10 races to watch

Nevada Senate: Majority leader Harry Reid's tight race with Sharron Angle, darling of the tea party, is 2010's marque matchup. An Angle win would not only vanquish a Democratic shogun but an Obama ally. Reid suffers from being a Washington insider in a year of the outsider and a listless Nevada economy. But Angle's early lead vanished with some impolitic statements and far right views.

California governor: Jerry Brown (D) bills himself as a Mr. Fix-it whose political experience uniquely qualifies him to plug everything leaking in California. Meg Whitman (R), the rich former chief executive officer of eBay, sees her business background as the right tool kit. It's the public versus the private sector in a year of antipathy toward government and corporate America.

Florida governor: Democrats hope Alex Sink's business résumé – former bank executive and the state's chief financial officer – wins them the governorship after a 16-year absence. But she faces a tough challenge in Rick Scott (R), a wealthy former health-care executive. The race may turn on Florida's large number of independents.

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Connecticut Senate: An expected easy win for the Democrats is uncomfortably close as Linda McMahon (R), former chief executive of the World Wrestling Federation, spends heavily against state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D). Democrats highlight the unvarnished world of professional wrestling, but McMahon remains within striking distance.

Illinois Senate: Character issues dominate a tart race between Rep. Mark Kirk (R) and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) to fill President Obama's former seat. Obama's frequent presence in the state signals the closeness and importance of the race.

Virginia Fifth: First-term Democrat Tom Perriello narrowly won the conservative district two years ago, and Republicans think he's eminently dispatchable this time, not least because of his support of health-care reform. If state Sen. Robert Hurt (R) doesn't win, it might be a sign the GOP plans for a House takeover are in trouble.

•Florida Eighth: Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson carved out a national profile by characterizing the GOP health-care plan as "die quickly." Overnight, he became a hero of the left and villain of the right. Now he's enmeshed in a close contest with veteran state lawmaker Daniel Webster, though Grayson's blunt style remains a key dynamic.

North Dakota at large: Earl Pomeroy (D) confronts his most formidable foe in 18 years in Rick Berg (R), a veteran state lawmaker, for the state's lone House seat. Pomeroy was hurt by his votes for the stimulus bill and financial bailouts. He has more money, but Berg is getting national GOP backing.

Ohio 16th: Rep. John Boccieri epitomizes the class of Democrats who won in GOP districts in 2008 on Obama's coattails. Now the GOP has a chance to retake the seat with Jim Renacci, a businessman and former mayor, in an area of high unemployment.

•Colorado Seventh: In a classic bellwether district, two-term Democrat Ed Perlmutter faces Ryan Frazier – one of 14 black Republicans running for Congress. Frazier, a city councilman, may find it tough to unseat the popular Perlmutter, noted for holding meet-and-greet sessions in grocery stores.

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