Election Night Survival Guide, Short Version [UPDATED x2]
By popular demand.
[UPDATE: I've prepared a one-sheet scorecard (pdf) that should be handy in following the presidential returns. It works like this: the states are divided between Obama and McCain in the way most likely to lead to a 269-269 tie. Once a candidate wins a state from the other guy's column, you subtract those electoral votes from the loser's total, and add them to the winner's. That should make it easy to look ahead and see what has to happen for either to hold on for the win.]
President: If it's close or McCain has an early lead, let's not panic (this is for me as much as anyone). If some of these so-called battleground states start to look like they are going McCain's way: GA, IN, NC, OH, FL, MO, NV, AZ, and even VA, we will not freak out, because Obama doesn't have to win any of them. His most narrow path only requires holding PA...then adding CO to his wins in IA and NM (which seem certain). Essentially, to beat Obama, McCain must run the table on those "battlegrounds" above and also win either CO or PA. Once any of them start falling for Obama instead, we can start to relax.
If McCain pulls the upset in CO, Obama can replace it with *any of those other battlegrounds* and still win. (though if he only wins NV out of that bunch, it will be a 269-269 tie and go to the House.)
If McCain pulls the upset in PA, but Obama wins as heavily expected in NH, NM, and IA, Obama can win with any combination of FL (27), OH (20), GA (15), NC (15), VA (13), MO (11), IN (11), AZ (10), CO (9) NV (5) that adds up to 27 Electoral votes.
Senate: Including Lieberman, Democrats have 51 Senators in its caucus. They look to add [GOP incumbent in parenthesis]: NH (Sununu), NC (Dole), VA (open), CO (open), NM (open), OR (Smith) and AK (Stevens) making 58. To get to 60, they need to win 2 more out of these 4: MN (Coleman), GA (Chambliss), MS (Wicker), KY (McConnell). [UPDATE 2: Just a note. If neither candidate in GA wins 50%+ of the vote, it will go to a runoff at a future date. Let's win outright so we don't have to worry about all that turnout again.]
House: Who knows? Predictions have ranged from a net gain of 20 to 35 for Democrats. I'm looking especially at Bachmann's seat in MN, Shadegg's seat in AZ and Musgrove's seat in CO, all loathsome Republicans in varying degrees of trouble.
Other: The night will be bittersweet if CA passes proposition 8. Let's hope reason prevails and discrimination against gay couples goes down to a big NO.