10 Races to Watch in 2010

The GOP has not yet settled on candidate against Reid. The top four contenders are: Sue Lowden, the former chair of the state Republican Party who was the second runner-up in the 1973 Miss America pageant; Danny Tarkanian, a businessman who is the son of legendary University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian; Mark Amodei, a state senator; and John Chachas, a New York investment banker with roots in Nevada who could self-finance his own campaign.

In a sign of the trouble he faces at home, Reid recently began running television ads in Nevada -- more than a year before voters go to the polls -- in an effort to introduce himself to the state's legions of newly registered voters.

While Reid appears to be more vulnerable than your typical fourth-term incumbent, he continues to benefit from his substantial war chest: at the end of the third quarter, he had $8.7 million in cash on hand.

Ohio Senate

Next year's Ohio Senate race will be a key test of whether an anti-Bush message retains its salience: the likely GOP candidate is Rob Portman, the former Ohio congressman who served as U.S. Trade Representative and budget director for former President George W. Bush.

Although Democrats are planning to tie Portman to Bush, Republicans currently have the upper hand since the former Bush official has more than three times as much cash on hand as his closest Democratic opponent.

At the end of the third quarter, Portman had $5.1 million in cash on hand. His closest Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, only had $1.6 million. The other Democratic candidate is Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. If Portman wins in November, look for him to end up on VP shortlists in 2012 as he did in 2008.

Pennsylvania Senate

Facing a tough road to re-nomination as a Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter shook up Washington back in April by announcing he was becoming a Democrat.

The White House quickly lined up behind Specter, who had been one of only three Senate Republicans to support the $787 billion stimulus bill. .

Although Specter is backed by President Obama and Gov. Ed Rendell , he has not been able to clear the Democratic primary field and is facing a tough nomination fight from Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., a former three-star admiral who served as director for defense policy in President Clinton's National Security Council.

The likely Republican nominee is former Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the former head of the anti-tax Club for Growth. Toomey challenged Specter in the 2004 Republican Senate primary, losing by a narrow 1.7 percent margin after the Republican establishment closed ranks behind Specter.

California Governor

The race to replace Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is barred from running again by term limits, promises to be one of the most fascinating in the country.

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Jerry Brown has cleared the field with strong fundraising and widespread name recognition. John Garamendi, the former lieutenant governor who just won a special election to Congress, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom pulled the plug on their challenges to Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa never got into the race after closely looking at it.

Brown, a three-time presidential candidate who was dubbed "Governor Moonbeam" when he held the state's top job from 1975-83, says the state's biggest problem is a lack of "imagination."

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