I thought this was incredibly interesting – the break-down of what to expect Tuesday night.
7 P.M. ET
Polls close in the first six states. We’re pretty sure that South Carolina and Kentucky will go to McCain and Vermont to Obama, but three of the states bear close watching. Obama has been leading in Virginia and he’s even in Indiana — both states have gone Republican since 1964. If McCain wins both, he’s still in the game. If either of them goes for Obama, his campaign is on life support.
7:30 P.M. ET
There’s more potential drama here. Ohio was always destined to be a key battleground just as it was in 2004. This is a state McCain must win. North Carolina has seen a massive infusion of Obama’s money and volunteers, so a McCain victory is a hint of real late movement toward the Republican.
8 P.M. ET
A floodtide of polls close at 8 — fifteen states and the District of Columbia. We know where most of those states will go — at least we think we do. But there are three to keep an eye on:
Florida is another one of those contests McCain must win; it’s where Obama’s money advantage has been overwhelming. Missouri, a state that mirrors national results usually, became more Republican in 2000 and 2004. This year, it’s a dead heat.
And Pennsylvania — Democratic for the last five elections — is the ‘blue” state McCain has to win to make his road to the White House plausible. Keep this one in mind, if McCain cannot win Pennsylvania, he almost certainly cannot win the election.
9 P.M. ET
Fifteen more states close at 9 — we’ve assigned most of them, by the map, to where we think they’re going to wind up. If you’re looking for what may be the story of the night, though, go West. Obama has been leading in Colorado and New Mexico; both went for Bush last time. But remember, the real drama of this may be taking place to the East, where votes in the early closing states are still being counted. By 9 o’clock, we should know if we’ve got a clear-cut winner, or if we’ll be up into the morning.
10 P.M. ET
At 10, four states close. I’ll be watching Nevada, usually an easy win for Republicans. It’s another state where Obama has thrown a lot of money and manpower, and has worked the rural areas very hard.
11 P.M. ET
Take this to the bank – I promise 11 p.m. will bring 77 electoral votes from California, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii into Obama’s pocket. You need to remember this throughout the evening. Because if Obama has won Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado by 11 o’clock, he will be declared the winner of the presidency as soon as votes from California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii are tabulated for him.
Of course, there’s always a chance that this will come down to a handful of votes in a state or two, and we’ll have days or weeks of court challenges and recounts… Well, good luck. I will have fled to an out-island in the Bahamas, but I’ll be back in time for the inauguration.
And… will I ever miss Tim Russert this Tuesday…