1. Marco Rubio « The Washington Independent
The former speaker of the Florida State House jumped into the 2010 race for U.S. Senate days before Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.), and more than a year before voters would actually go to the polls. For part of 2009, Crist’s camp successfully planted rumors that Rubio was bound to bow out of the race, possibly to run for an office not being sought by a well-funded incumbent governor. By the end of the year, the governor was tied in the polls with this youthful, handsome candidate who has received only the most glowing coverage: National Review has already portrayed him as the conservative answer to Barack Obama (“Yes HE Can” was the title of the magazine’s Rubio profile); CPAC booked Rubio to open its 2010 conference; and reporters curious about what “Tea Party” voters want head straight to Rubio for answers.