Top 10 what-ifs of the elections

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Primary season is all but over. The 2010 candidate field is nearly set. The strongest and most vulnerable members of both parties know who they are.

But the campaign didn’t have to look like this. It’s not just the big-picture inflection points — like the White House’s decision to pursue health care reform or the congressional GOP’s lock-step vote against the stimulus — that have determined the course of the election year. It was also the personal choices or screw-ups of individual candidates.

As Labor Day launches the traditional start of the fall general election campaign, here’s POLITICO’s look back at the midterm cycle’s most influential roads not taken — the unlikely, avoidable or just plain weird contingencies that helped make this campaign what it is.

What if Doug Hoffman had been a team player?

The 2009 off-year elections were almost a total wipeout for Democrats: Republicans won the New Jersey governor’s mansion and swept Virginia’s statewide offices, winning independent voters by strong margins in the process. The one exception was a House special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, where Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman forced Republican state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava out of the race, leaving an opening for now-Rep. Bill Owens to add a seat to the Democrats’ majority.

Full Story: Top 10 what-ifs of the elections – Alexander Burns – POLITICO.com