The South

Shelby and Co. look to keep the tide rolling

In overwhelmingly red Alabama, most of the attention this election season has been focused on two House seats in which the Democratic candidates are running behind.

In the 2nd District, first-term Rep. Bobby N. Bright is trailing Montgomery City Council member Martha Roby (R), despite his promise not to vote for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker and his popularity as a former Montgomery mayor.

In the 5th District, Mo Brooks, who defeated one-term incumbent Rep. Parker Griffith in the GOP primary, is overwhelmingly predicted to defeat Democrat Steve Raby.

Also noteworthy: In the governor's race, Democratic Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks is trailing Republican state Rep. Robert Bentley in most polls.

Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby, who was once a Democrat but switched parties, is expected to have no trouble winning a fifth term.

Beebe may be the only bright spot for Dems

Gov. Mike Beebe (D) has a commanding lead over GOP businessman Jim Keet and will probably cruise to a second term. But his victory may be one of the few bright spots for Democrats here on Election Day.

Rep. John Boozman (R) is heavily favored to defeat incumbent Blanche Lincoln (D) in the Senate race. Lincoln has suffered from her votes for the health-care overhaul and the economic stimulus.

And in the state's 1st and 2nd districts, Democratic incumbents Marion Berry and Vic Snyder, respectively, opted to retire rather than face tough campaigns.

Republican Tim Griffin is favored in the 2nd District. The 1st District race is a tossup between Berry's chief of staff Chad Causey and Republican Rick Crawford, a farm broadcaster.

Tough calls from southern tip to the Panhandle

It's a tumultuous election year in Florida. In the race for governor, health-care executive Republican Rick Scott, right, who has spent more than $60 million of his fortune, is in a close fight with Democrat Alex Sink, Florida's chief financial officer.

In the three-way race for Senate, former state House speaker Marco Rubio is poised for a win against Democrat Kendrick B. Meek. Gov. Charlie Crist has struggled to gain traction since leaving the GOP to run as an independent.

For the House, seven-term Rep. Allen Boyd (D) is in a tough race against funeral home operator Steve Southerland in the panhandle. Two Democratic Orlando-based freshmen, Reps. Alan Grayson in the 8th District and Suzanne Kosmas in the 24th District, are at risk. Grayson trails former state Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster (R), and Kosmas is running behind former deputy sheriff Sandy Adams (R).

In the Palm Beach region, Rep. Ron Klein is one of the few House Democrats who have courted President Obama's support. He faces retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, a favorite of tea party activists, who have helped him raise more than $5 million for this 2008 rematch. West could join one or two other black Republicans running this year to be the first African Americans in the GOP conference in eight years.

A possible pickup for Democrats is along the southern tip of Florida, where Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) is stepping down after eight years of representing the 25th District to run next door in the 21st for the seat of his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R), who is retiring. This has left a fight in which the Republican, state Rep. David Rivera, is a slight favorite over Joe Garcia, former chairman of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade.

Governor's race headed for a runoff?

Democrat Roy Barnes, who served as governor from 1999 to 2003, is trailing former House member Nathan Deal (R) in most polls in the gubernatorial contest. But Libertarian candidate John Monds is getting 2 to 4 points in most polls, too, which could deny Deal the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) has opposed President Obama's agenda, virtually ensuring victory in this conservative state over State Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond (D).

Two House Democrats could lose their seats to GOP challengers.

Rep. Jim Marshall, first elected in 2002, is trailing state Rep. Austin Scott in the 8th District. Rep. Sanford Bishop is effectively tied in the 2nd District against state Rep. Mike Keown.

The tea is boiling, and tempers are flaring

This conservative, anti-Obama state is the scene of a bitter battle between eye doctor and tea party favorite Rand Paul (R) and state Attorney General Jack Conway (D). Paul is narrowly favored to win and replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R).

The race has turned nasty, with both candidates trading barbs. Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), has accused Conway of twisting facts, and Conway alleged in an ad that Paul is anti-Christian. After Conway defended the ad at a candidates debate, Paul refused to shake the Democrat's hand when it ended.

For the House, Rep. Ben Chandler of the 6th District, which includes Lexington, Kentucky's second-largest city, is one of the most popular Democrats in the state, but he is struggling against attorney Andy Barr. The Republican has attacked Chandler for his votes in favor of the federal stimulus bill and cap-and-trade legislation.

Vitter's past is history; Cao's seat in danger

The fact that Republican Sen. David Vitter was implicated in the "D.C. Madam" scandal three years ago does not seem to have affected his reelection chances this year. Though Democrats recruited a solid candidate, Rep. Charlie Melancon, Vitter doesn't appear to face serious trouble Tuesday. Vitter has positioned himself as one of President Obama's chief critics. Melancon has gradually upped his attacks on Vitter with hard-hitting ads. But in the end, electing a Democrat to statewide office in Louisiana in 2010 is a very difficult thing to do.

In the House, tea party favorite Jeff Landry is expected to win Melancon's House seat, and Democratic state Rep. Cedric Richmond is favored to defeat freshman Rep. Joseph Cao (R) in the heavily Democratic and urban 2nd District.

Cao's seat is the best of the House Democrats' very few pickup opportunities. The district went 75 percent for Obama in 2008.

Going the distance in the distancing dance

Rep. Travis Childers (D) faces a tough race against state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R) in northern Mississippi's 1st District, which voted 62 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election. Childers, who won office in a May 2008 special election, outperformed President Obama by 16 points two years ago, but in a year that could be a wave for Republicans, he'll need to work hard to stay afloat.

Ten-term Rep. Gene Taylor in the 4th District is another endangered Democrat in a heavily Republican part of the state. He has become the latest member of his party to say that he will not vote for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Taylor's challenger, state Rep. Steven Palazzo (R), has tied Taylor to Pelosi at every opportunity, as has the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is investing in TV ads in the race.

Haley, Scott are riding the tea-party comet

Most of the electoral fireworks in South Carolina exploded during primary season, when two tea-party-backed GOP candidates, Nikki Haley for governor and Tim Scott for the 1st District seat, upset establishment candidates. Both are strongly favored to win -- Haley against Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen and Scott against Democrat Ben Frasier. Their victories could help change the GOP's image. Haley is Indian American, and Scott is African American.

GOP Sen. Jim DeMint, who has gained national prominence as an anointer of tea party candidates, is expected to easily defeat his surprise opponent, Alvin Greene, who won the Democratic nomination without campaigning and despite his odd behavior and lack of experience.

One House race worth watching is the 5th District, where 14-term Democratic incumbent John Spratt is facing a strong challenge from Republican state Sen. Mick Mulvaney.

Personal politics on display in House race

In a year full of heated rhetoric and raw political nerves, few contests have been as nasty as the one between Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) and Scott DesJarlais (R) in the 4th District. Davis and his allies have highlighted unsavory tidbits from DesJarlais's divorce files, while Republicans have sought to spread rumors regarding Davis's personal life. The contest looks like a tossup.

Republican state Sen. Diane Black is heavily favored to win the open Democratic seat in the 6th District.

In the 8th District seat of retiring Democratic Rep. John Tanner, farmer Stephen Fincher (R) is the favorite to defeat state Sen. Roy Herron (D).

Republicans also appear on track to gain a governor's seat here: Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam is viewed as a strong favorite to win the race over businessman Mike McWherter (D), the son of a former Tennessee governor.

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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