The 2010 midterm elections will be viewed as a critical barometer of President Obama's strength, and an important test of whether the Republican Party has recovered from the drubbing it took at the end of the Bush years.
Although Election Day 2010 is still almost a year away, here are ten statewide contests -- three for governor and seven for the U.S. Senate -- that are already shaping up as races worth watching.
Democratic officials view Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., as their most vulnerable Senate incumbent in 2010. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is being tagged by Republican critics as someone who is writing rules for other people while accepting special perks for himself.
Dodd was buoyed in August when the Senate Ethics Committee determined that he and his wife did not violate Senate ethics rules when they refinanced their mortgages with Countrywide Financial.
But he hit a snag in mid-October, however, when Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., demanded a vote to subpoena the records of Countrywide's controversial Friends of Angelo mortgage program.
In addition to painting Dodd as the recipient of sweetheart deals who was asleep at the wheel during the Wall Street meltdown, Dodd's rivals are also planning to remind voters that he appeared to take them for granted when he moved his family to Iowa in advance of the state's 2008 presidential caucuses.
The Republicans running for the chance to take on Dodd include: Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment who is not denying reports that she is willing to spend $30 million of her own money to get elected; Rob Simmons, a former congressman who was narrowly defeated in his bid for re-election in 2006; and Peter Schiff, a libertarian Republican who advised Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign.
The GOP scored a major coup in Delaware when Republican Rep. Mike Castle announced that he would run for the U.S. Senate seat which used to be filled by Vice President Joe Biden and is currently occupied by former Biden staffer Ted Kaufman.
Castle, who has never lost a race, has run statewide 12 times: once for lieutenant governor, twice for governor and nine times for the state's at-large House seat.
Castle's likely Democratic opponent is state Attorney General Beau Biden, the vice president's son.
Biden, who just got back from a year-long tour in Iraq as a captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps., told ABC's "Good Morning America" in October that he "absolutely" is thinking about running for the seat which his father occupied for 36 years. Biden has not yet, however, made a final decision.
If he were to pass on the race, Republicans will have the upper hand. If Biden is in, it could be one of the most competitive and closely watched in the nation.
Castle's advantage in the race is that some voters might not like the idea of a Senate seat being handed off like a family heirloom. Castle, who has a moderate voting record, will also be difficult to paint as a right-winger out of step with the state's voters.
Biden benefits from his youthful vigor, plenty of White House help, and the fact that Delaware is so small that many of the state's residents feel like they personally know "Joe" and "Beau."
Florida's Republican Senate primary features a fight for the heart and soul of the GOP. Moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist entered the race as a big favorite with a major fundraising advantage.