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Most-Read Articles of 2011 Touched on Campaigns, Controversy

It was another fascinating year in politics.

As 2011 winded down, Roll Call took a look at our most popular news stories online.

The results were a time capsule of this wild and woolly year, from Rep. Anthony Weiner’s indiscreet tweet to the super committee that wasn’t so super. And, as always, these stories offer a glimpse of some of the finest reporting on campaigns and Congress around.

Here are the Top 10 most-read articles from the site this year.

1. “The Uneven Senate Landscape of 2012 (and 2014)” (April 14)

Columnist Stuart Rothenberg read the tea leaves for this April 14 piece about the GOP advantage in the 2012 Senate elections. He noted that Republicans won 24 of 37 Senate contests in 2010, putting them in a position to do well in 2012 and potentially even win a 60-seat supermajority in 2014. “The stunning imbalance means that Democrats will be on the defensive throughout the cycle,” he wrote. In a recent column, Rothenberg said control of the Senate might ultimately hinge on which presidential candidate carries the day.

2. “Weiner’s Pension, Benefits Could Top $1 Million” (June 16)

After Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned in the wake of a sex scandal, reporter John Stanton checked out what kind of retirement benefits he would enjoy. “According to an analysis of his available benefits by the National Taxpayers Union, the New York Democrat’s pension and a savings plan lawmakers have access to similar to a 401(k) could be worth $1.12 million to $1.28 million,” Stanton wrote.

3. “Poll: Majority of Republicans Doubt Obama’s Birthplace” (Feb. 15)

In mid-February, reporter Kyle Trygstad shared the results of a survey by a Democratic polling firm, which found that a “slim majority of Republicans” disbelieved that President Barack Obama was born in the United States. In April, the president released his long-form birth certificate showing he was indeed born in Hawaii, though for some die-hards, the issue still has not gone away.

4. “‘Sheriff Joe’ Arpaio Leads in Arizona Poll for Senate Race” (Feb. 14)

In February, reporter David M. Drucker wrote about a poll of likely Republican primary voters by the Summit Consulting Group which showed tough-talking Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio beating Rep. Jeff Flake and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the GOP primary to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl. Arpaio has stayed involved in national and local politics but never entered the primary. It now looks like an easy win for Flake, who faces real-estate investor Wil Cardon. Democrats face their own primary between former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and former state party chairman Don Bivens.

5. “FBI Saw Dark Side of Rep. John Murtha” (Oct. 25)

Associate Editor Paul Singer reported on Rep. John Murtha for years, but he got one last scoop in October — more than a year and a half after the Pennsylvania Democrat’s death. According to Murtha’s FBI file, released posthumously, federal investigators suspected he was running a scheme “to funnel earmarks to sham companies and nonprofits” set up by his friends and former staffers. Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.), Murtha’s former district director, now holds the seat.

6. “Pelosi Left Out of Leaders Meeting on Super Committee” (Oct. 14)

When the co-chairmen of the Joint Committee for Deficit Reduction held an important mid-October meeting with Congressional leaders, they left out one: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Reporter Meredith Shiner got the scoop on the snub, which was blamed on “miscommunication,” but it was all for naught as the so-called “super committee” failed to come to an agreement in late November.

7. “Republican’s Pawlenty Remark Starts Feud” (Feb. 1)

Will Wrobleski, the incoming executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, got off on the wrong foot when he told a Roll Call reporter in February that while he thought former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was “a nice guy,” he would not vote for him because he was not conservative enough. The state GOP chairman then issued a statement noting that Wrobleski was not yet working for the party when he made the comments and pledged to remain neutral. Pawlenty ended up dropping out and endorsing his rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

8. “The 50 Richest Members of Congress (2011)”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) took the top prize in Roll Call’s annual look at the richest Members of Congress. Thanks to some assets inherited by his wife, the daughter of the CEO and founder of Clear Channel Communications, McCaul beat out other perennials, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). His estimated net worth: $294.21 million. Roll Call has ranked the 50 richest Members every year since 1990.

9. “Fears Grow as Obama Hits Trail” (March 8)

President Barack Obama headed to Florida in March to jump-start his 2012 re-election campaign, raising fears among some in Congress that he would not be around to help them on Capitol Hill. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was working to avoid a government shutdown over a budget fight — a battle that was seemingly fought all year.

10. “Bachmann Stands by ‘Gangster Government’ Description” (March 6)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is known for her fiery words. In an appearance on “Meet the Press” in early March, she refused to back down from them. Asked about her statement at a tea party rally that the Obama administration is a “gangster government,” she stood by her words: “I think that there have been actions that have been taken by this government that I think are corrupt,” she said.

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