In an election year where we have a Democratic candidate who is the most charismatic politician we’ve witnessed since Kennedy, it can be easy to forget about the other elections. And by the other elections, of course I mean the incredibly dynamic U.S. Senate races being held around the country. There are 35 seats up for election, but 23 of those seats were previously held by Republicans and only 12 were held by Democrats. What does this mean? Basically, it translates into big trouble for Republicans, and an opportunity for Democrats that is just as crucial as electing Obama for President.

And it gets even worse for Republicans. Of those 12 Democratic seats, only one seat is seriously threatened while a slough of the Republican seats are in real jeopardy. For voters in any of the States where these critical elections are being held, it’s time to get just as mobilized and excited about your Democratic Senatorial candidate as you may feel about Obama. This next ballot is especially important for you. For those in other States, I encourage you to donate a percentage of everything you donate to Obama to a few of your favorite Senatorial races. If you really want change, we need Democrats to pick up these seats in the Senate.

In this spirit, I thought I’d make a guide to all of the close races we’ll be seeing in the Senate this year. I’ll do this alphabetically by State:

Alaska: Nick Begich (D) vs. Ted Stevens (R). Stevens’ seat, vulnerable already, recently became more vulnerable after he was indicted on 7 felony accounts for not disclosing huge gifts he got from Big Oil. In other words, he’s the typical Republican conservative corporate crony. Begich should win this one, but this is one opportunity Democrats have to capitalize on.

Colorado: Mark Udall (D) vs. Bob Schaffer (R). This is an open seat after Republican Wayne Allard announced his retirement. This is a close race, and an absolutely essential one. Colorado has been swaying toward the blue in recent years, and Schaffer is running a dirty campaign with ads full of falsehoods and lies (in typical GOP strategical fashion). Schaffer is also a corporate crony: he has been pushing oil deals that would harm US-Iraq policy. None of this is to mention Schaffer’s close ties to blatant human rights abuses on the Marianas Islands. Why must the Right always be so clearly on the side of evil? We need to get Udall elected here.

Idaho: Larry LaRocco (D) vs. Jim Risch (R). This seat used to belong to Republican Larry Craig. Remember Larry Craig?–Everyone’s favorite gay-basher who got busted for soliciting gay sex? Well, after some theatrics, he’s gone. But this is still a Red State, and LaRocco has an uphill battle. Risch has a lot more money, but the good news is there are a couple of other conservatives on the ballot, which could siphon away some of Risch’s support.

Kentucky: Bruce Lunsford (D) vs. Mitch McConnell (R). This one isn’t going to be easy. McConnell is, of course, the Senate Minority Leader, and he has a gigantic funding advantage. Still, the race is within 10 points and making McConnell nervous could shake up Republican leadership.

Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) vs. John Neely Kennedy (R). Landrieu has the only incumbent Democratic seat which is in real trouble. Kennedy (who has no relationship to the Kennedy family in MA at all) is being propped up primarily by the fact that a huge percentage of Landrieu’s voters were displaced and never returned home after Hurricane Katrina. As a result of the missing African-American vote especially, this should be a tight race. Remember: keeping this seat is just as important as picking up a Republican seat.

Maine: Tom Allen (D) vs. Susan Collins (R). This is an uphill battle for Allen against the incumbent Collins. Like Oregon’s Smith, Collins gets elected despite being in a Blue State by running as a moderate. Still, it’s essential for Maine voters to understand that their Democratic interests are far better represented by Allen. This one should be really close.

Minnesota: Al Franken (D) vs. Norm Coleman (R). This is one of the fun, high profile races out there. Franken is the former comedian turned Air America progressive radio talker. There really isn’t much doubt about Franken’s progressive values, since he’s been candidly expressing them over the radio for years. Still, this is going to be a very close race, and there’s no reason to think Franken’s high profile makes him safe; it can hurt him as much as help. Donations to the Franken campaign would be extremely helpful in landing this important seat, which once belonged to the progressive champion, the late Paul Wellstone.

Mississippi: Ronnie Musgrove (D) vs. Roger Wicker (R). Yes, this is a close race: even in Mississippi! This is a battle to finish out Trent Lott’s term, which Lott decided to give up to begin a career as a lobbyist instead. Lott had a lot of incumbency power, and some of that will carry over to Wicker. As always: as the African-American vote goes in Mississippi, so goes the democratic vote. Thus, turnout for Obama should help Musgrove here, even though he currently trails in the polls. If you’re going out to vote in Mississippi for Obama, remember to vote for Musgrove too! They should be handcuffed together here.

New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen (D) vs. John Sununu (R). This is a close one, and an important one. New Hampshire has been leaning further and further into the Blue, and so far Shaheen has a small lead in the polls. Make a donation to her campaign to keep her there!

New Mexico: Tom Udall (D) vs. Steve Pearce (R). This is an open seat after Republican Pete Domenici announced retirement. Udall has 5 times as much cash, has a fair lead in the polls, and he’s an Udall: a powerhouse political family. Stewart Udall was basically responsible for every piece of environmental legislation that was passed in the 60’s. Tom should continue the legacy.

North Carolina: Kay Hagan (D) vs. Elizabeth Dole (R). This one should be more of a longshot for Hagan than it is. Dole is an established incumbent, but right after the primaries some polls showed Hagan on top. Since then, Dole has re-established her lead, but she’s still extremely vulnerable. If the African-American vote gets out, which it should for Obama, Hagan has a real shot. As with all of these races, it is particularly important here: Obama voters all need to turnout for Hagan too.

Oregon: Jeff Merkley (D) vs. Gordon Smith (R). This is my home state and where I’ll be voting, so I have a personal stake at getting Gordon Smith out of office. Merkley has been the Speaker of the Oregon House, with a solid progressive background. Meanwhile, Smith is the quintessential political sleaze-ball. When he’s up for re-election, he says whatever he must to stay in office. He’s made headlines for his ads practically endorsing Barack Obama. But don’t be fooled: his real record shows his true colors as a crony for the Bush Administration. He’s a moderate in election-year advertisements, but when called to action he’s Right whipped. Merkley continues to steadily improve in the polls. But still, it’s an uphill battle and he needs all the help we can give him!

Texas: Rick Noriega (D) vs. John Cornyn (R). Polls haven’t been taken here in a while, and so the race is difficult to gauge. There’s every reason to believe that Noriega could make this race close. Cornyn is vulnerable after atrociously blocking the Medicare Bill. The American Medical Association even vowed to run ads against Cornyn due to his poor record on health care. Noriega is definitely trailing here, but Cornyn has been polling under 50%, which is a sign of vulnerability for any incumbent.

Virginia: Mark Warner (D) vs. Jim Gilmore (R). This is actually an open seat, after Republican John Warner (no relation to Mark) announced his retirement. Mark Warner is a ridiculously popular former Governor of Virginia, meanwhile Jim Gilmore is another former governor who is best known for nearly sending Virginia into bankruptcy with a fiscally irresponsible tax cut. Warner looks like an easy winner here, but never say never. He needs your vote!

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