Election Night Survival Guide, Part III
Part I took us through the first half-hour after the polls close at 7 Eastern, and Part II surveyed the second half as polls close at 7:30 in a few states.
Now, it's 8:00 Eastern time. Many states we are waiting on have yet to be called (in fact if turnout is heavy people could still be voting, poll hours may have been extended). The current electoral vote count is 21-3 in favor of McCain and we're waiting on a handful of states (IN, NC, GA, VA, OH) that would be nice but *not essential for an Obama victory*. Suppose Georgia - as I'm expecting - doesn't close the way we'd hoped and it's 15 EVs are called for McCain, making it 36-3. We are still well on the path to victory. Step away from the ledge.
At 8 Eastern, polls close in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Network calls should come right and left on several. McCain will claim TN, OK, MS, and AL quickly and raise his EV total to 69. Meanwhile Obama grabs CT, DE, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, DC and, after 20 mins or so of making sure, NH. That brings his total to 82. (See? Feel better?) New Hampshire is worth watching. Common sense says it should be close, but recent polls have had Obama winning by double digits. If it stays too close to call for a while, or looks like a McCain upset, it may be a sign of trouble.
There are still other important races to watch in these states, even though the Presidential contest shouldn't be close in them: MS offers the most longshot of the Senate races still considered possible. If incumbent Roger Wicker is not confirmed pretty quickly as the winner, it will be an exciting surprise. It is one of 3 races Democrats must win to have a shot at 60, along with McConnell's unlikely seat in KY. Democrat Ronnie Musgrove has fallen behind in polls, but who knows. For a longshot House race worth following, check on AL-03 where incumbent Mike Rogers is being challenged by friend-of-a-friend Democrat Josh Seagall. Josh has no business winning this race, but in a year like this who knows. Now, on to the close states in the presidential closing at 8.
Florida: For me, FL is like Ohio. Once it looks like McCain is pulling ahead there - very possible - his supporters will whoop and news anchors will fall over themselves building up McCain's chances, but once again this is really not the key state it was in 2000. At least not in Plan A or B. It could be a fail-safe in a Plan C, which I'll get to later and hopefully we won't have to think about. Anyway, I'm not worrying about FL for Pres. Watching to see if we can beat the Diaz-Balart brothers in FL-21 and FL-25.
Missouri: I love watching MO because it seems to undergo a big shift at the end. Remember Super Tuesday, some networks had called it for Clinton and Obama pulled in big numbers late to overtake her - really an essential moment in the primary. MO looks close in polls and won't be called anytime soon. Move along...
Pennsylvania: This is the big one so far in the night. McCain has been gaining and putting lots of resources here. The primary Obama routes to the presidency go through PA. Polls have been all over between a big Obama win and a slim lead. If PA is called before this half-hour is up - and I doubt it will be - we can really unclench one of our fists and know that McCain's options for winning just nearly vanished. If McCain pulls of a win here, he most certainly took OH as well as IN and if it happens we will pivot quickly to Virginia. Adding VA to some states out West, that will make up for PA. But here's why PA is so important. If Obama wins PA, he can lose all of the tossup states that have closed so far: OH, FL, MO, IN, NC, VA, GA and *still* be right on target to win. The path would be narrow, but still smooth.
Shorter Version: After the 8 PM Eastern poll closings, Obama will lead 82-69 (if we give McCain GA) and we will be still watching 6 states: PA, OH, FL, MO, IN, NC and VA. And the greatest of these is Pennsylvania. Win there and none of the others can stop him. Win there + one of the others? And we can start to relax and root for Musgrove (Sen) in MS.