When President Obama swept large Democratic majorities into Congress in 2008, the 2010 midterm elections looked as if they might be a snoozer.
But in the wake of Obama's declining poll numbers and the Democrats' shocking loss of the seat once held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., the 2010 midterm elections are now shaping up as a critical showdown which could fundamentally alter the balance of power in Washington and in statehouses across the country.
Although Election Day 2010 is still 8 months away, here is an update on ten statewide contests -- three for governor and seven for the U.S. Senate -- that we identified as races worth watching in December.
Connecticut is one of the few bright spots for President Obama's party.
Democrats got a boost in January when embattled Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., announced that he would not seek re-election in November after serving 30 years in the Senate.
The Democratic nominee will now be state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
The Republican contest is a three-way race between Linda McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment; Rob Simmons, a former congressman who narrowly lost his 2006 bid for re-election; and Peter Schiff, a libertarian Republican who advised Rep. Ron Paul's, R-Texas, 2008 presidential campaign.
McMahon, a multimillionaire who is spending heavily on her own race, is the favorite to win the GOP nod. Her campaign recently announced that she would have supported the bipartisan Senate jobs bill which was backed by newly elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.
Democrats were dealt a major blow in January when state Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, announced that he would not seek his father's former Senate seat.
The Republican nominee will be longtime Rep. Mike Castle.
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.
In Beau Biden's absence, the Democratic nominee will likely be New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D).
Coons is working to position himself as an outsider even though his party controls both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. He recently told The Washington Post that as a local government official, he "saw a Washington that was often dysfunctional and more often part of the problem than part of the solution."
The Florida Senate race features the most high-profile primary in the nation. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican who backed President Obama's stimulus package, is being challenged by former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American who has been hailed by Rush Limbaugh as a "down-the-line conservative."
Crist has a big fundraising advantage but Rubio has harnessed the power of conservative Tea Party activists, landing himself on the cover of The New York Times Magazine and snagging the keynote speaking slot at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C.
The Crist campaign got some good news last month when Florida newspapers reported that Rubio had charged personal expenses to a credit card belong to the Florida Republican Party. Rubio repaid the funds and accused the Crist campaign of leaking the story as a way of distracting attention from the governor's poor political standing.