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Best & Worst of Congress
Comments () | Published September 1, 2004

Members of Congress work hard on creating a positive image, so we usually know little about them that they don't want us to know.

But their aides know a lot--who's smart and who's dumb, who's gutsy and who's a blowhard.

Every election year we survey top Capitol Hill staff--administrative assistants, press secretaries, legislative directors, and chiefs of committee staffs--to get the lowdown. In return, we donate a dollar to a charity--Share Our Strength or the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs--for each respondent.

The results are often surprising--particularly when aides take shots at bigwigs in their own parties. Here are their picks for the best and worst among their bosses.

The Senate

BEST LEADER

1. Tom Daschle (D-SD)

2. Bill Frist (R-TN)

3. Tie: Trent Lott (R-MS), Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Daschle won all but a handful of the votes from Democratic aides. The three Republicans split the GOP vote.

WORST FOLLOWER

1. John McCain (R-AZ)

2. Zell Miller (D-GA)

Republicans won't forgive McCain his flirtation with joining Kerry's ticket. Dems zapped Miller, a speaker at the GOP convention.

WORKHORSE

1. Harry Reid (D-NV)

2. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Others getting votes: Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy, Oklahoma's Don Nickles, and Illinois' Dick Durbin.

SHOW HORSE

1. John McCain (R-AZ)

2. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

3. John Edwards (D-NC)

More than half of McCain's votes came from the GOP ranks. Schumer also took more friendly fire than enemy hits.

C-SPAN HAM

1. Robert Byrd (D-WV)

2. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

3. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Clean sweep by Democrats. McCain and Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum were top GOP vote-getters.

BRAINIEST

1. Bill Frist (R-TN)

2. Robert Byrd (D-WV)

3. Richard Lugar (R-IN)

A photo finish among the doctor, the orator, and the Rhodes scholar.

 

NO ROCKET SCIENTIST

1. Tie: Rick Santorum (R-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA)

2. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

3. Tie: George Allen (R-VA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

A crowded field--more than a third of the Senate got votes.

NO ALTAR BOY

1. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

2. John Breaux (D-LA)

They lapped the field. Top GOP vote-getters were McCain and Santorum.

BEST NEWCOMER

1. Norm Coleman (R-MN)

2. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

3. Tie: Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

Democrats spread their votes among Clinton, Arkansas' Mark Pryor, Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, and New Jersey's Jon Corzine.

WORST NEWCOMER

1. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

2. Norm Coleman (R-MN)

3. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

Most votes were partisan shots. Staffers also dissed Pryor, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

HOTTEST TEMPER

1. John McCain (R-AZ)

2. Ted Stevens (R-AK)

3. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

This is Stevens's seventh appearance on the hotheads list, McCain's and Mikulski's fourth.

FUNNIEST

1. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

2. Fritz Hollings (D-SC)

3. John McCain (D-AZ)

Hollings drew no Republican votes, and Roberts got scant Democratic support. Other contenders: Kennedy, Miller, and Montana's Conrad Burns.

MEANEST

1. Arlen Specter (R-PA)

2. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

3. Ted Stevens (R-AK)

Fourth appearance for all three.

BIGGEST WINDBAG

1. Robert Byrd (D-WV)

2. Joe Biden (D-DE)

3. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

Byrd's third straight, um, win.

JUST PLAIN NICE

1. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

2. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

3. Tie: Pat Roberts (R-KS), Michael Enzi (R-WY)

The mother of twins wins.

GUTSIEST

1. John McCain (R-AZ)

2. Zell Miller (D-GA)

3. James Jeffords (I-VT)

McCain's a bipartisan pick; renegade Democrat Miller got only GOP votes.

SPINELESS

1. Zell Miller (D-GA)

2. James Jeffords (I-VT)

Dems say Miller is a worm. Jeffords's defection still irks GOP.

BIGGEST BUSH WHACKER

1. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

2. John Kerry (D-MA)

Kennedy picked up twice the votes of Kerry. Dick Durbin was a distant third.

BIGGEST KERRY ATTACKER

1. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

2. Bill Frist (R-TN)

3. Zell Miller (D-GA)

Frist got solid Democratic support but few votes from within the party he leads. A big vote from Dem aides put Miller on.

LOOKS GOOD IN A BATHING SUIT

1. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

2. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

3. Evan Bayh (D-IN)

John Edwards, People magazine's sexiest politician, ran a close fourth. Murkowski and Nevada's John Ensign were the top Republican choices.

SHOULD STAY OFF THE BEACH

1. Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

2. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Kennedy doubled Mikulski's total to win the category for the third straight time.

