The winners

Michael E. Busch: House speaker flexes muscle, outmaneuvers governor, stops slots. Cas Taylor's shoes fit just fine.

Delaware and West Virginia: Maryland's gambling dollars continue to pay for their schools and roads, at least for one more year.

Brian E. Frosh: Nice-guy liberal senator makes Republicans miss ex-chairman Walter Baker. Blocks Ehrlich's environmental secretary, kills crime package.

James C. DiPaula Jr.: The man known as Chip makes fluid transition from campaign manager to budget chieftain, winning friends along the way.

Donald E. Murphy: The man behind medical marijuana proves more effective out of office than he was as a delegate.

Michael S. Steele: Still joined at hip with Ehrlich, lieutenant guv makes friends on both sides of the aisle. Plus, has enough sense to skip Polar Bear Plunge.

Alfred W. Redmer Jr.: House minority leader emerges as skillful defender of administration without getting caught up in its missteps.

Bill Rickman Jr.: Delaware Park owner keeps his track free of Maryland competition for at least another year.

Conservative Republicans: Inauguration euphoria doesn't fade. More and more, governor looks like one of their own.

"Wynn-Wynn": Rep. Albert R. Wynn helps clear the field for casino mogul Steve Wynn in future slots battles.


The losers

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.: Shortest honeymoon in Maryland history? Missteps, ill-timed remarks, sloppy staff work doom slots and other initiatives.

Lynn Y. Buhl: Environmental secretary nominee learns the hard way that Maryland is greener than Michigan.

Joe De Francis: Out $200,000-plus in campaign gifts and still can't get slots at his tracks. A crack shot when aiming at own foot, thought booze till 4 a.m. was a winner.

Ken Masters: Ehrlich's chief legislative officer can't pass any legislation. Some advisers want him out, but the boss is loyal.

Martin O'Malley: Mayor's hands-off approach on slots has lawmakers asking where's the leadership.

Thornton education formula: House balks at slots, Ehrlich balks at taxes. School kids caught in the middle.

Bill Rickman Jr.: Track executive loses bid for slots in Allegany County, frozen out at Ocean Downs.

CareFirst board: Scathing ruling by insurance commissioner strips what little credibility remained.

Transportation: Trust fund takes a big hit to balance budget. Potential 2006 issue has Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan salivating.

"Seat at the table": In January everybody had one at Ehrlich's place; by April, chairs were piling up on scrap heap.