Election Night Survival Guide, Part I
At 7:00 Eastern time Tuesday night, polls will close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. Here's what I'll be looking for as I freak out during the first half-hour:
Indiana: No Early Call. In 2004, at 7:00:01, the networks called Indiana for Bush. This year, Obama is making a push and keeping it close in polls. Assuming it breaks for McCain in the end, the longer it takes to call this state, the better omen it is for Obama's chances across the country. The quicker it goes, the better sign for McCain. If, at any point, IN gets called for Obama, he will be President, and probably win in a landslide. Another important marker to watch for is the house race in IN's 3rd District. There Republican incumbent Mark Souder, in a district that went heavily for Bush, is receiving a stiff challenge from Democrat Mike Montagno. I always expect the incumbent to find a way to pull out these close ones, but it will be worth watching just how late in the night IN-03 goes.
Georgia: Basically the same as Indiana, but even more heavily assumed to go McCain. Heavy African-American turnout in early voting has some dreaming of a surprise here, but not me so much. This will be a real test of the turnout. A quick call in GA would not be as upsetting as IN, but would indicate that this will not be an Obama blowout nationwide. What I'm more interested in GA is:
Senate seat: Jim Martin has been closing on Saxby Chambliss, the despicable Republican incumbent. There are 3 close (hopefully) races, 2 of which will have to go blue for Democrats to reach 60 Senators. This is one. I'm hoping the first half-hour of coverage includes a Martin lead.
Kentucky: This will be called for McCain pretty early, I'm guessing the 3rd call of the night. But there is another reason to watch KY: to see if Republican Senator Mitch McConnell will get a close race or not. This is another of those 3 races (along with GA) that will decide the scope of Democratic victory in the Senate. If I had to choose, I'd rather pick this one up, if for no other reason than McConnell is such an ass. But he probably is the most likely to hold on.
South Carolina: Not much to see here. I'm expecting it to be the 2nd state called in the evening, going to McCain.
Vermont: Ditto. I expect it to be the 1st state called, for Obama of course.
Virginia: This is the most important of the early closing states. Indiana or Georgia would be gravy for Obama. Virginia has become a key player in Obama's electoral routes to 270. At 538.com, VA is now the #1 tipping-point state, meaning it is the one that, after all the blowout states are allotted, the state most likely to put Obama over the top. He can win without it, but - with a healthy lead in state polls - a loss here would indicate a substantial over-estimation of Obama's GOTV effort. It would mean there is no chance in NC, and PA might be in question. He could still win without those, but the margin suddenly becomes very small. In this early group, it is for Obama what GA is for McCain, in the sense that the longer it takes the favored candidate to be declared the winner, the bigger a boost the other guy will get.
Shorter Version of the 7 pm closing: By 7:30, I expect VT, SC and probably KY to already be in the bank. And hoping that Senate races in KY and GA have not been called. *Really* hoping that IN and GA look like they will take all night to sort out, and it will be telling to watch which state between VA and GA gets called first. It's hard to see how McCain wins without taking them both.