U.S. Senator, Delaware
Joe Biden could have been just another losing candidate in this year's race for the Democratic presidential ticket. Instead the Delaware senator's decision to stay out of the campaign freed him to become the party's strongest voice on foreign policy (after John Kerry)--and the most effective critic of the war on terror and the war in Iraq. Biden pushed for more time for the weapons inspectors in Iraq, and he warned repeatedly about the lack of postwar planning. Now he gives frequent counsel to Kerry and is one of the big names in the running for Kerry's national-security team.
THE OVERNIGHT SENSATION
Nominee for U.S. Senate
The most celebrated of the rising stars in the Democratic Party has yet to arrive in Washington. Barack Obama, chosen to deliver the keynote speech at the national convention, is running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Republicans are still scrounging for a candidate who dares face him. Obama, 42, the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review, dazzles crowds and donors. His campaign has raised a whopping $10 million. A year ago he was a little-known state rep. As he puts it, "Just a skinny guy with a funny name." Nobody's laughing about him now.
Mayor Of San Francisco
When Newsom, 36, authorized same-sex marriages in San Francisco last February, party elders were horrified. By forcing an unpopular issue onto the front pages, they feared, Newsom would hurt Democratic candidates across the country. Instead, Newsom's brash move propelled the young mayor onto the national political map (not to mention the pages of GQ magazine). Now he's back to fighting crime and fixing broken bus stops--and the courts may yet rule against him on gay marriage--but he'll no doubt be in the headlines again soon.
THE NASCAR DEMOCRAT
Governor Of Virginia
A fiscal conservative and political moderate, Mark Warner, 49, showed that Democrats can win in the South. His signature accomplishments: balancing a bleeding budget and passing a $1.4 billion tax increase this year by teaming up with business leaders and moderate Republicans. He won office in 2001 by courting rural NASCAR fans as much as urban liberals. The former telecom titan has raised money for Kerry and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick. He'll raise his profile nationally as the new head of the National Governors Association.
U.S. House Member, South Dakota
To voters in the corn country of South Dakota, Stephanie Herseth is hard to resist. The 33-year-old lawyer, daughter of a famous Dakota political family, won a special election to Congress in June, a Democratic triumph in a state that gave George W. Bush a 22-point win in 2000. Her centrist politics have found appeal on the prairie. She favors abortion rights but also supports the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Her victory was statewide; South Dakota has just one House seat. So she's got a high profile and, as a Gen-Xer, lots of time to hone it.