The Rockies

Moving to the left lane, but bumps may lie ahead

Democrats have made big gains in Colorado during the past three elections, with President Obama capping the shift away from the GOP with an easy victory over John McCain in 2008. Republicans hope to reverse that trend Tuesday.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D), appointed when Ken Salazar was named interior secretary, is in one of the closest Senate races in the country against Ken Buck, the Weld County prosecutor and a favorite of tea party activists. Buck's conservative views and propensity to put his boot in his mouth have cost him, but Bennet is running in a difficult environment. This race is a true tossup.

Gov. Bill Ritter (D) decided to retire after one term, and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) rates the favorite to succeed him. Republicans squandered any opportunity to win by nominating political novice Dan Maes, who has proved to be a weak opponent. Former Republican representative Tom Tancredo, running a third-party campaign, has gained ground as Maes's support has nose-dived, but Hickenlooper still leads.

Democrats are fighting to hold three House seats. Rep. Betsy Markey, elected two years ago, appears most in danger in her 4th District race against state Rep. Cory Gardner. In the 3rd District, Rep. John Salazar faces stiff competition from Scott Tipton, who got the endorsement of Sarah Palin in the GOP primary. In the 7th District, Rep. Ed Perlmutter is being pressed by Ryan Frazier but is in better shape than his two colleagues.

Minnick works to buck anti-Democrat trend

The story in Idaho is going to be Rep. Walt Minnick, who represents one of the most conservative districts of any Democrat and is in a tough battle in a very tough year.

If he survives, it will be thanks to his conservative record and smart campaigning, as well as a GOP primary in which the national party's favorite imploded under multiple plagiarism charges, leaving underfunded state Rep. Raul Labrador as the Republican nominee.

The sparse public polling on this race suggests Minnick is below 50 percent, but even Labrador's internal polling showed the challenger trailing. If Minnick cannot hold on, it will probably mean that many other Democrats in conservative districts lost and that the Republican wave was really, really big.

Meanwhile, Gov. Butch Otter (R) appears to be in good position for a second term against former Harvard University professor Keith Allred (D).

In a busy year, quiet on this Western front

With no governor or Senate race on the ballot, Rep. Denny Rehberg's (R) reelection bid is the only big game in town. Rehberg, who holds the state's only House seat, is a heavy favorite against former state Democratic Party chairman Dennis McDonald.

Reid-Angle: All bets are off in this prizefight

The best show in Vegas isn't on the Strip. It's the Senate race between Majority Leader Harry Reid and former Nevada Assembly member Sharron Angle.

Reid is struggling to win a fifth term. His best hope may be his unorthodox Republican opponent, who has advocated ending Social Security and acidly instructed Reid to "man up" in their one debate. But Nevadans like Angle's firecracker spirit. One wild card: the option for voters to select "none of the above" on their ballots.

In the 3rd District, freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D) is struggling against former GOP state Sen. Joe Heck, a physician who has kept his distance from Angle. Titus, an outspoken former professor, is popular with the Democratic base, but Heck could lure Republicans who are reluctant to support the tea party star.

Rory Reid, son of the senator, is the Democratic nominee for governor, but he has trailed former state attorney general Brian Sandoval, the first Hispanic to be elected statewide in Nevada.

A beehive of activity on Election Day

In most years, all the election action in Utah takes place in the primaries. There isn't much in question on Election Day, given the state's heavy Republican lean. That was true this cycle, too -- and there was plenty of action to be had.

Sen. Bob Bennett (R), who was ousted in May at the state convention by party activists angry over his vote for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, won't be returning for a fourth term. Likely to be in his place is lawyer Mike Lee, who defeated Tim Bridgewater in the GOP primary and faces only token Democratic opposition from businessman Sam Granato.

Beehive State voters will also go to the polls for a special gubernatorial election. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) is heavily favored to win despite a credible challenge from Salt Lake County Mayor Pete Corroon (D). Herbert succeeded to the governorship in August 2009 after popular GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman was appointed U.S. ambassador to China.

There shouldn't be any surprises in these races

Former U.S. attorney Matt Mead won the GOP primary for governor, and he should have no problem in the general election. Popular Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal considered pushing for a change in state law to seek a third term but opted against it. And Democrats didn't land a strong recruit to replace him.

Freshman Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) faces nominal competition for a second term in the state's at-large House district.

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