Centered Politics Hour By Hour Guide to Election Night 2012

by Sheri Rivlin and Allan Rivlin on November 6, 2012

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James Hazzard Co-authored this Post

Part 1 — Introduction: Signs of a Wave?

Will we see a 2012 Republican wave where Democrats are swept out because Barack Obama was elected to fix a broken economy and four years later the economy is doubtlessly still struggling?  Or will we see a Democratic wave where middle class voters reject the politics of the privileged class?  Or will these waves cancel each other out yielding the razor close election many pundits and analysts have been predicting all along — and leaving voters without any new clear voice in the public policy discussions of the coming years?  All of this will be decided as Election Night in the United States of America unfolds. 

While both Democrats and Republicans have had good months and bad throughout the seemingly endless 2012 campaign, recent polls and commentary are pointing to a very close race and a long evening before the outcomes are known.  But pundits discuss and voters decide elections.  As the hours pass and Tuesday night rolls into early Wednesday, we will finally know which way the tides are turning.   

Most of the Dozen States that Will Decide the Presidency are in the East   

Throughout the year, the two major party candidates and their campaigns have agreed on a short list of states that will decide the election, and these states account for the overwhelming amount of campaign spending and candidate events.  Most of these states are in the Eastern Time Zone and polls will be closed by 8:00 pm (All times EST).    Indeed, polls in the biggest prizes: Virginia, Ohio, and Florida (except the Panhandle region in the Central Time Zone) will be closed by 7:30.  This of course is the earliest time the networks could choose to call these states’ decisions, and vote counting could go quite late in the night.


Presidential Swing State Poll Closing Times

7:00pm: Virginia, Florida (most)*, New Hampshire (most)*

7:30pm: Ohio, North Carolina

8:00pm: Pennsylvania, Michigan (most)*, Florida (all), New Hampshire (all)

9:00pm: Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan (all)

10:00pm: Iowa, Nevada

*Polls close at different times throughout the state, so the time listed is the first time when a majority of polls in the state will be closed – this is the earliest time a network might choose to call a race.  

Romney has the narrower path to 270 electoral votes and a call of Florida, Virginia or Ohio for Obama early in the evening could create a road block in his path to the White House, increasing the likelihood of an early call of the Presidential race for the incumbent.  Florida and Virginia could go to Romney without upsetting Obama’s path, but an Ohio call for Romney would be a major setback for Obama.  This would put the outcome in the hands of the later closing western states, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada.   

Many Senate Races with No Clear Leader

With a slim 3 member majority in the Democratic caucus, and twice as many Democratic seats up for election as Republican seats, Democrats began this cycle in a formidable hole.  A combination of stronger than expected incumbents and Republican slips, and more than a little luck seems to have changed the trajectory of this election to the point where Republican hopes of gaining control of the Senate have dimmed and Democrats are just as likely to gain a few seats as lose them. Republican seats are in italics and Democratic seats in bold:

6:00pm: Indiana


7:00pm: Virginia, Florida (most)*

7:30pm: Ohio

8:00pm: Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Missouri, Florida (all)

9:00pm: Wisconsin, Arizona, Nebraska

10:00pm: Montana, North Dakota, Nevada

*Polls close at different times throughout the state, so the time listed is the first time when a majority of polls in the state will be closed – this is the earliest time a network might choose to call a race.

New Districts Make Change In House Less Likely:

Every ten years the congressional districts are re-drawn and 2012 continues the trend of ever more partisan districts that group voters in a way that diminishes the likelihood their votes will bring a major change in the makeup of the House of Representatives.  Still, there is a possibility that an electoral wave could take shape on election night and deliver the House for the Democrats, or in the alternative, a significantly larger number of Republicans. 

The Hour-by-Hour guide to Election Night 2012 lists dozens of the House races views as competitive by the two parties in the hour that the polls close.

Defining Victory in 2012 – The White House Plus What?

To be clear, whichever side wins the White House wins Election 2012.  To disagree is to envy the political aide whose party has just lost the Presidency but won, let’s say, control of enough House or Senate races to unite both chambers of Congress against the President’s party — as well as perhaps the majority of Governors or state legislative chambers.  It would make for good talking points, but it will not win the news cycle or stand as a convincing case for history.  Nor is this likely with late polls suggesting neither chamber is likely to change hands, especially in repudiation of the Presidential outcome.  If Mitt Romney wins the Presidency, the Republicans will have won Election 2012, and this is just as true for the Democrats if Barack Obama is re-elected as President.


