The Mid-Atlantic

In Senate race, is it make or (tie)break?

New Castle County Executive Christopher Coons (D) is well ahead in his bid to keep Vice President Biden's former Senate seat in Democratic hands. Once conservative Christine O'Donnell defeated popular GOP Rep. Michael N. Castle in the September primary, she quickly plummeted in the general election polls in liberal-leaning Delaware despite growing national news media attention. If Democrats lose nine other seats, leaving the Senate at 50-50, they may consider Coons their savior, because they would retain the majority by virtue of Biden's tie-breaking vote.

There is another potential bright spot for Democrats, in the race to succeed Castle in the House. Former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) is a slight favorite over Glen Urquhart, a real estate investor from Rehoboth Beach who, like O'Donnell, won his primary with support from more conservative voters downstate. Hopes of House Democrats holding the majority rest on Carney and several other Democrats claiming GOP-held seats in moderate suburban districts.

The incumbent vs. the ex-incumbent

The excitement on Election Day in Maryland begins at the top of the ballot. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is in a heated reelection race against his predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich (R), with the Republican hoping that voters will reverse the choice they made in the 2006 contest between the two men. Ehrlich has sought to blame O'Malley for the state's economic woes; O'Malley has painted Ehrlich as a tool of special interests. The last Washington Post poll of the race showed O'Malley with a 14-point lead among likely voters.

Down the ballot, freshman Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil's reelection race in the 1st District -- which includes the Eastern Shore and the suburbs north and south of Baltimore -- is among the most competitive in the country. Kratovil is running against state Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) for the second consecutive campaign and faces a tough slog.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) appears assured of winning her fifth term over Queen Anne's County Commissioner Eric Wargotz (R) , leading by 37 points in the last Post poll.

For more Maryland coverage, visit our Maryland Politics blog.

No Snooki, but drama imbues Jersey Shore

Most of the races in the Garden State are sleepy affairs this year, with the notable exception of the 3rd District, a swing district along the Jersey Shore that has seen more drama in recent weeks than an episode of "Jersey Shore."

Freshman Rep. John Adler, left, (D) is running neck and neck with first-time candidate and former Philadelphia Eagles lineman Jon Runyan (R), with the football player's path to victory being complicated somewhat by tea party candidate Peter DeStefano's presence in the race.

State Republicans have decried DeStefano as a "sham" and are calling for a criminal probe into his candidacy, accusing Adler's campaign of recruiting him to run; Adler has denied the charges. Meanwhile, local tea party groups have demanded that DeStefano remove his name from the ballot, something that looks unlikely to happen given that absentee voting is well underway.

Battleground state could be a bellwether

This newly established battleground state, where Democrats hold eight of 13 congressional seats, could be an indicator of the GOP's strength this year. As many as four Democratic-held seats are in the mix.

Larry Kissell, serving his first term in the southerly 8th District, is in a tough race against retired TV sportscaster Harold Johnson, as is two-term Rep. Heath Shuler, who is facing Republican Jeff Miller in the 11th District in far western part of the state.

Insiders are also keeping an eye on two seven-term Democratic incumbents: Mike McIntyre of the southeastern 7th District, who faces former Marine Ilario Pantano (R); and Bob Etheridge of the central 2nd District, who is running against nurse Renee Ellmers (R).

The state's Republican senior senator, Richard Burr, is far ahead of Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

Democrats are singing the blue-state blues

Democrats are struggling all over Pennsylvania. In the governor's race, Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) leads Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (D) to succeed term-limited Democrat Ed Rendell.

Rep. Joe Sestak (D) is in a close Senate race against former Rep. Patrick Toomey. Democrats are pushing hard to hold the seat held by Arlen Specter.

In the House, the most endangered Pennsylvania Democrat is freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, whose northwestern district has been hard hit by the economy. She has trailed auto dealer Mike Kelly for much of the past few months. Rep. Paul Kanjorski is in a tough rematch against Hazelton Mayor Lou Barletta. And Rep. Chris Carney is struggling against former U.S. attorney Tom Marino. In the Philadelphia suburbs, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is locked in a close race against former representative Michael Fitzpatrick, whom Murphy defeated in 2006. Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Bryan Lentz, an Iraq war veteran, is running neck and neck with Republican Patrick Meehan, the former U.S. attorney for that region.

Perhaps the most symbolic race is in the Johnstown region, where Rep. Mark Critz (D) is trying to hold on to the seat he won in a special election in May. Democrats held up Critz's victory as an example of how they could win by focusing on local issues. Now, Critz is in a tossup against businessman Tim Burns. Outside Pittsburgh, Rep. Jason Altmire, running as a conservative Democrat, has an edge over lawyer Keith Rothfus (R).

The lone Pennsylvania Republican in any danger is Rep. Charlie Dent, who is running against Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D) in a district that President Obama won in 2008.

Living by Obama in '08; dying by Obama in '10

If you want an illustration of how far the political pendulum has swung since 2008, look no further than Virginia.

Buoyed by President Obama, Democrats picked up three House seats that were previously held by Republicans. Now all of those freshman Democrats -- Gerald Connolly, Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello -- are endangered, as might be veteran Rep. Rick Boucher.

In the 11th District, which includes parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, Connolly is locked in a close race with Oakton businessman Keith Fimian (R). Connolly beat Fimian by 12 points in 2008, and Democrats are spending heavily to keep the suburban seat.

In the 5th District, stretching from Charlottesville down to North Carolina, Perriello got a visit from Obama Friday in an effort to replicate the high Democratic turnout of two years ago. A darling of many liberals because he backed Obama's health-care and energy bills, Perriello is in serious trouble against Republican state Sen. Robert Hurt.

Nye faces a similarly uphill fight in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd District against auto dealer Scott Rigell (R). Nye has accumulated a relatively moderate voting record but has still been lumped in with Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi by the GOP.

In the southwest 9th District, Boucher appears to be on firmer footing against state House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R). But if 2010 does turn out to be a wave year for Republicans, Boucher could well lose after 28 years in office.

For more Virginia coverage, visit our Virginia Politics blog.

Replacing Byrd isn't as easy as it once looked

Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) is enormously popular in West Virginia -- yet he is in a competitive Senate race against perennial candidate John Raese (R), who has lost three previous statewide campaigns.

Raese's ads casting Manchin as a potential "rubber stamp" for President Obama in the Senate have forced Manchin to move to the right on a series of issues in this race to replace the late Robert C. Byrd (D), who held this seat for more than 50 years.

In the House, 3rd District Rep. Nick Rahall (D), who has represented the southern part of the state since 1977, faces the same challenge: Voters like him personally but are skeptical of Democratic policies. Republican Elliott "Spike" Maynard has tried to link Rahall to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats are also struggling harder in the 1st District. State Sen. Mike Oliverio (D) and former state delegate David McKinley (R) are dueling over who is more conservative.

CONTRIBUTORS: The state previews were written and compiled by Washington Post staff writers Chris Cillizza, Dan Balz, Amy Gardner, Shailagh Murray, Paul Kane, Aaron Blake, Felicia Sonmez, Ben Pershing and Perry Bacon Jr. PHOTOGRAPHS: The photographs were taken by The Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters and Getty Images photographers.

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