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The Fix's 2010 Election Day viewer's guide

With hundreds -- literally -- of competitive House, Senate and governors races going on today, it's hard to know where to look.

That's where we come in. Below you'll find our hour by hour election night viewer's guide -- the races you'll want to keep an eye on as the night unfolds for indications of where things are headed.

And, remember to stay tuned to the Fix for all the latest and greatest election news and results today. It's election day!

7 p.m.

Indiana's 2nd, 8th and 9th districts: These three House races will tell us what kind of night it will be for Democrats. The 8th District open seat is a certain pickup for Republicans, and the 9th District fight between Rep. Baron Hill (D) and lawyer Todd Young (R) is a jump ball. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) is favored in the South Bend-based 2nd District. If Democrats lose just one of those three, they can hold the House. Lose two and their majority is probably gone. Lose all three, and Republicans will gain upward of 60 seats.

Kentucky Senate: State Attorney General Jack Conway's (D) decision to run the now famous/infamous "Aqua Buddha" ad in his race against ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) appears to have turned this from a nip and tuck affair into a likely win for the GOP. If Conway comes close or even wins, it suggests the night won't be as bad as many expect for Democrats.

Kentucky's 6th district: Republicans are spending money on semi-longshot challenger Andy Barr in this Lexington-area district held by Rep. Ben Chandler (D). Democratic polling as recently as last week showed Chandler up double digits. If Chandler loses, Republicans could well make a historic number of pickups.

7:30 p.m.

Ohio Governor: There may be no race in the country that matters more over the next two years than this one between Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and former Rep. John Kasich (R). Ohio is slated to lose two seats in next year's reapportionment process and the party that controls the governor's office will have considerable contoll of that process. And, it's a virtual certainty the Buckeye State will be a swing state in the 2012 presidential contest.

West Virginia Senate: Democrats are feeling more and more confident about Gov. Joe Manchin's (D) chances of winning the remaining two year term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D). But, Republicans still believe the Mountain State's distaste for President Obama and the national Democratic party could drag businessman John Raese across the line. If Raese wins, the majority is in play for Republicans.

North Carolina's 7th and 11th districts: Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler both emerged as late targets for Republicans. These are the kind of districts that are accessible to the GOP but don't feature top GOP candidates. If they fall, there's dozens more like them.

8 p.m.

Florida Governor: The marquee governor's race of the night is between state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) and former health-care executive Rick Scott (R). Both parties have dumped scads of money into the state, and Democrats see a win as crucial to their entire night.

Illinois Senate: Voters don't like state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) or Rep. Mark Kirk (R) much but they are going to have to choose one of them today. Republicans would love nothing more than to put a Republican in the President's old seat.

New Hampshire Governor: Gov. John Lynch (D) won with 70(!) percent of the vote in 2008. He won't come anywhere near that total this time around in his race against Republican John Stephen although Democrats expect the incumbent to in. It may be the lone bright spot in the Granite State where Republicans are poised to make broad gains at the federal level.

Pennsylvania Senate: Democratic hopes were riding high last week as Rep. Joe Sestak (D) seemed set for one of his trademark comebacks in the open seat race against former Rep. Pat Toomey (R). Over the last seven days, however, Toomey appears to have pushed back into a slight lead although Democrats are hoping their 1.2 million person registration edge can keep it close.

Alabama's 2nd district, Maryland's 1st district and Mississippi's 1st district: If Reps. Bobby Bright (D-Ala.), Travis Childers (D-Miss.) and Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) can hold on, Democrats have a chance of holding the majority. These are freshmen who ran good campaigns in conservative districts, and there are enough like them to withstand total disaster.

9 p.m.

Colorado Senate: The battle between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Weld County prosecutor Ken Buck (R) is the Fix's favorite race of the night. Why? Because it's a genuine toss up with both parties acknowledging they have absolutely no idea how it will turn out. And, because more than $33 million has been spent by national party committees and outside groups in the race.

South Dakota at-large district: The race between Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) and state Rep. Kristi Noem (R) has drawn national attention. Herseth Sandlin has run a solid campaign to distance herself from Obama in this Republican-leaning state, and the race will serve as a test case for whether moderate Democrats can escape the drag of the national party.

Arizona's 7th district and Minnesota's 8th district: Look at Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) - perhaps the two most unexpected targets of the cycle that are both facing toss-up races. Oberstar has been in office for 35 years and chairs the House transportation committee, but has had trouble beating back and inspired challenge from Republican Chip Cravaack (great name!). Grijalva hurt himself by urging a boycott of the state after a tough illegal immigration bill was passed, but a district like his shouldn't be in play.

10 p.m.

Iowa Governor: The state that started it all for President Obama in 2008 appears headed in the opposite direction as former Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is a heavy favorite over Gov. Chet Culver (D). Can Republicans capitalize on Branstad's showing to win any of the races in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd district? Polling suggests they are underdogs in all three and if they win none of that trio, it would look like a major missed opportunity for the GOP.

Nevada Senate: The race between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) and former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle is the most expensive -- $50+ million -- and nastiest contest in the country. It's also likely to be very close. Interestingly, both Democratic and Republican strategists believe the race is moving in their direction in the final days. One of them is wrong.

Iowa's 1st and 2nd districts: Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) was swept into office in 2006 in a result that surprised many and signified the Democratic wave. If the wave crashes back on Democrats in a huge way, Loebsack could get swept up. Also keep an eye on fellow Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley (D), who is considered a rising star but has attracted plenty of attention from GOP outside groups.

11 p.m

California Governor: It sure looks like former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) spent $142 million of her own money to join a long list of self funders who have come up short in bids for statewide office in the Golden State. Whitman's spending eclipsed the as-amazing storyline that state Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) is a favorite to reclaim an office he first held in 1974!

Washington State Senate: The race between Sen. Patty Murray (D) and former state senator Dino Rossi (R) in Washington has been tightening recently, but Murray remains very well liked among the electorate. Rossi is trying to paint Murray as an insider, a potentially potent message in an anti-incumbent year. This race has emerged as Senate Republicans best chance of gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon Governor: Former NBA player Chris Dudley (R) has run a strong campaign and is in a nip-and-tuck race with former governor John Kitzhaber (D). A good race to judge just how strong the insider vs outsider dynamic is working in the country.

California's 20th district, Oregon's 1st district and North Dakota's at-large district: If Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and David Wu (D-Ore.) lose, it's already been a very bad night for Democrats. If Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) holds on, it's been OK.


Alaska Senate: The three-way race between Republican Joe Miller, Democrat Scott McAdams and write-in Republican Lisa Murkowski has emerged, oddly, as Democrats' best pickup chance in the country. But, because of the time difference, the closeness of the polling and the difficulty of counting Murkowski's write-in votes, we probably won't know who the identity of the next senator from the Last Frontier for days -- if not weeks.

By Chris Cillizza  | November 2, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Governors, House, Senate  
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