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CNBC's Winners & Losers of 2010 Poll

As we embark on our second annual Winners & losers poll, we want to be clear in saying that by most measures 2010 had more winners than losers, and that’s a good thing after our debut year in 2009.

The goal here, however, is not to present clear-cut winners or losers, but those candidates that present tough choices, that could go either way.

We have only one returning candidate from 2009—Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Our most notable addition is President Obama, who in 2009 arguably failed our central litmus test, but is ripe for debate this year.

Our most notable departure this year is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

As with last year, we have companies, concepts and entities along with people for consideration.

We’ll give you a week to vote and then report back with results and rankings Dec. 8. Click ahead.

American Dream: Going, Going Gone

American Dream (Homeowner, Taxpayer, Worker)

Take your pick. Finding the upside might be a stretch. The downside, or losing end, is a litany of woes: unemployment, home foreclosures, debts and deficits, taxes, political dysfunction, endless wars.

On the bright side, however, is a wake-up call of sorts, as well as a big slice of humble pie, for a spendthrift, materialistic, super-sized obsessed society that has rediscovered proportion, austerity, humility and savings.

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Not a Scientific Survey. Results may not total 100% due to rounding.

Ben Bernanke: Ease To Please

Ben Bernanke
Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke,
Fed Chairman

The Fed Chairman has successfully advanced his agenda, while gaining clear control of the central bank. Bernanke has become a combination of the Shell Answer Man and the U.S. Cavalry for those frustrated and spooked by the performance of the economy. Whether it is suffering fools on Capitol Hill or delivering QE II, Bernanke has been there when needed. But in going where no Fed boss has gone before, he is ripe for second-guessingand potential defeat. He could wind up the big loser.

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Total Votes:

Not a Scientific Survey. Results may not total 100% due to rounding.

John Boehner: No Means Yes

John Boehner,
Republican Majority Leader

Boehner and company trounced the Democrats in the midterm, largely by saying, “No” for two years. That is an impressive win, especially for a guy who still smokes cigarettes in public and who couldn’t deliver his home state (Ohio) in the 2008 presidential election.

Boehner is something of the Mickey Rourke character in “Diner”, a rough-edged leader surrounded by quasi geeks, who are smarter than him, but not terribly charismatic. (One or two of them, however, may challenge him for the leadership down the road.)

Why could Boehner be a loser? Leading a large Republican majority in the House with a Democrat president soon in re-election mode may be more a case of death hug than gridlock. The coming 112th Congress could be a lost one.

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Total Votes:

Not a Scientific Survey. Results may not total 100% due to rounding.

California Governor: Dream On

Meg Whitman
Meg Whitman

California Governor Candidate: Meg Whitman

This is a complicated one, because it is more about the post than the person. For that reason, you’re looking at both the election winner (Jerry Brown) and loser (Meg Whitman).

The question is—given the wretched state of the economy and the bitter medicine necessary to correct it, who on earth would want this job?

So does winning make you a loser and losing make you the winner? Or does winning make you the winner and a loser?

Jerry Brown

California Governor: Jerry Brown

This is a complicated one, because it is more about the post than the person.

The question is—given the wretched state of the economy and the bitter medicine necessary to correct it, who on earth would want this job?

So does winning make you a loser and losing make you the winner? Or does winning make you the winner and a loser?

Chris Dodd: Winning Ugly

Chris Dodd (D-Conn),
Senate Banking Comm. Chairman

Having wisely chosen not to run for re-election, the 35-year, Washington veteran might escape the loser tag, but his preference was to run again. Defeat, however, was likely.

Dodd can boast legacy legislation—the Wall Street financial reform act—which though unpopular is certainly weighty and almost unprecedented in scope. The question is will it be unraveled?Dodd may not be finished; is he the next Treasury Secretary?

ETFs: Steroid Stocks

Exchange Traded Funds

Not too long ago, ETFs were considered boring, low-cost financial instruments with a tax edge over mutual funds. That was before the steroids and high-speed trading. ETFs may also have had a supporting role in the Flash Crash of May 2010. There are more of them than ever, in all shapes and sizes, and they‘re still low-cost and tax friendly. Some say they’re an investor’s new best friend; others say they may be public enemy No. 1.

