, Daniels recently told Fox News, pointing out that in 2010, many other states were forced to raise taxes, while Indiana still has more money in reserve. Although the Hoosier State’s unemployment rate is still high, Daniels says they’ve created new jobs at two or three times the national rate. At year end, there was speculation that Daniels will run for president in 2012. [See editorial cartoons about the economy.]

Bob McDonnell: Virginia’s new governor closed a $4 billion budget deficit in his first year without raising taxes, ending the year with a surplus--something he considers his biggest accomplishment. Next project: increasing access and cutting costs for higher education. “We’ll be plenty bold this session” (which starts January 12), he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Kay Bailey Hutchison: She lost in the Republican primary to Rick Perry for the Texas governor’s office in a widely anticipated race, but remains as the most senior Republican woman in the U.S. Senate and as the senior senator from Texas.

Joe Scarborough: The former Florida congressman and MSNBC host of Morning Joe seemed to enjoy all the speculation this year that he’ll be running for president, possibly on a ticket with independent mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg. He’s also been very active with the launch of NoLabels.org, a bipartisan political group.

Haley Barbour: Towards the end of the year, the two-term Mississippi governor made comments in an interview about growing up in the South in the 1960s that the NAACP deemed “insensitive,” but after he granted a suspended sentence for medical reasons to two sisters who had been held for years for armed robbery, the NAACP now calls him a “shining example” for other governors. The conventional wisdom is that he’ll be running for president in 2012.

Michele Bachman: She dropped out of the race for chair of the House Republican conference after the midterm elections, and was passed over for a spot on the House Ways and Means Committee, despite the backing of Tea Party supporters. Last year I asked, “Can she turn it around and be taken more seriously in 2010 by Washington types?” We’re still waiting to see.

Michael Steele: 2010 was filled with stories about Steele, and speculation as to whether he’d run for re-election--but his silence was finally broken after a slew of challengers came forward to run for his job. With the RNC meeting at which a new leader will be elected scheduled for January, he’ll continue to stay in the news, at least for the next month or so.

Sarah Palin: Palin continued to be one of the most polarizing figures in American politics. From her second book, America by Heart, to her Sarah Palin’s Alaska reality show to her frequent appearances on Fox News to her daughter’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars, Palin has kept herself front and center. The only question is whether she’ll run for president and when she’ll make her decision known. I predict she’ll play it out as long as she can. [See photos of Palin and her family.]

Finally, there was only one disappointment on my list last year: Jenny Sanford. The wife of the former governor of South Carolina has disappeared from public view, even after her book Staying True was published. In 2010, her divorce became final and she’s now raising the couple’s four sons. Earlier in the year, there was speculation that she’d enter politics herself, but that seems to have fizzled. Oh well.

For this year’s list of 11 people--this time from both sides of the aisle--to watch in 2011, see my column next week. I’ll also be on NPR’s Tell Me More this week to help give their year-end political awards, the first annual “Tell Me’s.”

Happy New Year to all our readers and thanks for a great 2010 on Thomas Jefferson Street!

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