Republican & democratic party icons*In the aftermath of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, the bulk of the press coverage and attention is focused – rightly – on the presidential race between Obama and Mitt Romney.

However, as the time between Election Day shrinks and shrinks and shrinks (it suddenly seems like it’s just around the corner, doesn’t it?) it’s also important to follow the hotly-contested race for control of the senate. It’s been six years since the mid-Bush “blue wave” swept a fascinating crop of senators into higher office – Jim Webb in Virginia, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Jon Tester in Montana, Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania – and the upcoming election should prove to be a fascinating referendum on their accomplishments and Obama’s administration. So what Senate races should you watch come election night?

VIRGINIA – Webb isn’t running for a second term, so the race will come down to his opponent in the 2006 elections, Republican George Allen (of the infamous “macaca” comment) and former Gov. Tim Kaine. Virginia has become a lot bluer, and Obama’s healthy polling data in the state suggests that the Democrats may be able to win this.

MISSOURI – Thanks to Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, this race got turned on its ear. Akin had a good lead on incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill before his foot-in-mouth moment, and now its McCaskill with a good lead. It would be truly astonishing (and scary) if Akin could pull out a win after his remarks.

MONTANA – The Big Sky country, usually reliably red, elected linebacker-looking Democrat Jon Tester to the Senate in 2006. This time, he faces off against a stronger candidate in Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, who boasts one of politics’ most awesome ‘staches.

CONNECTICUT – Yes, seriously. The Nutmeg State is generally as blue as the ocean, but Republican candidate Linda McMahon – the wife of WWE monarch Vince – is giving a surprisingly good challenge to Democrat Chris Murphy. Imagine all the wrestling puns that could come out of this match.

MAINE – Another New England battle, this one of the three-way kind; Republican Charlie Summers is pitted against Democrat Cynthia Dill and independent (and former governor) Angus King. Our advice? Bet a guy with the surname “King” running for something in Maine.