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Best, Worst Candidates of 2010: Scott Brown, Martha Coakley

Who was the best candidate of 2010? Was it a write-in candidate in Alaska? A Tea Party hero in Florida? A governor with a shotgun in West Virginia? A Republican with a pickup truck in Massachusetts?

CBS News' politics team cast its votes and chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer announced the winners as part of the "Washington Unplugged" Politics Year in Review on Tuesday.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was chosen by the "Unplugged" academy -- comprised of correspondents, producers and CBS News political analysts -- as 2010's "best candidate."

Brown topped Tea Party hero Marco Rubio, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who lost the Republican nomination but won her Senate race as a write-in, for the "best" honor.

"No one heard of the Tea Party or thought much of them until Scott Brown came on the scene," senior political producer Rob Hendin explained. "He came out of nowhere and took the country by storm."

Brown defeated the Massachusetts Attorney General in a special Senate election for the late Ted Kennedy's seat. Democrat Martha Coakley lost the seat held by Kennedy for nearly 50 years -- making her Washington Unplugged's "worst candidate" of 2010.

"She was running as the heir apparent to the Ted Kennedy seat and she didn't see the Brown campaign coming," Hendin said of the "worst" winner.

Worst nominees included Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist in Florida, California governor candidate Meg Whitman, South Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Alvin Greene and Joe Miller in Alaska, who was defeated by write-in Murkowski in the general election.

The "Washington Unplugged" panel was torn on what the biggest political story of the year was.

The winners "go hand-in-hand," Hendin said. The panel chose the passage of health care reform and Republicans' big midterm wins as 2010's most significant political headlines.

"The president put so much political capital on the table and he worked so hard for it," Hendin said of healthcare reform. "It led to the GOP midterms. It changed the dynamic."

Schieffer suggested a new category - the "most physically harmful story of the year" - which he said would have to go to President Obama for the hit he took in a basketball game, splitting his lip.

The best and worst presidential moments of 2010 will be unveiled on Wednesday's "Washington Unplugged." Plus, who had the best and worst year in Washington? Find out what the CBS News political team thought of the year had by President Obama, incoming Speaker of the House Republican John Boehner and even former President Bill Clinton.

"Washington Unplugged" airs live daily at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBSNews.com.


Christine Delargy is an associate producer for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. For more of Washington Unplugged, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.