ALASKA Stevens' legal woes gave rival a boost

Throughout most of his nearly 40 years in office, Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican member in the Senate's history, has easily won reelection in an overwhelmingly GOP state. In his last election, for example, the now 84-year-old Stevens won with 78 percent of the vote. But this year's race against Anchorage's Democratic mayor, Mark Begich, tightened up when Stevens was indicted July 29 for allegedly concealing benefits he received from employees of an Alaskan oil services company. A week before the election, a federal jury convicted Stevens, and Sen. John McCain called on him to resign. Stevens maintained his innocence after the verdict and asked Alaskans to elect him to a seventh full term.

COLORADO A strong GOP district tilts Democratic

The race for Colorado's open seat pitted Democrat Mark Udall, a member of the U.S. House and son of former Arizona Rep. Morris Udall, against former GOP Rep. Bob Schaffer. Despite the fact that Republican Wayne Allard previously held the seat in the traditionally Republican state, Udall led in every poll leading up to the election, although his early double-digit lead slipped to single digits in recent weeks before climbing again. The trend mirrors that of the state's shifting political climate. Colorado, which voted Republican in the last three presidential elections, has also been deemed a tossup for John McCain and Barack Obama this year.

KENTUCKY Economy chipped at GOP leader's edge

Until the recent financial crisis erupted, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP minority leader, held a distinct lead over Democrat Bruce Lunsford. McConnell has been exceptionally well funded, but Lunsford, the founder of a chain of nursing homes, has been willing to dip into his own fortune to even the score. Democrats have tried to paint McConnell as an obstructionist, hindering crucial legislation in a Democratic-controlled Congress, while McConnell sought to link Lunsford to Barack Obama in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator in 16 years.

LOUISIANA GOP could grab Landrieu's seat

In what was considered the only competitive race in the nation for a Democratic seat, Republican strategists ratcheted up support for state Treasurer John Kennedy against Sen. Mary Landrieu. Having won by fewer than 5 percentage points in her previous two elections combined, Landrieu seemed like a vulnerable target for Kennedy, a recent Democrat-turned-Republican. Kennedy tried to paint Landrieu as a tax-and-spend liberal, while Landrieu accused her opponent of changing his party and rhetoric to get elected.

MISSISSIPPI Name-recognition a factor for Lott's seat

Republican Roger Wicker, a former U.S. representative who became senator after Republican Trent Lott resigned his seat in December, has been in a competitive race almost since then. This year's special election to fill the remaining four years pitted Wicker against former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat. While Wicker worked to make himself familiar among voters outside the First District that he represented, Musgrove enjoyed large, statewide name recognition because of his gubernatorial experience. Both touted fiscal conservatism but took shots at each other's records: Musgrove caught flak for presiding over a declining budget as governor, as did Wicker for supporting congressional earmarks.

NEW HAMPSHIRE Anti-Bush feelings charge rematch

In a rematch of their 2002 senatorial race, GOP Sen. John Sununu faced Democratic former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Sununu won by 4 percentage points six years ago (51 percent to 47 percent), but polls generally showed Shaheen ahead in the weeks before Election Day, largely because of anti-Bush sentiment. With the economy among voters' biggest concerns, Shaheen hammered Sununu for voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, while Sununu accused Shaheen of trying to have it both ways on the bill -- first making supportive comments before coming out against it.

NEW MEXICO Family connections and the economy

Democrat Tom Udall and Republican Steve Pearce, both members of the U.S. House, battled it out for the Senate seat that retiring Republican Pete Domenici has held for the past 35 years. Udall, the son of former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, sailed through his primary election unchallenged, gaining a large fundraising advantage over Pearce in the process. Both men twice voted against the $700 billion financial rescue package Congress passed in September. In a recent poll, two-thirds of New Mexico voters cited the economy as their No. 1 concern, with the Iraq war a distant second.

NORTH CAROLINA A focus on local vs. national issues

Republican Elizabeth Dole found herself in a surprisingly tight race with Kay Hagan, a Democratic state senator. Hagan sought to nationalize the race by linking Dole to President Bush and his unpopular policies. Meanwhile, Dole, wife of former presidential candidate Bob Dole, looked to focus the race on state issues, such as tobacco buyouts and local sheriff authority in immigration cases. A recent poll showed both candidates with nearly identical favorability ratings: 52 percent of voters had a favorable impression of Dole while 51 percent felt the same way about Hagan.

OREGON Distance from Bush may not be a help

GOP Sen. Gordon Smith's moderate voting record -- he broke with President Bush on the Iraq war and voted against the president's wishes more than any other Republican -- allowed him to distance himself from the unpopular Republican brand. But Democratic state House Speaker Jeff Merkley has been trumpeting his legislative experience that spurred him to victory in a highly contested primary. The candidates mostly sparred over economic issues in recent weeks, as state polls showed it was voters' biggest concern. Smith voted for September's $700 billion rescue package, while Merkley said that it needed more oversight and that he would've voted against it.

VIRGINIA Ex-governors aim for Warner's seat

In what Democrats saw as one of their most likely pickups, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican James Gilmore III, both ex-governors, battled for retiring five-term Republican John Warner's seat. Mark Warner (no relation to John Warner), who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, enjoyed a huge fundraising advantage over Gilmore, at one point during the summer having $5 million more cash on hand than his opponent. The candidates differed over the Wall Street financial package; Mark Warner said he reluctantly supported it while Gilmore decried it for "benefiting the rich."