Races to watch

Read over the races on our pool lists, make your own picks, if you dare, and tune in on election night to see who's really got game.

Election campaigns can intrigue us for the same reason sports fans enjoy the post-season playoffs. Everything we've seen up to this point is building to a climax. We're about to find out who's going to win.

With all due respect to the hundreds of Canadians running for office, only some of the 308 seats up for grabs in this election are likely to change hands.

A little change can go a long way. The Conservatives need an additional 28 seats to win a majority government. If a similar number of seats migrate from the Tories to, for example, the Liberals instead, Stéphane Dion will be the next prime minister of Canada.

How do pundits decide what seats are "in play?"

For starters, take a good hard look at the stats: only 49 seats were decided by less than five per cent of the vote in the 2006 election. And historically, wide swings in the party preferences of Canadian voters are rare, so any attempt to figure out what ridings could swing starts there.

Then there's the impact of brand-name candidates. We don't have too many true political "star candidates" in Canada, but the ones who do enjoy name recognition among voters can upset traditional party voting patterns. Which is why Justin Trudeau might win where another lesser-known Liberal could not.

Don Newman, host of Politics  (weekdays, 5 p.m. ET on CBC Newsworld) has put together a list of ridings to watch in this election.

We've divided them by region: