Term-limited Gov. Bill Graves (R) has fought battle after battle with the conservative wing of his party. When that faction prevailed in the primary by nominating state Treasurer Tim Shallenburger (R) over two moderate opponents, the door was opened for a rare Democratic win in Kansas. Their nominee is elected Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius (D), whose father, John J. Gilligan, was governor of Ohio and whose father in-law, Keith Sebelius, was a well-loved Republican House member from western Kansas.
A late Kansas City Star poll gives her a 9-point lead, and sources in both parties say it would be an upset for Shallenburger to overtake her.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R), perhaps the wittiest man in the Senate and an early advocate of homeland security measures, has only minor-party opponents for his second term.
Rep. Dennis Moore (D) sits in a highly Republican suburban area, where he is likely to be tested every two years. This year, his opponent, former Navy pilot and marketing consultant Adam Taff (R), is more worrisome to Moore, because he comes from Graves's moderate faction. Reform Party candidate Dawn Bly is seeking support from anti-abortion voters.
Moore has had four years to entrench himself, but late visits from big-name Republicans indicate the district is in play.
Democrats occasionally have been known to win in this state, but not this year. Gov. Mike Johanns (R) is on his way to a second term over Democrat Stormy Dean (a businessman, not an exotic dancer), and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) is having an even easier time with unfunded construction worker Charles Matulka (D).
It's a meager diet of campaigns, with no Senate or governor race, so the focus is on initiatives for a multi-state lottery and a bonus system for young people who stay in North Dakota after finishing school.
Gov. William Janklow (R) is term-limited after finishing his second eight-year stint in the statehouse and former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Rounds is positioned to succeed him, after getting an early scare from Democrat Jim Abbott, former president of the University of South Dakota.
But the real action has come in the races for Senate and the at-large House district. Bush personally recruited Rep. John Thune (R) to challenge Sen. Tim Johnson (D), and the two have carpet-bombed the state with round-the-clock commercials that began airing early in the year and haven't let up. The two parties and outside interest groups have chipped in with mostly negative ads.
Drought has been one issue, with Bush putting Thune in a hole by refusing to come to the state's assistance. Thune has promoted conservative values; Johnson and his allies have attacked Thune on Social Security and education. The race has been seen as a proxy fight between Bush and the state's senior senator, Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle. After all the sound and fury, the two are even in recent polling, and there may not be a closer Senate race in the country.
Janklow, 63, is leaving the governor's office but not politics. He wants to take Thune's congressional seat and defeated former senator Larry Pressler in the GOP primary. In Democrat Stephanie Herseth, the 31-year-old granddaughter of a former governor, the sometimes irascible and always outspoken Janklow ran into a tough challenger who provides a sharp contrast in style and demeanor. His experience may give him the edge, but her appeal to younger women makes this a competitive race.