Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s 2010 Emmy coverage. Here’s his scorecard assessing the Outstanding Lead Drama Series Actor race:

TONI COLLETTE, UNITED STATES OF TARA

Why She Got Nominated: Collette won here last year. If the TV Academy votes separately for each of her personalities, that’s a lot of votes.

Why She Has To Win: All of them are on display in the episode submitted for consideration that finds her riding out a tornado in a basement. That’s catnip for Academy judges. Moreover, the fact she won last year for a Showtime series helps dispel the assumption that you need to be on HBO to win. This Hollywood insider is seen as the frontrunner to make it two in a row since she’s hugely respected by her peers.

Why She Can’t Possibly Win: The best argument against giving it to Collette again is the strength of the work by her Showtime stablemate Edie Falco on Nurse Jackie – showing how far cable has come in these kudofests that the co-favorites both work for a non-HBO pay channel. Moreover, the purposefully showy nature of the role could be a turn-off this 2nd year out.

EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE

Why She Got Nominated: The fact is that the much admired Falco is a collector of Emmy nominations. It’s her 8th, the first 6 having come for The Sopranos and another for a guest stint on 30 Rock. The Academy loves her. A nod was thus a no-brainer.

Why She Has To Win: Falco submitted Showtime’s Nurse Jackie pilot as her episode for Emmy consideration, a shrewd move considering how it showcases her dramedy range. She’s won 3 Emmy before, but all were for lead drama actress in 1999, 2001, and 2003. If she wins, Falco would be only the 2nd performer and the 1st woman ever to win lead series acting awards for both comedy and drama. (The other: Carroll O’Connor for All in the Family and In the Heat of the Night.) No one should be surprised if it happens. As one actor notes, “I’d vote for Edie Falco if she played an airport janitor. The woman can act.”

Why She Can’t Possibly Win: There’s stiff competition from Toni Collette. And typecasting issues linger from Carmela Soprano. Also, in a comedy acting category, a show that’s a hybrid like Nurse Jackie can confuse voters. For instance, while another hybrid show Ally McBeal won in the comedy category, Calista Flockhart never took home the gold. Maybe Falco’s win comes next season.

TINA FEY, 30 ROCK

Why She Got Nominated: Fey is still a comedic god. She was nominated this year for her writing and producing on 30 Rock as well as her acting. And she already has an acting Emmy to her credit and five in all for NBC’s 30 Rock. You don’t nominate Tina Fey; she simply allows you to honor her.

Why She Has To Win: Because despite her success she still does humble well, and by her own admission thinks her performing talent pales in comparison to her writing. Nevertheless, “you can never discount Tina because she’s just so effortlessly, ingeniously funny,” one actor finds. There’s also the fact she’s the most accomplished contender from a broadcast network show (one that’s won the Outstanding Comedy Series trophy three years running). And if there’s any backlash against dramedies like Tara and Jackie, she’s the most likely candidate to cart off the statuette by default.

Why She Can’t Possibly Win: Rock has probably drawn its last winning hand, especially considering how unpopular NBC is with the TV community after the network’s Leno-in-primetime experiment that deep-sixed 10 PM development. Choosing Collette and Falco over Tina may be a protest vote against NBC.

LEA MICHELE, GLEE

Why She Got Nominated: Pretty much every regular on Fox/20th TV’s Glee got nominated, and Michele was surely one of the freshman Fox hit’s genuine sparkplugs.

Why She Has To Win: Could it be an omen that Michele’s birthday falls on this year’s Emmys date? The soon to be 24-year-old is considered an outside-the-box bet though “usually it’s the Hollywood Foreign Press that anoints fresh young series stars before the TV Academy,” one producer observes.

Why She Can’t Possibly Win: First-year shows that fetch lots of nominations (Glee’s total of 19) mostly fare poorly in actual wins. The nomination is usually seen as the real reward, then it’s back to the business of re-honoring the usual suspects. Michele isn’t enough of a breakout star yet to disrupt that inevitability.

AMY POEHLER, PARKS AND RECREATION

Why She Got Nominated: Everybody loves Amy, but they also feel badly that she’s so much better than the NBC series itself.

Why She Has To Win: There’s an outside chance she might surprise for her third Emmy nom and first for Parks and Recreation. She also just gave birth. It could score her a few extra points with Tv Academy voters.

Why She Can’t Possibly Win: If an actress on a broadcast show is going to upset Showtime’s dynamic duo of Toni Colette or Edie Falco, it’s going to be either Tiny Fey or Lea Michele, not Poehler. The buzz simply isn’t there. And do you know anyone who watches this show? “I think the presumption with Amy is she fit in best at SNL,” believes one producer. “I’m not sure that perception has changed.”

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE

Why She Got Nominated: It’s Louis-Dreyfus’ 5th straight for CBS’ Old Christine, and she’s still revered as Elaine from Seinfeld. It’s her 12th nomination overall. She’s won twice (in 1996 and 2006).

Why She Has To Win: She’s definitely a long shot. But the show’s cancellation this past spring after 5 seasons might help focus the TV Academy’s attention on her consistently good performances.

Why She Can’t Possibly Win: Louis-Dreyfus was nominated out of respect. But that doesn’t extend to winning. Her victory lies in finally exorcising the Seinfeld ghost (and some say curse) so she can move on to even more interesting roles.

For all of Deadline's headlines, follow us @Deadline on Twitter.