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Posted at 11:33 AM ET, 12/13/2010

The Fix's top 10 political moments of 2010

By Aaron Blake

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As the lame duck session winds to an end and the holidays rapidly approach, we thought it appropriate to look back on the 2010 election and pick out 10 moments from the past year -- moments that defined the election, will have lasting effects, or were just plain interesting.

Obviously there were WAY more than 10 of these moments. What did we miss? The comments section awaits below.

Jan. 19 -- Scott Brown wins Ted Kennedy's Senate seat

A little-known Republican state senator from Massachusetts did the unthinkable: take that seat that had just been vacated by a member of the legendary Kennedy family in the bluest state in the union. In doing do, Brown robbed Democrats of their 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority and, it appeared at the time, their ability to pass their much-hyped health care package. They wound up passing it anyways (thanks to some creative maneuvering), but Brown's win over state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) remains the biggest political upset of 2010 -- and one of the biggest upsets in modern political memory.

Feb. 15 -- Sen. Evan Bayh retires

Perhaps even more than Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) retirement, the Indiana Democrat's exit caught nearly everyone off-guard and typified the tough campaign ahead for his party. The former governor is a popular figure in Indiana and is seen as someone with a bright future. If even Bayh saw the warning signs ahead, it surely didn't bode well for other Democrats in 2010.

Mar. 8 -- Rep. Eric Massa resigns

As political scandals go, the New York Democrat's qualifies as one of the most bizarre. First, Massa announced that he would not seek reelection because his cancer had returned. Then, reports came out that the House ethics committee had been investigating him for sexual misconduct following a complaint from a member of his staff. What followed was a series of revelations that were interesting -- to say the least. Massa acknowledged using "salty language" with staff and saying, in a very strange performance on Fox News's Glenn Beck show, that he engaged in tickle fights with them as well. (and, no, we never thought we would write that sentence in this blog. Ever.) Massa also claimed that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel scolded him while both men were naked in a community shower and that Democrats orchestrated the whole thing because Massa wouldn't support the health care bill. Massa's old seat was easily won by a Republican last month.

Mar. 23 -- Joe Biden calls health care a BFD

Vice President Biden christened the just-passed health care bill with some more "salty" language, whispering to President Obama at a news conference that the passage of the landmark legislation was a "big f***ing deal." (The VP didn't know, of course, that microphones had picked up the exchange.) It was also, of course, a big deal to many House Democrats, who had a hard time explaining their votes in favor of the bill to constituents who viewed it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Perhaps more than any other vote, the health care bill epitomized a Democratic Congress that succeeded in passing major legislation but paid a big political price for it on Election Day.

April 29 -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist switches parties

Crist, in the midst of an increasingly doomed GOP Senate primary fight with former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, decided he would run for Senate as an independent instead. Crist's decision and Rubio's ascendancy set the stage for a very tough cycle for establishment Republicans in contested primaries. And after Rubio drubbed Crist on Election Day, it brought to an apparent end the political career of a man previously pegged for president or vice president. Has any non-scandal plagued politician fallen faster and harder than Charlie Crist?


Aug. 24 -- Joe Miller beats Sen. Lisa Murkowski, momentarily

Three senators up for reelection in 2010 lost their parties' nominations, but no defeat was more surprising than Murkowski's loss to underfunded, Sarah Palin-backed tea party candidate Joe Miller in Alaska. Miller became the Republican nominee and quickly won the support of the national Republican Party. But, a series of revelations about his past and a series of high-profile slipups including an arrest of a reporter by his private security detail made Miller deeply unpopular heading into Election Day, when Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate. With his ongoing court challenge seemingly doomed, Miller is set to become only the second major-party nominee in history to lose a Senate campaign to a write-in candidate. More than that, though, he represents the kind of not-ready-for-primetime candidates the tea party movement churned out in Senate races across the country. And almost all of them failed.

Sept. 20 -- Velma Hart confronts President Obama

The scene couldn't have been more perfect for Republicans. An African American woman, the chief financial officer of AmVets, voiced her weariness from constantly standing up for him. "I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now," Hart said at a town hall event set up by the White House. Her comment was telling: the Democratic base that delivered Obama's victory in 2008 didn't show up in the same numbers on Election Day, and now Obama is dealing with a revolt by liberals over a tax cut deal he cut with Republicans. What's more, Hart has since lost her job.

Oct. 4 -- Christine O'Donnell debuts her "I am Not a Witch" ad

More than any other ad from this election cycle, the Delaware GOP Senate candidate's first ad will remain in our collective memories for years to come. When your first message in a general election is focused on reassuring people that you are not a sorcerer, you probably have some issues (Tape had surfaced of O'Donnell saying during a TV appearance in the 1990s that she had "dabbled in withcraft"). The ad was lampooned to no end -- even spoofed on Saturday Night Live. After pulling a shocking upset of Rep. Mike Castle in the primary, O'Donnell's campaign went nowhere. But it won't soon be forgotten.

Nov. 2 -- Sen. Harry Reid defeats Sharron Angle

The Senate majority leader's victory paved that way for Democrats to keep the Senate, even as they endured a drubbing in the House. Reid came into the race deeply unpopular and in need of a miracle. He got it, in the form of tea partier Angle as the GOP nominee, and he went on to a surprisingly comfortable six-point victory in the most closely watched and expensive Senate campaign in the country. Democrats also pulled out tight races in three other western states -- California, Colorado and Washington -- to maintain control of the all-important Senate. While Republicans taking over the House was more than notable, the real question on Election Day was whether the Senate would fall. It did not.

Nov. 5 -- Nancy Pelosi announces run for minority leader

Her part chastened in the 2010 election, the dethroned House speaker was expected, as other ousted speakers had done, to fade quietly into the background. The question, it seemed, was whether she would even serve out the term she had just won in her reelection campaign. Then Pelosi stunned the political world, saying she would run for minority leader in the 112th Congress. After a healthy dose of hesitation from the party rank and file, she succeeded. And now Democrats are stuck with their unpopular leader, for good or ill.

By Aaron Blake  | December 13, 2010; 11:33 AM ET
Categories:  House, Senate  
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