Ken Rudin

As John Boehner finally got the votes to put him over the top, and his re-election as Speaker of the House became official, one had to wonder what was going on in his mind.

In political terms, 2012 was not the greatest of years. We witnessed an ugly, personal, petty, and often childish presidential election. Living in a "battleground" or "swing" state often meant being bombarded 24/7 by an incessant barrage of negative campaign commercials. And just as we were finally emerging from the campaign, we ended the year with an unfathomable tragedy, the gunning down of 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut.

The election was over. As President Obama faced the press in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, the anger and bitterness of his long battle with Mitt Romney seemed to have faded. Unlike President George W. Bush after his 2004 re-election — and his comments about having political capital and intending to spend it — Obama seemed a bit more humble victor, talking more about compromise and saying he was willing to hear other points of view to solve the nation's problems.

It was an election that, once upon a time, many thought was stacked in Mitt Romney's favor.

Tuesday, as those who follow politics probably know, is Election Day. The battle between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been contentious, expensive, personal, illuminating, ugly, frustrating, petty, enlightening and, above all, long. And it is expected to be close.

This week's Political Junkie column is an attempt to guide you to what's at stake on Tuesday, both in the contest for the White House as well as the 33 Senate and 435 House seats on the ballot.

It will be a while before we know if presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan to join the Republican ticket will be a plus or minus for his campaign.

In my view, not since Jack Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson has the choice of a running mate truly affected the outcome in November. LBJ did, after all, help bring Texas to the Democratic fold in 1960. But the record for subsequent No. 2s is a bit mixed. Here's my scorecard:


There have been a number of instances in recent history where the choice of a vice presidential running mate was an important stepping stone toward winning in the fall.

Of course, it's much too early to know how much of a difference GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will make. In the meantime, here is my subjective list of the top five instances in the past half-century or so where a selection of a running mate was crucial to victory:

1. 1960: John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson (D)

In 92 days, we will either re-elect President Obama or replace him with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. On paper, at least, voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will make that decision.

But if you look at the travel schedules and campaign budgets of Obama and Romney, it's clear that the 2012 election will be decided in only ten or fewer states.