But either could win the Presidency narrowly or broadly – with or without evidence of a wave or a mandate from voters.  So what would constitute a real victory in 2012?  Our definitions are simple and symmetrical.   A party can claim to have won a real victory, rather than a narrow win if they:

1)      Win the White House

2)      Hold the Chamber they have (even if they lose a few seats) and

3)      Gain ground in the other chamber (even if they do not win control).

So if Romney wins the Presidency, the GOP retains control of the House and gains at least one Senate seat, then they would have earned bragging rights. If Obama wins a second term, Democrats retain the majority in the Senate and pick up seats in the House, then they have the right to claim 2012 as a Year of the Donkey. 

When Will We Know? 

With most of the key presidential swing states in the Eastern Time Zone, the presidential race could be clear quite early in the 9:00 to 10:00 Hour (all times are Eastern).  Even if the drift of the key Eastern states is clear, the networks would not call the national race before polls close in most Western states at 11:00 pm in the East.   Alternatively, if the race remains as close as many late polls indicate, it could come down to a small number of votes in one or more decisive states that are decided hours, or possibly days or more, after all of the polling places close. 

The story in the Senate is nearly the same.  Most of the crucial races that could point to a change in control of the Senate from Democrats to Republicans are in the Northeast, so control of the Senate also could be clear fairly early, even if results from the Western states are needed to declare a winner outright.  But again, the races may stay close and counting could go deep into the night or longer.  And there are several complicating factors here:

1)      The criterion for control of the Senate depends on the outcome of the Presidential race because the Vice President holds the tiebreaking vote in the upper chamber.  If Obama is re-elected, Republicans need a net gain of 4 seats to gain control of the Senate, but if Romney wins, Republicans need to pick up only 3 seats.

2)      The Maine seat seems likely to be won by independent, Angus King, who would be able to choose which party he will caucus with should he win.  Most believe he would join the Democrats but this is not assured, and

3)      As we have seen several times in past elections, any Senator can change their party and potentially deliver the majority to their new choice of party.

A potential change in party control of the House is viewed as unlikely by most observers, and if that happens it would have to start early in the evening and would have to continue into the night as the focus shifts westward.  The more likely scenario is that individual races in the Mountain and Pacific time-zones will determine which party can claim to have gained net seats in the lower chamber.


Part 2 — 6:00 to 8:00

 6:00 PM  Polls close in most of Indiana and just over half of Kentucky.  The other parts of both states are in the Central Time Zone and their polls will close at 7 PM Eastern Standard Time, but if one candidate is doing well enough against the projections, the networks could call the Indiana statewide races soon after 6 PM.


It would be news indeed if either Indiana or Kentucky showed any chance for an Obama upset victory although Obama did eke out a narrow Indiana victory in 2008.  

D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   Indiana (11 electoral votes)

           R   Kentucky (8 electoral votes)

If these states fall in line as expected within an hour or so of the polls closing, the Electoral Vote total would go to:  Obama 0 — Romney 19.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   Indiana – Before incumbent Dick Lugar (R) lost his primary to tea-party backed State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), this state was firmly in the R column.  The race between Mourdock and Joe Donnelly (D) had become competitive, and then Murdouck’s comment in the final debate about a rape pregnancy being God’s will turned the contest into a dead heat.  Losing one of their own seats would be a serious blow to any Republican hopes of controlling the Senate this year.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

 D             KY-6  Rep. Ben Chandler(D) faces a rematch with his 2010 opponent, Andy Barr.  Chandler beat Barr by just 700 votes 2 years ago, but has benefitted from redistricting.


7:00 PM Polls close in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia.  Some polls will remain open in Western Florida, but we can expect the networks to start sharing Florida results at 7:00 pm. 


President:  Two of the blockbuster battleground states, Florida and Virginia, close in the hour; but do not expect any quick decision.  It is a safe bet that Vermont will be called fairly quickly for Obama, and Georgia and South Carolina will go early for Romney.

