Last year our lead-off Who's Nexter was--a fake news anchor. Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" had won two Emmys and was "becoming the coolest pit stop on television." Forget "becoming." In 2004, Stewart's alternative universe was an obligatory destination for candidates (just not Bush or Cheney). He had a best seller--"America (The Book)"--and both college kids and political insiders found him a paradoxical voice of sanity.

ELIOT SPITZER Profiled in: 2003

Back then: New York's attorney general was going after gun makers, spammers and, most famously, Wall Street sleazoids. We said it was no secret he wanted to run for governor.

And now: He just announced. And even before it was official, he led incumbent Gov. George Pataki in the polls, 50 to 38 percent.

WILTON GREGORY Profiled in: 2003

Back then: The first black president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was firefighting the church's sex-abuse scandals, and had put in place a zero-tolerance policy.

And now: In early December he was named Archbishop of Atlanta.

GAEL GARCIA BERNAL Profiled in: 2003

Back then: He was an art-house heartthrob in the Mexican-made "Y Tu Mama Tambien."

And now: This year Bernal starred in two Oscar-likely films: Brazilian director Walter Salles's "The Motorcycle Diaries" (he's the young Che Guevara) and Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education," in which he plays a transvestite.

BILL FRIST Profiled in: 2001

Back then: The GOP's Senate-campaign-committee chair wanted to return control of the upper house to his party. We thought he might have other ambitions, too.

And now: The GOP has the Senate; Frist is majority leader. (And Bush has just four more years.)

ALBERTO GONZALES Profiled in: 2002

Back then: We said that Bush's White House counsel was considered the president's first choice for a Supreme Court vacancy, but Bushies were "quietly" mentioning him for attorney general.

And now: No vacancy just yet. But Bush just nominated him for A.G. Stay tuned.

MOHAMMAD KHATAMI Profiled in: 2002

Back then: The reformist president of Iran, we wrote, might be the Muslim world's best hope to "reconcile modern democracy and Islamic culture." And now: Reviled as a front for the mullahs, he's said he can't wait to retire in 2005.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM Profiled in: 2002

Back then: Michigan's new governor became a Democratic star.

And now: A 60 percent approval rating, a DNC speech.

ANTHONY ROMERO Profiled in: 2001

Back then: The ACLU head took office one week after 9/11. Instant civil-liberties crisis. He soon began demanding info on detainees.

And now: Court victories over parts of the Patriot Act, landmark briefs in the Hamdi and Padilla cases--and 145,000 new members.

ALICIA KEYS Profiled in: 2001

Back then: The 20-year-old R&B singer's debut, "Songs in A Minor," went six-times platinum, but she told us she worried about being a one-hit wonder: "The trends change so quickly in music."

And now: Chill already. This year's "The Diary of Alicia Keys" has gone--yep--six-times platinum, and was nominated for eight Grammys, including album of the year.

LARRY PROBST Profiled in: 2003

Back then: His Electronic Arts was the world's biggest independent videogame publisher (The Sims, Harry Potter): $2.5 billion a year.

And now: Probst is gone, to start a venture fund with U2's Bono. But EA should hit more than $2 billion again this year, and it's got rights to Warner's "Batman Begins" and "The Godfather."

HU JINTAO Profiled in: 2002

Back then: The enigmatic Hu was about to take over as president of China.

And now: Still enigmatic, consolidating his power, but not out of the woods yet. He's curbed government lending, raised interest rates; some senior officials aren't happy.

SARAH HUGHES Profiled in: 2001

Back then: Underdog Hughes, 16, was "a legitimate gold-medal contender" in figure skating at the upcoming Salt Lake City Olympics.

And now: She won. After a year at Yale, she'll tour with "Stars on Ice." What about Turin in 2006? Experts doubt it.

MARK MCCLELLAN Profiled in: 2003

Back then: The then FDA commissioner, we thought, could be a contender for Tommy Thompson's job as Health and Human Services secretary.

And now: Bush trusted him to revamp Medicare. Thompson's now gone. Figure it out.

MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE Profiled in: 2003

Back then: This mysterious Iraqi exile leader was everywhere--even confronting Saddam when he was dragged from that hole.

And now: Americans made him Iraq's national-security adviser; naturally, he's now in trouble. If elections happen in January, he hopes for a comeback.

GAVIN NEWSOM Profiled in: 2003

Back then: San Francisco's new mayor was a pro-business Democrat, a rising star in the party.

And now: The gay marriages he authorized made him a hero to some--and, some say, may have helped Democrats lose the White House.

TOMMY FRANKS Profiled in: 2002

Back then: Franks was the head of CENTCOM, preparing for war on Iraq, arguing against Rummy for a massive, conventional invasion.

And now: He won the three-week initial phase, then had the sense to retire. He lives in Florida and Oklahoma, gives speeches, helps veterans' groups.

FREDDY ADU Profiled in: 2003

Back then: The 13-year-old with the magic feet was about to turn pro and become the youngest player in the history of Major League Soccer.

And now: He did, at 14. He's also the highest paid, at $500,000 a year. He's still learning, but he signed a deal with Nike worth a reported $1 million.

HOLLY DUNLAP Profiled in: 2003

Back then: Designer Dunlap's flirty, fun shoes had reached more than 100 retailers--including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus--in just three years.

And now: She's doubled her already formidable shoe sales and begun designing silk cocktail dresses--with strategic holes so you can't wear a bra.