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The Best and Worst of the 2012 Campaigns, Part II

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin, is tied for worst hair of the cycle, Rothenberg writes.

Garagiola, who I believe is still my state senator, came off as arrogant and smug. Those two words also describe outgoing Congressman Mack, who seemed to have a chip on his shoulder even before we shook hands. And Kelly was the least cooperative candidate I’ve ever met, refusing even to reflect on why he had lost his previous congressional race.

Worst Hair of the Cycle

The nominees:

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson

Stuart Rothenberg

Different problems, all involving hair or the lack of it. I have to disqualify myself from voting on this one. Let’s call it a four-way photo finish.

Most Overhyped Candidate of 2012

House and Senate campaign committees and political reporters tend to fall in love with some candidates who actually don’t live up to their billing. This cycle, the most obvious examples include California Republican wunderkind Ricky Gill, who lost by 9 points to Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney; Illinois Republican Jason Plummer, who didn’t come close to picking up an open seat Republicans assumed was theirs; and Arizona Senate nominee Richard Carmona, the only Democrat to come up short in a tossup Senate race.

But this year’s winner of the “Kay Barnes Overhyped Candidate Award” is Christie Vilsack, wife of Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor and current secretary of Agriculture. She drew just 45 percent of the vote against Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King.

Democrats made Vilsack’s challenge to the conservative King a cause célèbre, but she really didn’t get close. Maybe district voters had the same impression of her that I did when I wrote about her “rope-a-dope strategy on big, ideological issues” in my Oct. 28, 2011, column, “Think You Can Be a Political Handicapper?”

Best Name of an Incoming House Freshman

The runners-up:

Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.

Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.

OK, so those are all good names. In a normal year, Yoho would have been a slam dunk. But this year’s clear and convincing winner for best name of an incoming freshman is Beto O’Rourke.

Best Campaign by Someone Named Hernandez

The nominees:

Anthony J. Hernandez, R-Minn.

David R. Hernandez, R-Calif.

John S. Hernandez, D-Calif.

Jose M. Hernandez, D-Calif.

This was a tough year for candidates named Hernandez. All four lost, though at least former astronaut Jose ran a real campaign and lost by only a few points. By process of elimination, he is the “winner.” He’s already being mentioned as a possible candidate again in 2014.

Comeback Candidate of the Year

There is something appealing about a politician who loses or retires into obscurity and yet has the fortitude and tenacity to mount a comeback effort. It could be a never-say-die attitude or, possibly, simply a refusal to take no for an answer.

This year, there is a long list of winners who lost their previous races, including New Hampshire Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, New York Democrat Dan Maffei, Nevada Democrat Dina Titus, Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick and others.

But to win this category, a mere comeback isn’t enough. It has to be something special. So the co-winners are Texas Republican Steve Stockman and Minnesota Democrat Richard Nolan.

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