Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)
He’s only in his first term, but Grayson’s smash-mouth partisan style and penchant for making provocative statements have already made him one of the most recognizable House Democrats. While he’s won a dedicated following among progressives, back home he still has some distance to go to secure a second term in his highly competitive seat.
Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.)
Davis, who is vying to become the first African-American governor in the Deep South since Reconstruction, has an amazingly delicate balancing act in front of him. First he must win over skeptics in the Alabama Democratic establishment to capture the party nomination in the June primary. But he must do it without compromising his ability to compete as a black candidate in a conservative state where President Obama and the national Democratic agenda are highly unpopular. If Davis manages the feat, he’ll have rewritten all the rules of Southern politics.
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.)
The little-known and quirky Republican, whose second tour of House duty has been marked by frequent departures from conservative orthodoxy, is in jeopardy of being ousted from his seat in South Carolina’s June primary. If he loses, chances are high that it will rekindle—or advance—the narrative about a GOP civil war. And that’s not what Republicans want to be talking about five months out from the midterm election.
Maine State Senate President Libby Mitchell (D)
The only woman ever to have served as both a state House Speaker and a state Senate president, Mitchell is now reaching for the trifecta with her 2010 bid to be governor. She’s currently the Democratic frontrunner in a crowded field for the open seat; if she wins, women would hold three of the four seats in Maine’s congressional delegation and the governorship.
Marco Rubio (R)
Rubio, a former state House Speaker, has managed to turn the GOP primary for Florida’s open Senate seat from a blowout to a barnburner. In the process of challenging Republican Gov. Charlie Crist—and the national GOP establishment—the youthful Cuban-American has emerged as a favorite of national conservatives and stoked the debate over the direction of the party.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)
After presiding over a hugely successful 2008 election cycle as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, Van Hollen must now figure out how to limit the party’s losses in what’s likely to be a tough midterm election. The extent to which he holds down the damage will have a significant effect on his House leadership trajectory.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.)
He hasn’t even been sworn into office yet, but as a result of his runaway November victory McDonnell is already being touted as one of the GOP’s leading lights and a model for how Republican candidates can win in competitive states.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.)
With a House ethics committee investigation hanging over him, the powerful Ways and Means Committee chairman could emerge as a serious election-year headache for Democratic leadership—and for vulnerable junior members of the caucus, especially if the GOP gets traction with its message that Rangel is symptomatic of a majority that has been corrupted by its power.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)
The only Hispanic member of an elected leadership team where the three top Democrats are all at least 69 years old, Becerra, 51, appears to have a bright future in the House. His moves on the recently-introduced immigration reform bill could help determine just how bright.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
DeMint is carving out a niche in the Senate as a conservative’s conservative, one who is willing to step on toes on either side of the aisle as he creates his own alternate power base. He is plugged into the tea party movement and, though he has his own re-election to worry about this year, has nevertheless become a patron of conservative candidates across the country looking to challenge candidates favored by the Republican establishment.
Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.)
Patrick’s popularity has plummeted after missteps and a devastating budget crisis, and he now faces the prospect of a tough three-way race for re-election to a second term. In ways both large and small, however, the White House has signaled that it has no intent of letting Patrick, the president’s friend and an early supporter, go down without a fight.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D)
Yes, it’s that Jerry Brown—the former California governor who served two terms beginning in the mid-1970s and made three failed bids for the White House. Nearly 40 years after his first statewide win, Brown is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
Still in his first term and warmly regarded on the right for his epic 2004 victory over former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Thune is beginning to draw notice from his colleagues and other veteran Republicans as an articulate conservative who can effectively hammer the Democratic majority with a smile on his face. He's likely to face only nominal opposition in his re-election this fall and could surface as a presidential contender from the GOP’s establishment wing.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (D)
The son of the vice president, Biden’s decision on whether or not to run for Delaware’s open Senate seat could affect the upper chamber’s balance of power. If he decides against challenging GOP Rep. Mike Castle, his father’s old seat is almost certain to fall into Republican hands.
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)
Though Dodd remains a key legislative player, the situation back home is dire: The non-partisan Cook Political Report ranks the five-term Democrat’s seat as “lean Republican,” making his seat, at the moment, the single best pickup opportunity out of all the 37 Senate seats that are up for election in 2010.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
Sessions, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has the wind at his back going into the 2010 midterm elections. But he still has a tough year ahead of him. He must harness the energy of grassroots conservative populists—no easy feat since many will be frustrated and disappointed after the primary season is over—and figure out a way to finance GOP incumbents and challengers in an election year when the NRCC figures to be at a considerable financial disadvantage.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
The polling data out of Nevada is grim, and his job shepherding the Democratic agenda through the Senate links his fate to the national political environment. But almost no one is ready to count out Reid in his bid for a fifth term because it’s not clear yet that the GOP has a challenger capable of taking him down and Reid will have more than enough money to remind voters of his clout.
Sarah Palin (R)
Virtually any Republican mentioned as a 2012 presidential contender warrants watching. But few have the star power or ability to drive headlines like the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee—and none of them will be in as high demand on the 2010 campaign trail as Palin.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)
If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election remains in jeopardy, attention will inevitably drift—or be pulled—in Schumer’s direction. His role in building the party’s 60-seat Senate supermajority and his emergence as a dominant political force in New York and Washington makes Schumer-as-majority-leader speculation unavoidable, even with the formidable presence of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.)
The only Southern Senate Democratic incumbent who is up for re-election this year, Lincoln has the uniquely difficult challenge of running in a state where John McCain crushed Barack Obama by 20 points in 2008. If she defies the polls—which show her seat is in jeopardy—and wins a third term, Democratic statewide candidates across the South will look to her campaign for lessons.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
For much of the last year, Cornyn’s job as National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman has been an unpleasant one, marked by GOP retirements in swing states and sharp criticism from grassroots conservatives who are unhappy with the NRSC’s direction. But an election cycle that once looked hostile to the GOP has suddenly taken a turn for the better and Cornyn is poised to claim a lion’s share of the credit if the GOP ends up whittling down the 60-seat Democratic Senate majority.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a key progressive voice, Lee is increasingly occupying the spotlight on a range of issues—including Afghanistan and the public option—that seem to conflict with White House interests. In an election year where many Democrats are preaching caution and legislative timidity, Lee may find the environment even more frustrating.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
While there’s no scandal or single overarching issue dogging the first-term GOP senator, Burr has been plagued by stubbornly weak poll ratings in a competitive Southern state. As such, Burr makes for a good 2010 bellwether. If the national environment is as promising as Republican strategists think, then Burr shouldn’t have much trouble winning a second term.
Rod Blagojevich (D)
The corruption trial of the impeached former Democratic governor of Illinois—just in time to detonate in the middle of the state’s heated contests for governor and Senate. Already, the race for Barack Obama’s old Senate seat is considered a toss-up in this blue state, a predicament that can be traced directly to Blagojevich.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D)
Cuomo has been coy about his intentions but polls show he’d easily defeat wounded Gov. David Paterson in a Democratic primary. If he does challenge the state’s first African American governor, the contest will be a messy one: many black leaders haven’t forgotten Cuomo’s bruising 2002 primary campaign against Carl McCall, the state comptroller who at the time was vying to become New York’s first African-American governor.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Top 25 Politicians to watch in 2010