Occupation: U.S. senator
Durbin has never craved the spotlight, yet in his quiet and effective way, he has become one of the Senate's most influential leaders. Being a mentor and early supporter of Barack Obama certainly hasn't hurt, but Durbin also wins high marks from across the aisle. Expect him to be in the thick of the year's biggest issues: the budget, deficit reduction, immigration, and health care, with profound implications for his state—and the nation. In January, the Senate's No. 2 leader became the No. 1 guy on a coveted subcommittee: defense appropriations.
Photograph: NANCY STONE/CHICAGO TRIBUNE