BEST DRESSED

1. Gordon Smith (R-OR)

2. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

3. Tie: John Warner (R-VA), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)

Either Hatch or Smith has topped this list in every poll starting in 1998.

FASHION VICTIM

1. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

2. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO)

3. Ted Stevens (R-AK)

Finishing close behind: Clinton, Boxer, and Stabenow.

SENATOR I'D LIKE TO SEE AS PRESIDENT IN 2012

1. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

2. Bill Frist (R-TN)

3. John Edwards (D-NC)

Other vote-getters: Allen, McCain, Dole, and Lindsey Graham.

The House

BEST LEADER

1. Tom DeLay (R-TX)

2. Tie: Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

3. Dennis Hastert (R-IL)

Support mirrored party lines, though Hastert got Dem support.

WORST FOLLOWER

1. Ron Paul (R-TX)

Paul, a former Libertarian presidential candidate who marches to his own drum, was the runaway winner.

WORKHORSE

1. Bill Thomas (R-CA)

2. Tie: John Spratt (D-SC),

David Obey (D-WI)

Thomas takes home the first of his four blue ribbons.

SHOW HORSE

1. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)

2. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

3. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)

Jackson-Lee drew twice as many votes--from both parties--as Pelosi.

C-SPAN HAM

1. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)

2. Tom Tancredo (R-CO)

3. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)

Jackson-Lee wins a second gold medal for showboating.

BRAINIEST

1. Bill Thomas (R-CA)

2. Barney Frank (D-MA)

3. Chris Cox (R-CA)

Thomas is overwhelming choice of GOP, Frank of Dems.

NO ROCKET SCIENTIST

1. Tie: Duke Cunningham (R-CA), Katherine Harris (R-FL), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Karen McCarthy (D-MO), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)

Aides scattered votes over more than three dozen choices.

NO ALTAR BOY

1. Max Sandlin (D-TX)

2. Steve LaTourette (R-OH)

3. Jim Moran (D-VA)

Moran and LaTourette debut on the list.

BEST NEWCOMER

1. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD)

2. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL)

3. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

Herseth, a Georgetown law alum, won twice as many votes as Emanuel.

WORST NEWCOMER

1. Katherine Harris (R-FL)

2. Frank Ballance (D-NC)

3. Linda Sánchez (D-CA)

Dems took revenge on a star of 2000's Florida recount.

HOTTEST TEMPER

1. Bill Thomas (R-CA)

2. Jim Moran (D-VA)

3. Pete Stark (D-CA)

Thomas had double the votes of Moran.

FUNNIEST

1. Barney Frank (D-MA)

2. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)

3. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

Frank has been the funnyman nearly every year we've asked.

MEANEST

1. Bill Thomas (R-CA)

2. Tom DeLay (R-TX)

Almost all DeLay's votes were from Democrats.

BIGGEST WINDBAG

1. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)

2. David Obey (D-WI)

3. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ)

Hayworth and Obey combined can't match Jackson-Lee's winning total.

JUST PLAIN NICE

1. Walter Jones (R-NC)

2. Lois Capps (D-CA)

Capps, a former school nurse, topped Jones in 2002 voting.GUTSIEST

1. Chris Shays (R-CT)

2. Tom DeLay (R-TX)

Shays drew his support from across the aisle. DeLay did not.

SPINELESS

1. David Wu (D-OR)

2. Chris Shays (R-CT)

Two who buck their parties.

BIGGEST BUSH WHACKER

1. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

2. Jim McDermott (D-WA)

3. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

Pelosi and McDermott finished neck and neck.

BIGGEST KERRY ATTACKER

1. Tom DeLay (R-TX)

California's Duke Cunningham and Texas's Sam Johnson finished far behind.

LOOKS GOOD IN A BATHING SUIT

1. Mary Bono (R-CA)

2. Stephanie Herseth (D-SD)

Hollywood glamour edged out farm-girl freshness. Pelosi, runner-up in our 2002 poll, finished well back in the pack.

SHOULD STAY OFF

THE BEACH

1. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)

2. Henry Hyde (R-IL)

Republicans piled on Nadler; Hyde's critics came from both sides.

BEST DRESSED

1. David Dreier (R-CA)

A landslide. Dreier's natty attire helped him win favor with Bo Derek.

FASHION VICTIM

1. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

DeLauro polled five times as many votes as anyone else.

MEMBER I'D LIKE TO SEE AS PRESIDENT IN 2012

1. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN)

2. David Dreier (R-CA)

Nearly 50 members got votes. The most popular response: "No one."

Republicans think ZELL MILLER is a gutsy guy; fellow Democrats think he's a worm.

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