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2012: Enter The Speculatron

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"It's a circus. You guys are part of the circus...This is stuff they talk about. They'll talk about somebody else next week. I'm here to be a United States senator from Florida and the best senator I can. I mean that. That's what I ran for and that's what I want to be."

A few hours into his very first term as a U.S. senator, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had the occasion -- nay, the pressing need -- to say those words to a clutch of Capitol Hill reporters who were bothering him about whether or not he was going to run for President in 2012. I felt for Rubio: Reporters like the ones he was dealing with are stupid and insane people. Like magpies, their brains are the size of a cashew and they are attracted to shiny objects.

And Rubio is right about the whole thing being a circus. Or a carnival. Or a freakshow, at least. Candidates fill the tent, each with roles to play. The most dextrous ascend the heights. The clumsy ones fall into the nets. Over on the side, you'll catch the one or two who are here to just bite the head off a chicken. The midway fills with the clowns and mystics of the media, there to amuse and/or befuddle us. The air smells vaguely of cotton candy and animal fur and shame -- always the shame.

It's a rampaging mess of sight-gags, flubs, and speculative nonsense. But we're here to try to help sort it all out, by helping you, at the very least, keep all of the characters straight. Today, we'll introduce you to them, and every week, we'll briefly run down everything you really, honestly need to know about what's going on in their lives. Because while it is fun to watch all these various wannabes gambol across the political stage, it's no fun being told that you have to take them all equally seriously.

The 2012 Speculatron: Meet The Speculated Upon
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  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
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