EMU: Indebted To Each Each
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Map of Europe

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The setbacks and embarrassments of the sovereign debt crisismight spell failure to some, but the survival of the pact during its first great test could also been see as a big win. EMU has always been more about a federal Europe than a common currency and the end game bigger than the fate of any one member.

Free Currencies: Foreign Policy

Free-Floating Currencies

Like too big to fail last year, this is a pretty weighty one and—given the capacity for current events to change things—it may be too soon to tell. It must be said though that when the World Bank President even mentions a return to something resembling the gold standard, free market proponents may want to sound the alarm.

At the same time, both Switzerland and Japan spent billions this year trying to protect their currencies—largely without success. Finally, is all this talk about competitive devaluation's based in reality or fear mongering and are the parallels to the Great Depression well grounded?

Tony Hayward: Sink And Sail

Tony Hayward
Ex CEO BP

Put aside the irony, trading in your job as boss of BP for a life of sailing isn’t bad, especially when you remain employed and well compensated. At the same time, the infamy of the Gulf oil spillis not something one would want attached your one’s name.

Lebron James: Hit And Miss

Lebron James,
Miami Heat

Having failed to get to the NBA final round, never mind win a championship, James turned his free agency into a three-ring circus(me, myself and I) hurting his image and just about everyone else but the city of Miami. It may be hard, however, to judge James until the end of the 2011 season, whenhis talent-packed team will either succeed or fail in winning a championship.

Leno & O'Brien: The Show Must Go On

Jay Leno
Tonight Show Hosts

Another two-fer—or Biggest Loser, so to speak—as the fate of the two late-night talk show hosts turns on one subject, “The Tonight Show.”

So, who’s the winner and loser here? Leno’s prime time show was deemed a colossal failure and yanked by the network, prompting a return to his old show. Conan quit,receiving an enormous severance package, only to wind up on Time Warner’s TBS.

Conan O'Brien

Conan O’Brien
Tonight Show Hosts

Another two-fer—or Biggest Loser, so to speak—as the fate of the two late-night talk show hosts turns on one subject, “The Tonight Show.”

So, who’s the winner and loser here? Leno’s prime time show was deemed a colossal failure and yanked by the network, prompting a return to his old show. Conan quit,receiving an enormous severance package, only to wind up on Time Warner’s TBS.

Pres. Obama: Before/After

President Obama

With all due respect to the office and the man, we simply can’t resist including the Prez. This one is so basic. The president was victorious pushing through one of the most ambitious legislative programs since Ronald Reagan, but the stunning midterm defeat for the Democratic Partyarguably puts him on the losing end.

Politics: Lost

Politics in America

There may soon be a new expression in Washington: “It takes a midterm.”

America’s revolving door approach to government continued, while bipartisan bigotry hit a new high this year. A new political party made an impression with voters and loosened the two-party stalemate, but in the end it may have been business as usual:Vote out the incumbent and give the opposition a chance to fail. So, you tell us, party preferences aside, was the midterm election a win or loss?

Mary Shapiro: Flash Dance
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Mary Shapiro

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OK, she’s no Tim Geithner—or Shelia Bair—for that matter. It’s hard not to like Mary. And were it not for the Flash Crash(see ETFs), we might be willing to give her a pass on inclusion in this list. Shapiro, however is a regulator in the hot seat.

Shapiro’s SEC hasn’t been the toughest cop on the beat (it seemed to let Goldman Sachs get off easy) nor has it been the best detective in investigating the crash.

At the same time, Shapiro has managed to avoid major criticism while maintaining ample credibility on both the Hill and the Street, something predecessors Chris Cox and Harvey Pitt could not do.

Linsdey Vonn: Slippery Slope

Lindsey Vonn,
Olympic Skier

Judged strictly on the hype, the American Olympic skier probably fell (oops) short of expectations in Vancouver. Of course, injury and bad luck (icy conditions) didn’t help.

She did, however, manage to win a couple medals. Vonn also achieved media darling and advertising-magnet status, but again her performance was somewhat disappointing, lacking the contagious personality of speed skater Apolo Ohno.

Mark Zuckerberg: FaceMan
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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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OK, he’s not exactly citizen Kane, but he’s just in his twenties. The Facebook founder was ripped to shreds in the biographical Hollywood movie, ‘Social Network’, his $1 million donation to the Newark public school system flopped as cynical PR stunt and there’s growing privacy concerns about his social media company, which happens to be the most visited website in the world.