From NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
Following our Top 10 list of the decade's best statewide races, today we look at the decade's Top 10 political downfalls. What did we get right? What did we get wrong? We'd love your thoughts...
1. John Edwards: No American politician has fallen so far, so fast. This former vice-presidential nominee and top-tier presidential candidate became a political pariah after the revelation of his affair -- as his wife, Elizabeth, was battling cancer. The upcoming publication of a book by an Edwards aide who at one time admitted to fathering the child of Edwards' mistress will only rekindle the story.
2. George Allen: It took one word -- "Macaca" -- plus a poor initial response to the controversy that helped transform Allen from a 2008 presidential front-runner to an ex-senator.
3. Mark Sanford: The Republican South Carolina governor, also considered a possible presidential candidate (for 2012), saw his political career come tumbling down after the revelation of (1) his affair with an Argentine woman, and (2) various ethics troubles. Although he appears to have survived efforts to impeach him from office, his political future hardly looks bright. The words "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" will live in infamy.
4. Tom DeLay: Arguably the most powerful Republican in the House stepped down from his leadership post -- and then left Congress -- after the Abramoff scandals and his indictment in Texas (on political money-laundering charges). He then reappeared on … "Dancing with the Stars." (He bowed out with foot fractures.) Worth noting: DeLay is still under indictment in Texas.
5. Rod Blagojevich: What can you say about Blago? He gave us more post-Election 2008 news than anyone could have thought possible. It was a fast and far fall -- rising from congressman and governor, and then came his indictment on federal corruption charges in 2009. We'll always remember (unfortunately) his wild news conferences (including quoting Kipling), his Elvis impersonations, and not being allowed (by court order) to participate in the reality show, "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here." Nothing stopped his wife, however, from taking part.
A clip is below:
6. Jim McGreevey: The first-term, married-with-kids Democratic governor of New Jersey resigned from office in 2004 after admitting that he was having an affair with a man. In one of the most stunning political news conferences ever, McGreevey -- with his now ex-wife by his side -- declared, "My truth is I am a gay American."
7. Eliot Spitzer: In another sex scandal, New York Gov. Spitzer -- who earned a reputation as a tough-on-crime attorney general and was a rising star in the Democratic Party -- admitted to having sex with high-priced prostitutes. He resigned from office.
8. Joe Lieberman: Unlike most on this list, Lieberman didn't tumble due to a sex or ethics scandal. Rather, he made it because he started out the decade as Democrats' vice-presidential nominee. He ends it as an independent -- and persona non grata with his former party.
9. Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani makes the list for this reason alone: He went from "America's Mayor" to winning just ONE delegate in the GOP presidential primaries -- after raising and spending MILLIONS on his presidential bid.
10. Larry Craig: Perhaps the strangest bathroom incident in the history of American politics -- Idaho Sen. Larry Craig playing footsy under the stalls with an undercover police officer who was conducting a gay-sex sting in the Minneapolis airport -- led to Craig's decision not to run for another Senate term. But he didn't resign immediately, denied any wrongdoing, and even tried to rescind his earlier guilty plea.
Honorable mention: Bob Ney, Mark Foley, Arnold Schwarzenegger, William Jefferson, Rick Santorum, Tom Daschle, John Ensign (Hat tip: First Read commenter Ron, Indiana... how could we have left off Ensign!), Jon Corzine (He's another we, for no reason, left off the list. But he AT LEAST deserves an honorable mention.)