D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              Vermont (3 electoral votes)

           R   Georgia (16 electoral votes)

           R   South Carolina (9 electoral votes)

                 Virginia (13 electoral votes)

                 Florida (29 electoral votes)


If these states fall in line as expected near the top of the hour the Electoral Vote totals could go to:  Obama 3 — Romney 44

Florida and Virginia will likely still be counting late into the night leaving their 42 Electoral Votes out of the tallies for some time. 


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              Virginia:  The race between former Senator George Allen (R) and former Governor Tim Kaine (D) has garnered national attention.  And while Kaine has held onto a narrow lead in most polls, a late Romney surge could swing this state to a vital seat gain for the Republicans.

  D              Florida’s tight Senate race pits long time incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D) and Representative Connie Mack IV (R), who is trying to recapture the seat his father retired from in 2001.  Nelson has won the fundraising battle between the campaigns, which he will need to fight off outside spending against him that could surpass $30 million dollars.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   FL-02 :  Rep. Steve Southerland (R) is a Republican freshman who has been redistricted into a tougher territory, had trouble raising money, and is facing a spirited challenger in State Senator Al Lawson (D).  Whoever wins could easily set the tone for the rest of the night.

           R  FL-18 :  This West Palm Beach district is home to one of the most expensive and highly competitive house races in the country.  Tea Party darling, freshman Rep. Allen West (R),  has raised a huge war chest but found himself in a close race with Patrick Murphy (D).

           R  FL-10:  Rep. Daniel Webster (R) was put in a safe district, which may be enough to save him from the DCCC Red to Blue Project backed candidate Val Demings (D).

  D              FL-26: Another Republican Freshman, Rep. David Rivera (R), has been followed by accusations of fraud since he entered office.  Attorney Joe Garcia (D) looks like a strong favorite for this seat.

           R  GA-12 :  Redistricting may finally end the career of the tenacious Rep. John Barrow (D), who faces state Rep. Lee Anderson for this Eastern Georgia seat.

 7:30 PM Polls close in Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

President:  Casual observers may have noticed that Ohio has been a focal point for political obsessive- compulsives all year long.  We will finally start seeing some numbers, but for many people this will just be the start of a long evening staring at the television or clicking “refresh” to see the counts as they trickle in.  West Virginia may move to Romney’s column fairly quickly or hold out longer.  North Carolina has been a battleground but has been seen as leaning toward Romney.

D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   West Virginia (5 electoral votes)

           R   North Carolina (15 electoral votes)

                 Ohio (18 electoral votes)

If these states fall in line as expected the total for Romney may start looking worrisome to Democrats as Romney may hold a lead of 49 to 3 without North Carolina or even 64 to 3 if the Tar Heel state gets called in his favor.  Democrats should take heart that the 8:00 closings will soon bring better news.  Likely count just before 8:00:  Obama 3 — Romney 49 with 75 electoral votes hanging by a chad.  



D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              Ohio While the Buckeye state is the centerpiece of the presidential race, Senator Sherrod Brown (D) has kept ahead of State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) since the race began.  Absent a surprising red upset, this should be a hold for Democrats.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              NC-07 :  It feels like 2010 in North Carolina, where Blue Dog Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) faces a strong challenge from NRCC Young Gun state Sen. David Rouzer (R).

           R  NC-08 :  After cancelling all of its ads in the district, the DCCC has confirmed what most already knew: Rep. Larry Kissel (D) is likely to lose his seat to Richard Hudson (R).

           R  OH-06 :  Conservative Southeast Ohio is home to a rematch of Rep. Bill Johnson (R) and former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D).  Johnson won the seat in 2010.

                 OH-16 :  In a rare matchup of incumbents, Reps. Betty Sutton (D) and Jim Renacci (R) have attracted national attention and money in one of the tightest races in the country. 


Part 3 — 8:00 to 9:00

8:00 PM: Polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas.  Some Michigan polls will close at 9:00 PM, but the state may be projectable between 8:00 and 9:00 PM.

President:  And the Game is On!  The top of the 8:00 hour is likely to bring a flurry of quick calls as Obama takes his home state of Illinois, Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, Romney’s other home state of Michigan as well as Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.  Romney will counter with wins in Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi.  Pennsylvania, Missouri, and New Hampshire could take far longer to count.  

