Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Columns

December 29, 2010

The political winners and losers of 2010

Dec. 29, 2010 —     Frankfort – As we wind down 2010, let’s take a look at some who won and some who lost.

    Rand Paul was easily the biggest winner, coming from relative obscurity to upset the Republican establishment and then win a seat in the U.S. Senate. He became the national face of the TEA Party. He beat Trey Grayson by 23 points in the Republican Primary and Democrat Jack Conway by 12 in the general election.

    Republicans won big. They grabbed control of the U.S. House, picked up six seats in the U.S. Senate and captured state houses and governorships across the country. That’s important as re-districting looms and as the 2012 election approaches. In Kentucky, they picked up three seats in the state Senate, gaining a constitutional majority, and seven in the House, preventing Democrats from possessing one.

    On the Democratic side, state Auditor Crit Luallen was the big winner. She continues to win public praise for exposing wasteful spending and corruption. Democrats are begging her to run for Secretary of State in 2011. Too bad she and they don’t set their sights higher.

    Hal Rogers won his dream job as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. But the prize didn’t come in the best of times. In order to secure it, Rogers had to swear off earmarks. But he’ll still be in position to direct federal spending to Kentucky and his Fifth Congressional District.

    The TEA Party won big, backing Paul and exulting in his win and their hand in it. The ultimate measure of their victory will be determined in the coming year by actions in Congress, by Paul’s success or failure to push his agenda, and whether they are a force in the gubernatorial election.

    For every winner, of course, there is a loser. Conway not only lost the election, he lost stature with an ad questioning Paul’s religious beliefs. His campaign manager Mark Riddle got blamed for Conway's mistakes and lost as well in the Lexington mayoral race. Grayson lost political status, Passport lost its management team, and state Democratic Senators lost seats and power.

    Perhaps the biggest loser was the General Assembly. Gov. Steve Beshear abdicated his budget power to lawmakers in what Speaker Greg Stumbo called a “defining moment.” They squandered the opportunity, failing to pass a budget, incurring public disdain for having to pass one in special session. The public sees the budget as lawmakers’ first duty and special sessions as a waste of their money.

    Mitch McConnell both won and lost. He won big on the national stage, becoming the face of the opposition party. He unified his caucus to oppose all things Democratic and Obama. He can take considerable credit for Republican successes in the mid-term elections. He lost a bit of ground in the lame duck session, forcing Obama to swallow tax cut extensions for the rich, but watching Obama get almost everything else he wanted.

    But at home, McConnell saw Paul upset his candidate for the Senate and he seems to have taken a hit among some rank and file Republicans. Those voters preferred Paul, but more troubling for McConnell was the frequently expressed frustration that “We’re tired of people picking our candidates for us.” With some Republican voters, McConnell’s endorsement of Grayson actually appeared to hurt Grayson and help Paul.

    We’ll wait to assess wins and losses for Beshear and David Williams until next year. But say a prayer that 2011 is a winning year for Kentucky. Lord knows, she’s way over due.

    Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort, Ky. He may be contacted by email at rellis@cnhi.com.

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