10 Races to Watch in 2010

On the Republican side, three candidates are vying for the nomination: former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, and former Rep. Tom Campbell.

Whitman, who worked under former presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Bain & Company, is the Republican frontrunner. She has a spotty voting record but with gobs of money and a tight focus on creating jobs, cutting spending, and fixing education, she has a chance of being a strong general election candidate in a state that is strongly Democratic at the presidential level but has a history of electing GOP governors who are social moderates.

Before she can get to a race with Brown, she has to get past Poizner, a wealthy candidate in his own right, who is running as the "proven" conservative reformer. The strategy of the underfunded Campbell is to lay out detailed policy prescriptions and hope that he can win the nomination if the fight between Whitman and Poizner turns into a high-spending "murder suicide."

Campbell's hopes of benefiting from a slugfest are seriously complicated, however, by his embrace of higher taxes in addition to lower spending to balance the budget.

New York Governor

New York 's Democratic Gov. David Paterson finds himself in so much political trouble that the Obama White House has pressured him to abandon a 2010 run for re-election. But rather than nudge Paterson out of the race, the White House pressure only served to stiffen the governor's spine at least, so far. Paterson, who went on the air with television ads in November, is seeking to cast his unpopularity as flowing from having to make a series of tough but right decisions on closing the state's $30 billion deficit.

During a recent appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put to rest rumors that she might leave Obama's Cabinet to run for governor.

The Democrat waiting in the wings is Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo rubbed some in the African American community the wrong way by challenging Carl McCall, then the state comptroller and the first black official elected statewide in New York, in 2002. This time, Cuomo is quietly reaching out to the African American community and has not yet formally jumped into the race. He is still hoping that Paterson will decide to pull the plug on his run for re-election.

The Republican candidate for governor of New York is Rick Lazio, the former congressman who is best known for his 2000 Senate race against Clinton. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani flirted with a gubernatorial run for months but announced in November that he would not enter the race.

The consensus is that the governor's seat is safely in Democratic hands, assuming that Cuomo and not Paterson is the nominee. But what it takes to get Cuomo the Democratic nod remains to be seen.

Texas Governor

The Lone Star State, where Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is challenging fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry, is home to one of the most closely watched primaries in the nation. For several months, Hutchison said that she would resign her Senate seat in the fall of 2009 so that she could focus full-time on her gubernatorial campaign. She then reversed course last month and said that she was going to stay in the Senate while continuing to challenge Perry because Texas needs her in Washington fighting "ObamaCare" and cap-and-trade legislation.

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