2011's Top Breakout Stars
3) Democratic Senate recruits serving in the House: From Chris Murphy in Connecticut to Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii and Shelley Berkley in Nevada, Democrats have coaxed several lower chamber members into races, resulting in steady fundraising performances and campaigns featuring experienced candidates. Of course, there are other Democratic candidates in Connecticut and New Mexico who would quickly warn against premature coronations for Heinrich and Murphy. 2) Rob McKenna: Can a Republican win statewide in the blue state of Washington -- during a presidential year? Talk to the national Republicans bullish about the attorney general's chances in the open governor's race, and you'll hear a lot say yes (you'll also hear reminders that Mckenna ran ahead of President Obama in the state in 2008.) McKenna has polled well -- leading Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee in a couple of live caller surveys. A key for his chances: crossover appeal. If he can get enough Obama voters, he may give Republicans a prized pickup next year. But don't lose sight of how difficult McKenna's task will be: A Republican has not been elected governor in the Evergreen State since 1980. 1) Elizabeth Warren. Early in 2011, as the bigger Democratic names in Massachusetts were consistently passing on a challenge to Republican Sen. Scott Brown, observers were wondering if Democrats were going to field a credible candidate against him. Enter Warren, who's impressive fundraising and polling along with ability to attract large crowds have given Democrats something to cheer about heading into what promises to be a very close race in 2012.