What to Watch for on Election Night

watch election nightHere are some tips on what to watch for and when on election night.  Nate Silver shows Obama leading in state polls for states adding to 303 electoral votes.  He figures on the Democrats being most likely to keep their current count of 53 Senate seats.  This chart will help you track progress towards those milestones.

We could know as early as 4:00 Pacific Time how the presidential race is going to go, and we may have a pretty good idea of the Senate majority by 5:00.  Of course, we need to keep up Get Out The Vote efforts until all polls close.

If a state listed below as “almost certain” goes the other way, or if a couple “probably” states do, that could indicate a significant shift not anticipated by the polls.  Any of these going in favor of Obama means he wins.  Any such shift for Romney means the electoral college could end up being close.  A big state shifting to Romney could give him the election.

For those mathematically inclined, start by giving Obama 303 electoral votes and make the additions and subtractions noted below.  270 will be required to win. Also start with a pessimistic 50 Senate seats for the Democrats.

All times are Pacific Time.

4:00

  • President
    • Virginia
      • Likely to be very close, and crucial to Romney
      • If Obama wins Virginia, it is a very good sign
      • If Romney wins big, it is a bad sign
      • If Romney wins by a little, it just keeps him alive for a few hours
      • If Romney wins, take away 13 electoral votes from Obama
  • Senate
    • Virginia
      • Kaine (D) should keep this seat Democratic
      • If Allen (R) pulls off an upset, take one seat from the Democrats
    • Indiana (most of state closes polls at 3:00, so there could be early exit polls)
      • Very close with a likely Democratic gain, even though Romney will win here
      • If Mourdock (R) pulls off an upset, take one seat from the Democrats

4:30

  • President
    • Ohio
      • Obama will probably win this
      • It is very hard for Romney to get enough electoral votes without Ohio
      • If Romney wins or is close, it could be a bad sign
      • If Romney wins, take away 18 electoral votes from Obama and worry that another 10-30 from small states will also fall to Romney
    • North Carolina
      • Romney will almost certainly win this
      • If Obama wins, add 15 electoral votes for Obama
  • Senate
    • West Virginia
      • While Romney should win, Manchin (D) should keep this seat Democratic
      • If Raese (R) pulls off an upset, take one seat from the Democrats

5:00

  • President
    • If the media have called 137 electoral votes for Obama at any point during the next hour, Obama has won (based on adding New York, Michigan, Minnesota, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii later).
    • Florida (most of state closes polls at 4:00, so there could be early exit polls)
      • Absolute must-win for Romney
      • Long leaning to Obama, now slightly leaning to Romney
      • If Obama wins Florida, he almost certainly wins the election
      • If Romney wins Florida, it does not say much because he needs so much more
      • If Obama wins, add 29 electoral votes for Obama
      • New Hampshire
      • Obama probably wins this
      • If Romney wins, take away 4 electoral votes from Obama and get nervous about Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado (another 21 electoral votes)
    • Pennsylvania
      • Obama will almost certainly win this
      • It has been a long time since this was even considered to be in play
      • If Romney wins this, he has probably won the election
      • If Romney wins, take away 20 electoral votes from Obama and worry that another 50-70 from smaller states will also fall to Romney (including those you were already worrying about if Romney won Ohio)
  • Senate
    • If your count of Democratic seats is at least 51 at any time after this, then the Democrats will hold a majority of the Senate.  (This assumes any potential “take aways” above have been factored in.  If any of Virginia, West Virginia, or Indiana senate races are still undecided, extra seats may be needed to cover those.)  If the Democrats are one seat short but are winning the presidency, we’ll hold the Senate by virtue of Biden breaking tie votes.
    • Maine
      • King (Ind) will almost certainly win here
      • It is assumed he’ll caucus with Democrats
    • Massachusetts
      • Warren (D) will take this seat back from Republicans
      • When she wins, add one seat for the Democrats
    • Missouri
      • It will be fun to watch McCaskill (D) declare victory here, softening the loss of the state to Romney
      • When she wins, add one seat for the Democrats

6:00

  • President
    • If the media have called 192 electoral votes for Obama at any point during the next two hours, Obama has won (based on adding California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii later).
    • Colorado
      • This one could be close and could be a bellwether of the election
      • If Romney wins, take away 9 electoral votes from Obama
    • Wisconsin
      • Obama will almost certainly win this
      • If Romney wins, take away 10 electoral votes from Obama
    • Michigan (most of state closes polls at 5:00)
      • Obama will almost certainly win the state where Romney grew up
      • If Romney wins, take away 16 electoral votes from Obama
  • Senate
    • Arizona
      • Probably a Republican hold
      • If Carmona (D) pulls off an upset, add one seat for the Democrats
    • Nebraska
      • Democrats will lose a seat here.  Don’t panic.  It is expected.
    • Wisconsin
      • Baldwin (D) should keep this seat Democratic
      • When she wins, add one seat for the Democrats

7:00

  • President
    • If the media have called 192 electoral votes for Obama at any point during the next hour, Obama has won (based on adding California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii later).
    • Iowa
      • Obama probably wins this
      • If Romney wins, take away 6 electoral votes from Obama
    • Nevada
      • Obama almost certainly wins this
      • If Romney wins, take away 6 electoral votes from Obama
  • Senate
    • Montana
      • Democrats may lose a seat here
      • A loss is already factored into the calculations
      • If Tester (D) wins, add one seat for the Democrats
    • Nevada
      • Could be close
      • A win by Heller (R) is factored in
      • If  Berkeley (D) wins, add one seat for the Democrats

8:00

  • President
    • California
      • The media are not likely to project a winner until California closes
      • In the best scenario (including an upset in NC), Obama will have just 269 electoral votes called by the media before 8:00, one less than needed for victory
      • Based on what is above, you’ll have a good idea of the result much earlier
  • Senate
    • North Dakota (much of state closes polls at 7:00, so there could be early exit polls)
      • Democrats will lose a seat here.  Don’t panic.  It is expected.

Richard Matthews

Posted: Sunday, 4 November 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on November 4, 2012
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About Richard M. Mathews

Richard M. Mathews is a Regional Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and President of the North Valley Democratic Club. He is a member of the Executive Board of the California Democratic Party serving on CDP’s Legislation Committee. Richard has been honored as a 2011 LACDP Democrat of the Year and a 2008 Volunteer of the Year for the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley. He is the Senior System Architect for Radian Memory Systems in Calabasas, CA, where he designs computer components that are proudly built in the USA.

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