Without a question, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was the biggest loser in politics of 2023 despite fierce competition. Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and George Santos are the worst political losers of 2023.
Introduction: Who Was 2023’s Biggest Loser in Politics?
It’s hard to identify any clear political winners for 2023 in a year without a national election during a politically unstable period like ours. Nonetheless, some clear losers may be found. This is a very partial and highly subjective ranking of politicians that had a truly awful year, frequently after having great expectations. They are losers in the opposite order.
Glenn Youngkin: Time is running out for this establishment favourite.
Youngkin leaves Virginia’s blue state as governor of the red party, just as he started it in 2023. However, as he closes up his second year in office, the authority that comes with leading the only state that prohibits repeated terms as governor is already ebbing from him.
and his street cred was further tarnished when, in November, his attempt to win a state legislative trifecta was unsuccessful and Democrats won a legislative chamber.
Furthermore, this was not just a local setback. As the national Republican Establishment donor class’s favourite, Youngkin was seen by some as a potential Hail Mary presidential contender in 2024 who might save the party from Trump. Furthermore, Youngkin’s assertion that he had discovered a magic message on abortion rights that could counterbalance Democratic dominance on this issue increased the legislative defeat’s national significance. It’s very obvious he didn’t.
The current leader, Eric Adams, is turning into a turkey.
Hizzoner isn’t ranked higher because it’s hard to predict where the federal probe into his campaign’s connections to foreign funders will end up. But it seems like New Yorkers believe he’s in serious trouble: According to a recent Marist survey, 72% of participants said his campaign acted improperly while interacting with Turkey, and 33% of them even thought Adams breached the law.
Speaking of polls, the mayor’s popularity rating dropped to a worrying 28% in a recent Quinnipiac survey, and his recent announcement of significant city budget cuts is unlikely to boost his standing. Even though he has been made fun of for his odd statements during his time in office, in the last few weeks alone, he has made significant progress.
Progressive opponents of Adams were concerned as late as October 30 that they would not have a strong enough primary opponent when he ran for reelection in 2025. Making sure Governor Andrew Cuomo, another massive loser, has plenty of competition on the Democratic ticket with Adams, should he decide to run, is now the main concern. The incumbent is facing serious and seemingly worsening problems.
George Santos: The man who was exiled for lying.
If the fraudster and recently expelled lawmaker hadn’t made his legal danger and political doom apparent before the year began, he would have likewise been ranked higher on our list. As it is, he could have reached rock bottom. If he can negotiate a plea agreement that cuts down on jail time and/or leverages some of his previous business endeavours, he might even be able to make a slight recovery.
Regardless, he might never surpass the notoriety he acquired after the House Ethics Committee’s November investigation, which concluded Santos had “sought to fraudulently exploit every aspect of his House candidacy for his own personal financial profit,” was released, thus ending his congressional career.
Bob Menendez: The king of indictments in the Senate.
The senior New Jersey senator truly ought to have found a good reason to call it quits on his fifty years as an elected official at the end of last year. Instead, he could have entered the annals of history as a twenty-year veteran of Congress who was only ever criminally charged once for corruption (escape from the hoosegow in 2017 following a mistrial and a subsequent decision by federal prosecutors not to prosecute him again). Ultimately, nobody is flawless.
Rather, Menendez was hit with two new charges in 2023: one for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from business leaders (together with his wife), and the other for serving as an unregistered agent for the Egyptian government. The enormous amounts of cash and gold bars that investigators discovered in Menendez’s house proved to be too much for the national and New Jersey Democrats who had long supported him. Menendez attracted two formidable primary rivals for his presumed renomination in 2024, despite his resolute refusal to step down in the face of mounting calls for him to do so. His job approval rating rapidly plummeted to 8 percent. This time, he’s definitely finished in politics.
Ron DeSantis: From slayer of Trump to co-ran.
If the governor of Florida comes third in the Iowa Caucuses on January 15 and is forced to withdraw from the presidential contest immediately thereafter, he may still run for greatest loser in 2024. Nevertheless, his decline into insignificance throughout the year 2023 was noteworthy. He came close to reaching an all-time high of more than 30 percent in the national GOP presidential polling averages in the beginning of January 2023, and he was keeping Donald Trump below 50 percent of the vote. In the first public survey of Iowa, he was within seven points of Trump; in fact, he was ahead of the former president by twelve points in a UNH survey conducted in January in New Hampshire.
Significantly, it appeared that every member of the upper echelons of Republican society who was not already aligned with Trump was endorsing or motivating the governor of Florida, whose spectacular reelection victory from the previous November lingered vividly in the minds of many.
Since then, DeSantis is trailing Trump by a wide margin, has lost about two-thirds of his support nationwide, is only in fourth place (by a small margin) in New Hampshire, and is in a poor third place in South Carolina. The money for his campaign is almost completely depleted, and his super-PAC has been losing major contributors and employees over time. His much-discussed electability edge against Trump has evaporated, as his tactic of out-tracking the front-runner on the right has conspicuously failed to slow him down.
Most elite support has shifted to Nikki Haley (at least outside of Iowa). Given that he faces the risk of becoming a political pariah at 45, I have a strong suspicion that he now wishes he had given 2024 a pass.
Kevin McCarthy: From speaker to silent.
Without a question, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was the biggest political loser of 2023 despite fierce competition.
McCarthy was the Republican Party’s nominee for Speaker of the 118th Congress as of this writing in 2022. He had just about won the chamber in November. He started 2023 with a historic battle to reclaim the gavel he believed he had earned months earlier, accepting 15 votes and making embarrassing compromises to the House Freedom Caucus obstructionists.
Having been plagued by internal uprisings for fewer than ten tumultuous months, he was unable to deliver any real legislation to the president’s desk. McCarthy was ousted as speaker following a near escape from a government shutdown that would have been solely attributed to House Republicans. His downfall was precipitated by a personal rival named Matt Gaetz.
Following his fruitless reign as Napoleon on Elba, waiting for a summons to retake power, McCarthy also had to endure the agony of seeing right-wing back bencher Mike Johnson emerge as his successor.