John McCaslin

American Speaker editor-in-chief Aram Bakshian Jr., who was a White House speechwriter under three U.S. presidents — Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and Ronald Reagan (he was director of speechwriting during the glory days of the Gipper's first term) — has given Inside the Beltway the first glance at his annual Patrick Henry Awards for best and worst public speakers.

(Mr. Bakshian explains the award is named for the Revolutionary figure — "Give me liberty or give me death!" — since he is "the founding father of American orators.")

Without further ado, the 2007 winners — and losers:

"Most Effective Campaign Speaker" goes to ... Elizabeth Edwards?

"That's right, Elizabeth, not John," confirms Mr. Bakshian. "The wife of the former senator from North Carolina and aspiring Democratic presidential nominee has consistently outperformed her spouse in personal appearances, on camera and at the microphone."

"Most Promising 'Dark Horse' Campaign Speaker" goes to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, initially "best remembered for a book he wrote about losing weight — not exactly the ideal branding for someone running for president. But after a surprise second-place finish in the Iowa straw poll vote last August, Mike Huckabee started attracting attention ...

"In debate after debate ... he stood out from the crowd of sometimes overprogrammed candidates as a man who knew who he was and what he stood for and could still raise an honest chuckle that bonded him with his audience."

Additional awards go to:

ABC News' Charles Gibson: Best Network News Anchor

Fox News' Chris Wallace: Best Political Interviewer

MSNBC's Chris Matthews: Worst Political Interviewer

Rosie O'Donnell: Worst Talk Show Panelist

Cal Ripken Jr: Most Inspiring Speaker

Finally, receiving the award for "Most Professional Spokesman" is Tony Snow, who "took over the White House press office at a time when its stock was very low."

"By force of his character — and because he knew what it was like to serve as a working journalist — he restored a measure of mutual confidence and respect between the press corps and the position he occupied."

Snow cap and gown

Speaking of Tony Snow, the former White House press secretary under President Bush will be the featured speaker at Old Dominion University's fall commencement Dec. 15.

The 52-year-old Mr. Snow tells Inside the Beltway he's "excited" to be returning to Norfolk, given that early in his journalism career he was an editorial writer for the city's Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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