 D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              District of Columbia (3 electoral votes)

  D              Connecticut (7 electoral votes)

  D              Delaware (3 electoral votes)

  D              Illinois (20 electoral votes)

  D              Maryland (10 electoral votes)

  D              Massachusetts (11 electoral votes)

  D              Maine (2 electoral votes)

  D              Michigan (16 electoral votes)

  D              Rhode Island (4 electoral votes)

  D              New Jersey (14 electoral votes)

           R   Alabama (9 electoral votes)

           R   Tennessee (11 electoral votes)

           R   Texas (38 electoral votes)

           R   Mississippi (6 electoral votes)

           R   Oklahoma (7 electoral votes)

           R   Missouri (10 electoral votes)

                 Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)

                 New Hampshire (4 electoral votes)

Assuming there is still no call in Virginia, Florida, or Ohio at this point in the evening (North Carolina could be moving toward a decision for Romney later in the hour), and if Pennsylvania and New Hampshire join these states in the too-close-to-call column for much of the evening, the count may grow to something like:  Obama 93 — Romney 130 with 84 unallocated electoral votes. Up to 9:00 it is probably still early for there to be real news in the presidential race unless one of these states is looking like it is moving in an unexpected direction – such as Florida or North Carolina tilting toward Obama or Romney taking an early Ohio lead or running particularly strong in Michigan or Pennsylvania.      

Senate: Key races in New England may determine whether this is a good night for Democrats or Republicans.

D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   Massachusetts:  For this to be a good night for Senate Republicans, Sen. Scott Brown (R) has to hold on against hard charging Elizabeth Warren (D).  Warren, who was widely expected to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until Republican opposition stopped the appointment, has had her hands full trying to unseat Brown, who won his seat in 2010 in a special election to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy.

  D              Connecticut: Retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) seat has turned into a surprisingly competitive race, with former CEO and co-creator of World Wrestling Entertainment, Linda McMahon (R), making her second run at a Connecticut Senate seat in as many elections.  Rep. Chris Murphy (D) maintained a slim lead heading into the final push.

           R      __ Maine: Former Gov. Angus King (I) has been leading a three way race to take the seat of retiring Senator Olympia Snowe (R).  If this happens, and if as many expect – he decides to caucus with the Democrats, this would be a Democratic pick up.

  D              Missouri: The once thought highly vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) is now in the lead, thanks to the missteps of her opponent Rep. Todd Akin (R), including his inflammatory statements about rape that garnered national attention and caused the Republican Senate Campaign Committee to abandon the race.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   IL-08 :  There are 5 competitive seats in Illinois.  Four of them, including the Rep. Joe Walsh (R), are Republican incumbents.  Walsh, a Tea-Party hero, was redistricted into majority Democratic district and looks unlikely to beat Iraq Veteran Tammy Duckworth (D).

           R   IL-10 :  Freshman Rep. Bob Dold (R) is in one of the most Democratic districts in the country, but his prolific fundraising and help from the NRCC has kept him in the race against Brad Schneider (D).

           R   IL-11 :  Former Rep. Bill Foster (D) tries to get back in the Congress against Rep. Judy Biggert (R), who faces an uphill battle thanks to redistricting.

  D              IL-12 :  Brad Harriman (D) dropped out of this race after winning the primary, putting Illinois National Guard Commander Bill Enyart (D) in a game of catch up against the capable Jason Plummer (R), who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2010.

           R   IL-17 :  Freshman Bobby Schilling (R) must counter a bluer district and a number of outside spenders to hold off Alderwoman Cheri Bustos (D).

  D              MA-06 :  Surrounded by controversy due to his wife’s imprisonment for setting up an illegal gambling ring, Rep. John Tierney (D) is playing defense against Richard Tisei (R), the 2010 Lieutenant Governor nominee.

           R   MD-06 :  Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) looks to be redistricted out in favor of John Delaney (D).

           R   MI-01 :  Both the NRCC and DCCC have a strong interest in the 2010 rematch between Rep. Dan Benishek (R) and Gary McDowell (D).

           R   MI-11 :  In one of the weirder races of the year, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s (R) – who ran for President over the winter – was disqualified from the election for having fraudulent signatures on his nomination petition.  Reindeer farmer and public school teacher Kerry Bentivolio (R) must now battle it out again Syed Taj (D).

