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It would take a true blowout for Republicans to pick up the 10 additional Senate seats they need for control. The first, in Indiana, should be easy: Republican Dan Coates is running well ahead in polls over his Democratic opponent, Rep. Brad Ellsworth. But if Mr. Paul can’t keep Kentucky in the GOP column, it would be a sign of strength for Democrats and a symbolic setback for the tea party activists.

Republicans should have an easy time holding on to one of their own vacant seats in Ohio, where former Rep. Rob Portman is favored. But keep an eye on West Virginia, where Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin and Republican millionaire industrialist John Raese are tussling over the long-held seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat.

Three-term Sen. Blanche Lincoln could be the first Senate Democratic incumbent to fall when polls close in Arkansas at 8:30 p.m.

Then there is a series of hard-fought races in the East and Midwest before polls close at 10 p.m. in the most closely watched race of the night: Republicans are out to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, running against tea party favorite Sharron Angle.

Even if Republicans show huge strength, the nation still could go to sleep Tuesday night with unanswered questions about the makeup of the Senate: Polls don’t close until 1 a.m. EDT in Alaska, where it could take days or weeks to determine the winner of a three-way race for the seat of Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Governors

For all the focus on Congress, there will be plenty of suspense over how Republicans fare in governors mansions across the country.

South Carolina will offer an early measure: Republican Nikki Haley trailed for months before former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s endorsement and a tea party surge helped her nail the GOP nomination. Now she’s favored over Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

Over the next few hours, results will roll in for the blue-state Northeast, where Democrats are facing tough GOP challenges in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. If Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick goes down in the liberal bastion of Massachusetts, it’s a sign that the tea party fury over taxes and big government is spreading far and wide.

There’s plenty of suspense in Florida, with an 8 p.m. poll close, in the battle between Republican businessman Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer.

Close contests are expected in late poll-closing states Oregon and Hawaii, and polls don’t close until 11 p.m. in California, where billionaire businesswoman Meg Whitman and former Gov. Jerry Brown are vying to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.