Top 10 conservatives to watch in 2013

Conservatives have their work cut out for them to regain political momentum after a dismal 2012. Luckily, they have this list of leaders who can make a difference in 2013.

1. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan

The GOP vice presidential nominee remains the House Republican point man on budget issues. With entitlement reform, tax-code changes, looming sequestration cuts, and an upcoming debt-ceiling battle all in the works, Ryan will have a key role in providing a check to President Barack Obama???s tax-and-spend agenda.

2. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio already has established himself as an early frontrunner for 2016 and, after being one of the few GOP senators to vote against the debt-ceiling tax increase, a leading spokesperson for tea party concerns. Look for him to take a key role in crafting a GOP response to the Democrats??? push next year for immigration reform.

3. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul

With his father, Ron Paul, retiring from the House, Rand Paul has emerged as a fiery spokesperson for the libertarian cause. He already sounded the alarm against Harry Reid???s proposed filibuster changes and can be expected to lead the charge against excessive spending, foreign entanglements, and threats to civil liberties.

4. House Speaker John Boehner

Boehner???s Republican caucus fractured over the debt-ceiling battle and he violated the ???Hastert rule??? by passing the measure without his own party???s majority support. But by wielding the speaker???s gavel, he remains conservatives??? best hope to prevent Obama from enacting an expansive big-government agenda. Still, he has work to do if House Republicans can become unified enough to be effective.

5. California Rep. Darrell Issa

Issa remains the key watchdog over Obama administration abuses. Expect more of the same from Issa, who has held hearings on a variety of issues, probing the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, security at the Benghazi consulate before the deadly attack, and the mandate that insurance companies offer contraception.

6. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

McConnell crafted with Vice President Joe Biden the fiscal cliff deal that was rejected by the majority of Republicans in the House and he recently sent notice to President Obama that any more tax hikes are untenable. While the GOP majority in the House remains the bulwark against Obama big-government expansionism, McConnell???s Senate troops can keep a check on Obama???s appointments and treaties.

7. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Fresh from signing a right-to-work initiative into law, Snyder is at Ground Zero in the national battle over the power of labor unions. Snyder, along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, North Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, give the Republicans a deep bench of governors who have been effective advocates of conservative policies.

8. Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

The fiscal cliff vote split the House leadership in half with McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, siding with John Boehner, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against the legislation. With Boehner regaining the speaker???s gavel, the split could elevate Rodgers??? influence in the House even while her vote has already come under attack from conservatives who are calling for a primary challenge.

9. Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint

DeMint, frustrated by the inability for effective action as a senator, has shifted his take no-prisoners conservatism from the halls of Congress to the world of Washington think-tanks with his dramatic shift to lead the Heritage Foundation. Heritage, which was so essential in providing policy fodder to help propel the Reagan Revolution, will undoubtedly ratchet up an aggressive mix of conservative policies under the leadership of the former South Carolina senator.

10. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

The freshman Texas senator will champion tea party concerns and already is bringing a tough edge to the political scene. He began the New Year attacking the fiscal cliff deal and opposing a possible Hagel nomination. He called out Obama for ???trying to scare people??? about the debt limit and vowed to block gun-control efforts from his position on the Judiciary Committee.