HONORABLE MENTION: GA-12 candidate John Stone (R), shooting a cannon
Most effective surrogate: Former Packers QB Brett Favre, on behalf of Sen. Thad Cochran
Brett Favre didn't play the biggest factor in Sen. Thad Cochran's come-from-behind Mississippi Senate runoff victory against Chris McDaniel, but his ad endorsing Cochran's clout stood out in a cluttered advertising landscape. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which commissioned the ad, has a Favre-like record in congressional primaries this cycle, going undefeated so far.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mitt Romney
Dead man walking: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R)
Tom Corbett (Mario Tama / Getty)It's hard to overstate how much trouble Corbett is in. A Franklin and Marshall poll released this month shows him trailing Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 22 (!) points, 47 percent to 25 percent. Barely a majority (55 percent) of his own party's voters support his reelection. While other targeted governors, like Florida's Rick Scott and Michigan's Rick Snyder, have seen their approval numbers improve recently, Corbett's have headed steadily downward since his election. The biggest question remaining for the governor is if he'll be able to surpass Santorum's reelection mark of 41 percent in 2006 — one of the lowest totals for any incumbent not plagued by scandal.
HONORABLE MENTION: Rep. Michael Grimm (R) of New York, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R) of Michigan, Sen. John Walsh (D) of Montana
Most damaging early oppo hit: Maryland gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler, photographed at beach week
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler started out as a strong contender for higher office but never was able to shake off the perception that he wasn't quite ready for prime time. After a photo of him attending his teenage son's wild beach-week party surfaced last October, Gansler found himself on the defensive throughout the campaign. He never was able to catch up to front-running Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who now is likely to become the state's next governor.
HONORABLE MENTION: Oregon Senate candidate Monica Wehby (stalking charges); Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel (supporter breaking into nursing home)
Biggest bellwether: North Carolina Senate race
Kay Hagan (Alex Wong / Getty)The contest between Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and Republican Thom Tillis is as likely as any to determine who controls the Senate majority in 2015. Unlike many of her red-state colleagues, Hagan doesn't have the experience (she's a freshman) or family connections (a la Pryor, Landrieu, Begich) to overcome a difficult political environment for Democrats. But in Tillis, she's facing the speaker of the state House whose conservative agenda has polarized the electorate and could drive Democrats to the polls. Democrats boast a deep field operation in the Tar Heel State, seeking to turn out voters who don't reliably vote in midterm elections — single women, African-Americans, students. If they succeed in North Carolina, it's an encouraging sign for Democratic prospects elsewhere.
HONORABLE MENTION: Colorado Senate race, Colorado's Sixth District, Iowa's Third District
The playing under pain award. Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman (D)
No contest here: Grossman, the Massachusetts state treasurer, participated in a 90-minute Democratic forum in March while passing a kidney stone. His epic performance spurred a parody Twitter account @grossmansstone, but it didn't help him in the polls against front-runner Martha Coakley.