Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)

Kelly Ayotte speaks her mind. The young senator has been called one of the most influential women in the Republican Party and "an emerging force in Congress." This fall, frustrated by what she called members of her own party's "ill-conceived strategy" to tie financing of the government to gutting the president's healthcare law, she gave a highly critical speech on the Senate floor. "I would say to my Republican colleagues in the House and to some in this chamber" that with the government shut down but healthcare moving forward, "it's time for a reality check." The year before, she had condemned fellow Republican Todd Akin of Missouri during his race against Democrat Claire McCaskill, tweeting that he should "step aside now" after his remarks on "legitimate rape." Observers praised Ayotte's voice during the government shutdown crisis, calling her position conservative while seeking the middle ground. "Where we find ourselves right now is unacceptable for America," she said on the Senate floor. "We owe it to our constituents to resolve this now." ALSO: Washington's 5 biggest 'fails' of 2013 Kindness in the world of politics? 7 uplifting examples from 2013 13 biggest political blunders of 2013 -- and what they mean for the year ahead
J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press
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