This post reviews what to watch for on election night.

Presidential election

In all likelihood, this will be a fairly short night. The eastern states where the polls close early will probably deliver the margin of victory.

At 7:00pm, the polls close in several states, notably Indiana and Virginia. If Obama is declared the winner early in the evening in Virginia, where he is favored, then he will almost certainly win the election. If Indiana (where many polling places close at 6:00pm) were to go for Obama as well, the night is over.

If McCain wins Virginia, which is unlikely but distinctly possible, his odds of winning the election rise to about even.

At 7:30pm, the polls close in North Carolina and Ohio. If McCain has a chance of winning in Virginia, he will probably win strongly in these two battleground states, as well.

At 8:00pm, the polls close in Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. If McCain has won Virginia, then winning either Pennsylvania or both Florida and New Hampshire (where most polls close by 7:00pm) would make him the likely winner, while winning Florida alone would make victory less likely, but still entire possible. If McCain loses both Florida and Pennsylvania, he is very unlikely to win.

At 9:00pm, the polls close in Colorado and a variety of other midwestern and western states. If McCain won Virginia and Florida, then Colorado is his most likely chance of winning the election, although an upset elsewhere could do it, too. If McCain won Virginia and Pennsylvania, but not Florida, then he would need to score wins in Colorado and at least one other western battleground state (Nevada being the most likely).


The key races to watch here are Georgia, which is likely to be won by Chambliss, the incumbent, and Minnesota, where I give the edge to Coleman over Franken.

For the Democrats to achieve a veto-proof majority of 60 seats in the Senate, they would have to win both of these races, or else score an upset elsewhere. Expect the Democrats will probably end up with 58 or 59 seats.

House of Representatives

There are too many close House races to cover here, and unlike in the Senate, there are no particular milestones to achieve. The Democrats, however, could end up with anywhere from 245-268 seats.

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