Rep. Kristi Noem...With the arrival of scores of Tea Party Republicans, not to mention a handful of Mama Grizzlies, Palin will have plenty of new friends in the nation’s capital. Noem shares much of Palin’s hinterlands charisma. The 38-year-old mother is a rancher and hunter; she’s also a savvy fundraiser, pulling in more than any other Republican challenger in the country. Even before taking office, Noem was tapped to give a weekly address for the Republicans. A party looking for new (and OK, attractive) faces has scored a big one in Noem’s election.
(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
Rep. Nancy Pelos...The rise of young Republicans like Noem and Scott was supposed to signal the fall of Nancy Pelosi. As soon as Election Night, the whispering began that the once powerful speaker would sneak out of Washington by Christmas, leaving chastened Democrats to fend for themselves. “People are very, very concerned that she won’t gracefully step aside,” one House insider told The Daily Beast. Well, those people had good reason to be concerned. Pelosi is not stepping aside. She’s even staying in the leadership. Now we’ll get to see how she fares without the speaker’s gavel, whether she’ll hold a Boehner-esque hard line against the GOP or show some talent for getting Democrats to the table.
(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)
Rahm Emanuel, Il...Pelosi is not the only Democrat changing roles this year. Emanuel gave up his White House gig as chief of staff to run for mayor of Chicago. The election isn’t taking place until Feb. 22, and in the meantime, the former D.C. macher has transformed himself into city retail politician. His campaign hit an early speed bump when opponents questioned whether he met residency requirements. Emanuel won that challenge. Winning the election by overcoming Chicago’s famously brutal politics may be the easiest part for Emanuel. He would follow Richard M. Daley, a City Hall legend who was reelected six times.
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Sen. Joseph Lieb...Everyone will be keeping a close eye on the independent and his relationship with home-state Democrats. Lieberman’s vigorous support for ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has led some to wonder whether he is trying to make amends with Connecticut Democrats who voted for his primary opponent in 2006. On the right, Linda McMahon has signaled that she’s not tired of running for public office. In Washington, Lieberman has found himself to be the most popular lunchmate, as Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell compete for his affection. For now, Lieberman seems most comfortable playing footsie with the Democrats.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Rep. Eric Cantor...The Democrats aren’t the only ones who risk being torn asunder in 2011. There will be plenty of talk about whether John Boehner can contain the Tea Party wing of his party. Even before the session’s start, plans to expand the federal government’s debt ceiling are giving the future speaker a headache. Who might benefit from a back-bench revolt? Eric Cantor, Boehner’s No. 2. The 47-year-old Virginian has assiduously created an identity for himself as face of the new Republican guard. The last Republican revolution led to an intraparty putsch. Cantor could be the one left standing if a fight breaks out.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
Rep Darrell Issa...Washington has a new sheriff. Issa will chair the House Oversight Committee, with the power to instigate investigations against the White House and anyone else who the runs afoul of the 57-year-old Californian. Issa promises a busy year: He’s already announced that he’d like 280 hearings in 2011. During the first two years of the Obama administration, Issa fired off scores of letters to the Democrats, demanding investigations and asking questions about the White House’s behavior. (He’s called Obama, “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”) “We’ll get a lot more answers to our questions in the majority than the minority,” he told The Daily Beast. “How acrimonious that gets is really up to them.”