The Plains

Brownback likely to set up shop in Topeka

Conservative Republican Sam Brownback, left, retired from the Senate to run for governor and is expected to defeat Democratic state Sen. Tom Holland, giving the GOP a pickup.

Republican Rep. Jerry Moran is likely to replace Brownback in the Senate; his Democratic rival is Lisa Johnston, a Baker University assistant dean. And in the House, Republican state Rep. Kevin Yoder is favored to win the open 3rd District seat over nurse Stephene Moore, the wife of Rep. Dennis Moore (D), who is retiring.

2010 is a warmup for the main event in 2012

Gov. Dave Heineman (R) is a shoo-in for a second full term against lawyer Mike Meister (D), and the only competitive House race looks like Republican Lee Terry's reelection bid.

Democrats targeted the district early and landed a top recruit in state Sen. Tom White. They hold out some hope that the race will be close (an Omaha World-Herald poll last week showed the incumbent up 5 points), but Terry has benefited from the good environment and Democrats' inability to field a competitive gubernatorial candidate.

The real race here is in two years, when Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is up for another term.

Lone Democratic wolf in trouble on the prairie

Few of the country's imperiled Democrats are in as much trouble as Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D), who has held North Dakota's lone House seat for 18 years. Running against state Rep. Rick Berg (R), Pomeroy's party identification appears to be weighing him down in this Republican-leaning state. Pomeroy is running as a moderate, but the GOP has sought to tie him to President Obama and the national Democratic leadership.

Republicans are nearly certain to pick up the seat of retiring Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D), as Gov. John Hoeven leads Democrat Tracy Potter by a wide margin.

Noem, Herseth Sandlin head to the finish line

In the heated race for South Dakota's sole House seat, Republican state Rep. Kristi Noem's campaign against incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) has become a cause celebre among conservatives.

Noem has attacked Herseth Sandlin for being too close to the Democratic leadership, while Democrats have gone after Noem for an awful driving record that includes 20 speeding tickets, six court notices for failure to appear and two arrest warrants.

The matchup has become one of the most intriguing of the cycle, as Noem seeks to become a rising star in her party in much the same way Herseth Sandlin did in hers in 2004 when she won a special election.

Herseth Sandlin is the granddaughter of a former governor and comes from a well-heeled political family. She is thought to be a potential future candidate for Senate or governor.

In the open governor's race, Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) is favored to succeed his boss, outgoing Gov. Mike Rounds (R). Daugaard faces state Sen. Scott Heidepriem (D).

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.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company