Campaign season is a lot like high school. It’s mostly embarrassing, but if you’re lucky, you get an award at the end. With Election Day finally here, The Daily Beast would like to hand out a few superlatives to the members of the campaign Class of 2010. Congratulations to all our winners.
Best Ballot Meltdown
While hanging chads and Katherine Harris haunt like fever dreams in the electoral imagination, 2010 didn’t fail to deliver its own stunning ballot SNAFU. In Chicago, a city known for its dirty tricks, a gubernatorial candidate named Rich Whitney saw his name recorded as “Rich Whitey” on the city’s electronic voting machines. Making matters worse, half of the 23 wards where the typo was made are majority African-American.
Best Facial Hair
Martin van Buren Prize: Few candidates with so little potential received so much attention. We’d like to think that all the hubbub around Jimmy McMillan of The Rent is Too Damn High Party is thanks to his estimable chinscaping skills. While his populist rhetoric recalled no one so much as the 19th Century rabble-rouser William Jennings Bryan, from the neck up McMillan clearly takes his cues from America’s eighth president.
Don Johnson Prize: Like the Miami Vice hero, Alaska’s Joe Miller has proven that he’s comfortable around a pair of handcuffs. And one glimpse at the Tea Party star’s carefully maintained beard conjures South Beach and white suits.
Best Campaign Assault Weapon
Sultan of Swat Division: Swinging gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino who promised New York voters, “I’m taking a baseball bat to Albany with me.”
Babe the Blue Ox Division: Flannel-clad former reality television star and lumberjack competitor Sean Duffy who said he would “bring the ax to Washington.”
Dick Cheney Division: Guns were the must-have accessory in campaigns this year—from Dale Peterson’s tough-talking ad in Alabama to Pamela Gorman’s number about being “ a pretty fair shot” in Arizona—but the winning marksman was Joe Manchin, a Democratic candidate who promised to gun down his party’s own legislative agenda, including cap-and-trade.
Best Homophobic Uncle
Colorado’s Ken Buck made a run for the win when he told Meet the Press that being gay is like being an alcoholic. But no one could bully Carl Paladino, New York’s paladin of insensitivity, who happens to have a gay nephew working on his campaign staff and yet said people were “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful choice.”
Best Weekend Attire
President Obama has been mocked by the cool crowd for wearing some unflattering dad jeans and unsightly mandals. But his fashion choices aren’t likely to hurt at the polls. Rich Iott’s, on the other hand, could prove fatal. Iott fancies himself a student of history and the way he expresses his love for the past is by dressing up in a German Waffen SS uniform and running around in Nazi re-enactments.
Best Belly Flop by an Experienced Diver
Harold Ford is a born campaigner. Part of his stump speech usually involves a tale of his very early days campaigning for his father, who was elected to the House of Representatives before young Harold’s fifth birthday. And yet his brief flirtation with a campaign against New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand—pedicures, choppering onto Staten Island—tanked.
Best Barnyard Epithet
Morning Joe Scarborough may have delivered the verdict that Sharron Angle was a “ jackass”, but that was second best barnyard epithet to emerge out of Nevada’s Senate race. The presumptive Republican winner Sue Lowden cursed her own campaign by suggesting that going back to the barter system was one way to solve our health care problems. "You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house," she said. "I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system." A few weeks later, her campaign was cooked.
Best Rose Mary Woods Moment
Sometimes a politician is defined by what she does not say. During the one and only debate in Arizona’s gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Jan Brewer made like Richard Nixon’s secretary erasing her own mental tape. For a good 15 seconds, she simply had no words to describe her achievements as her state’s top officeholder. For her critics, it was a fitting performance.
Best Resume Lies
A fib here, a fib there, soon you’re talking about some real fabricating. This is a group award because it’s tough to say whose record-tweaking proved the most fatal. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was the highest-profile fibber—stretching the nature of military service during the Vietnam War—yet he may survive the self-inflicted wound. Same thing for Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, who exaggerated the nature of action he faced in Iraq and falsely claimed that he received the “Navy Intelligence Office of the Year.” In Alaska, Senate candidate Joe Miller saw his standings in the polls drop at the same time as it was revealed that he lied to his employer about using public office computers for political purposes. Dan Maes, the Republican nominee for Colorado governor, shot himself in the foot when he claimed that he went undercover for the Kansas Bureau of Investigations when he had, in fact, not.
Best War Correspondents
It got ugly out there for members of the Fourth Estate. Two legmen deserve special commendation for reporting under fire. Most recently, the Alaskan reporter Tony Hopfinger found himself in a pair of handcuffs after getting too close to candidate Joe Miller. But Miller is a lightweight compared to Carl Paladino, the campaign season’s real heavy. When confronted by New York Post reporter Fred Dicker about Paladino’s allegations that Andrew Cuomo had stepped out on his former wife, Paladino unloaded. Paladino, angry at the Post’s coverage of his 10-year-old daughter, told Dicker, “I’m going to take you out.” In case Paladino’s feelings weren’t yet clear, campaign manager Michael Caputo added, “Fred, you’re out of line, you’re off the Christmas card list.”
Best Flip Flop
Colorado’s Dan Maes isn’t the only politico working on some undercover experience. After Christine O’Donnell’s victory in the Delaware Republican primary, Karl Rove pretended to be a reasonable Republican when he told Sean Hannity, “I’ve met her. I wasn’t frankly impressed with her abilities as a candidate…There were a lot of nutty things she has been saying that don’t add up.” After being taken to the woodshed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, Rove ditched his reasonable stance return to the fold, saying he all was for O’Donnell. Never misunderestimate Turd Blossom. Soon enough, he was back with the friendly fire, telling foreign papers that the Tea Party was “unsophisticated” and that Palin was proving herself to be unserious by doing reality television.
Samuel P. Jacobs is a staff reporter at The Daily Beast. He has also written for The Boston Globe, The New York Observer, and The New Republic Online.