Another Year, Another Set of Nominations for the Best and the Worst …

Posted December 16, 2009 at 3:26pm

It’s another year down the drain, so I’m sure all Roll Call readers are clamoring for another one of those best/worst, winners/losers columns. Well, clamoring may be a little too strong.

[IMGCAP(1)]Anyway, though 2009 wasn’t a major election year, there were a few races and plenty of politics, so here goes …

Best Campaign

The nominees:

• Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.)

• Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.)

• Virginia Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell (R)

• Accenture’s Tiger Woods ad campaign

Both New York Democratic campaigns deserve plenty of credit, given the competitive nature of their districts, but McDonnell’s effort was remarkable, especially given recent GOP struggles in Virginia. McDonnell stayed focused on jobs and transportation, never allowing himself to get drawn into a lengthy battle over cultural issues. Looks like a clear win in this category for the Virginian.

Most Exciting Sports-Related Candidate Entering 2010

The nominees:

• Former NFL player Jay Riemersma (R)in Michigan

• Columbus Destroyers (Arena Football League) co-owner Jim Renacci (R) in Ohio

• Former Iowa State University wrestling coach Jim Gibbons (R) in Iowa

• World Wrestling Entertainment co-owner Linda McMahon (R) in Connecticut

• Wichita Wild (Indoor Football League) owner Wink Hartman (R) in Kansas

• San Diego Chargers offensive tackle Jon Runyan (R) in New Jersey

• Tiger Woods

Actually, Tiger Woods isn’t running for anything but cover. Indoor football is a made-up game and therefore doesn’t qualify as a sport, while pro wrestling is scripted entertainment, not sports. That leaves a college wrestler/coach and two professional football players worthy of consideration.

College wrestling is a big deal in Iowa, and Gibbons was head wrestling coach at Iowa State University for seven years. His team won the NCAA championship in 1987. During his undergraduate days, Gibbons was a three-time All-American. He won the NCAA championship in his weight class in 1981.

Riemersma played football at Michigan and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 7th round of the 1996 NFL draft. A tight end, he played six years for the Bills and two for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Runyan, also a product of the University of Michigan, was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL draft. He played with the Oilers (who later became the Tennessee Titans) until he was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2000. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2002.

Riemersma and Runyan played on the same college team and were in the same NFL draft, with the tight end going as the 244th pick and the offensive tackle being taken with the 109th pick. It isn’t close between the two pro football veterans; Runyan gets the nod between the two of them.

So is Runyan the most exciting sports-related candidate of 2010, or is it Gibbons? It’s a close call, but my winner is Runyan, mostly because the 6-foot-7, 330-pound lineman is still active, and I’ve watched Runyan on TV over the years.

Most Embarrassing Political Story

The nominees:

• South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), straying

• Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), straying

• Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), the ongoing saga

• Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), finances

• Tiger Woods, straying

I’m going to have to go with Sanford on this one, since it was so, so bizarre. Hiking on the Appalachian Trail? Argentina?

Most Over-Covered Story

The nominees:

• Sarah Palin, the book tour

• Nadya Suleman and her octuplets

• Oprah’s “retirement— two years from now

• Tiger Woods, straying

• Michael Jackson, R.I.P.

• “Jon & Kate Plus 8,— the saga continues

Any of these would be good choices as the most over-covered story of the year. I’m going for Michael Jackson, I think, because of the sheer magnitude of the coverage and the late performer’s rather odd life choices.

The Worst Campaign

The nominees:

• Virginia gubernatorial loser Creigh Deeds (D)

• Congressional loser Dede Scozzafava (R — sort of) in New York

• Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi (D) in New York

• Congressional loser Jim Tedisco (R) in New York

• Accenture’s Tiger Woods ad campaign

Tedisco and Deeds were unimpressive, but nothing compared to Scozzafava, who couldn’t raise any money and ultimately dropped out of the race. But as bad a fit as Scozzafava was for 23rd district Republicans, she was easily outpaced in my mind by Suozzi, a one-time rising star in New York Democratic politics, who lost re-election by 386 votes yet ended the race with a little more than $2 million in the bank. It’s hard to believe that spending even some of that leftover cash couldn’t have gotten Suozzi enough votes to win.

The Worst Decision

The nominees:

• New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) runs for re-election

• Phillies manager Charlie Manuel doesn’t start Cliff Lee in Game 4 of the World Series

• Republican County chairmen nominate Dede Scozzafava in the special election in New York’s 23rd district

• Kanye West disses Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards

• Roll Call continues to publish Rothenberg columns throughout the year

Thank goodness Scozzafava is nominated or else I might have to vote against myself.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.