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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.

My last column included awards for a number of 2012 campaign and candidate categories, including the luckiest candidate and the biggest upset. But those only scratched the surface in an election year during which candidate quality mattered a great deal. Part II of my guide of the best and worst of the 2012 election cycle features some usual and a few more unusual categories.

Favorite Candidate Interviews of 2012

I had a number of enjoyable candidate interviews this cycle, with both candidates who won and those who didn’t. My list certainly includes Hayden Rogers, a former chief of staff for retiring Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., who would have won if he had been running in 1978, not 2012. But times and the district’s makeup have changed, and Rogers’ party identification was enough to sink him in this western North Carolina district.

Incoming Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., proved to be an unapologetic conservative who understands that the nature of a legislative body means give and take, not “my way or the highway.” When I asked him whether he could compromise on big issues like the debt ceiling, he told me that, as a tax attorney, he never, ever got everything that he wanted.

I also really liked California Democrat Scott Peters and Ohio Democrat Joyce Beatty, both of whom got elected, and Arizona Republican Kirk Adams, who didn’t even get out of his primary. And I’d give high marks to New York GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who won a second term, and to Rep.-elect Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is only at the beginning of what is likely to be a long career.

But two candidates truly stand out, and I’ll make them co-winners of this category: Florida Democrat Al Lawson and Indiana Republican Susan W. Brooks.

Though Lawson lost (and never really had a chance, given the district he ran in), I found him to be a likable, sincere person with a great personal story and a wonderful personality. If Brooks, who was a prosecutor and college administrator before winning last month, doesn’t rise quickly in GOP House ranks, party movers and shakers are nuts. She’s personable, articulate and has a good head on her shoulders — exactly what the Republican Party needs.

Least Favorite Candidate Interviews of 2012

OK, so not every candidate interview is a good one. Maryland Democrat Rob Garagiola, Florida Republican Connie Mack and Arizona Republican Jesse Kelly interviewed far worse than any other candidates this cycle, so they share this award.

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