           R   NH-01 :  A rematch in New Hampshire pits Freshman Rep. Frank Guinta (R) against former Rep. Carol Shea Porter (D).   Guinta walked away the winner two years ago, but few see a favorite this time around.

           R   NH-02 :  Rep. Charlie Bass (R) and Ann McLane Kuster (D) fought a closely watched battle 2 years ago for this seat, and this year looks to be just as tight.

           R   PA-08 :  As a Republican in a blue district, Freshman Mike Fitzpatrick (R) will be keeping his eye on national trends as he tries to beat attorney Kathy Boockvar (D).

  D              PA-12 :  After a bruising primary with fellow incumbent Rep. Jason Altmire (D), Rep. Mark Critz (D) has had to swing to the right to outflank NRCC “Young Gun” Keith Rothfus (R).

  D              RI-01 :  The Rhode Island 1st is one of the bluest districts in the country, but the financial mess that former Providence Mayor Rep. David Cicilline (D) left his city in may cause even the bluest voters to favor Brendan Doherty (R).

           R   TX-23 :  In what could be a huge year for the Hispanic vote, Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R) faces off against state Rep. Pete Gallego (D) in a race full of national implications.

8:30 PM Polls close in Arkansas. 


D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   Arkansas (6 electoral votes)

Sooner or later, Arkansas is expected to be called for Romney based more on historical patterns than 2012 polling.  Most attention at this hour will be on the vote tallies in closer states, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and of course, Ohio.


Part 4 — 9:00 to the bitter end

9:00 PM Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

President:  The top of the 9:00 hour is likely to bring more quick calls with Romney claiming Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming and perhaps after more counting of votes Arizona. Obama may have to wait a bit longer as well for results in New Mexico and unless Romney’s late efforts make the state competitive, Minnesota.  The 9:00 hour ads several more true swing states with Wisconsin and Colorado joining the list, but most attention will be on Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and Ohio – or at least Pennsylvania and  North Carolina, that could be moving toward a resolution during this hour.    

D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   Kansas (6 electoral votes)

           R   Louisiana (8 electoral votes)

           R   Nebraska (5 electoral votes)

           R   South Dakota (3 electoral votes)

           R   Texas (38 electoral votes)

           R   Wyoming (3 electoral votes)

           R   Arizona (11electoral votes)

  D              New Mexico (5 electoral votes)

  D              Minnesota (10 electoral votes)

                 Wisconsin (10 electoral votes)

                 Colorado (9 electoral votes)

It is possible some real presidential race news could be made in this hour if any of the battleground states: North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania or New Hampshire starts moving toward a call — especially if one of them goes in an unexpected direction.  Florida moving toward Obama’s column could be a boulder in Romney’s path to 270 electoral votes, and North Carolina or Virginia would be almost as bad.  Pennsylvania moving toward Romney could open more pathways for the challenger, and anything that suggests an Ohio decision is near would automatically be news (more likely this is still hours away).  If things go as expected, the count before 10:00 pm in the East is likely to be something like: Obama 124 — Romney 176 with 129 electoral votes still in states being counted.       


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              Wisconsin: Republicans saw an opportunity at Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl’s (D-WI) retirement, especially after Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was fingered to be the Republican Vice Presidential Nominee, but Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has been able to keep this race tight against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI).  Baldwin would be the first openly gay Senator to serve, if she wins.

  D              Nebraska: One of the clearest chances of a pick-up for Republicans comes in Nebraska, where tea party favorite State Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) squares off against former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D).  Fischer has been well ahead in the polls for most of the fall after a surprising primary win, but a late poll suggests this could be less than a total longshot for Democrats to replace retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D) with another Democrat.

           R   Arizona: Down in Arizona, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D) may spoil the night for Republicans as he attempts to take retiring Senator Jon Kyl’s (R) seat from Representative Jeff Flake (R).  Money has been pouring into this race on both sides, and it will probably come down to the finish line.

House:  Republicans are defending 8 seats in close races closing in this hour.

D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   AZ-01 :  Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) hopes to regain her bluer district against lobbyist Jonathan Patton (R).

           R   CO-06 :  Redistricting puts Rep. Mike Coffman (R) in danger against state Rep. Joe Miklosi as both parties pour money into the race.

           R   MN-06 :  Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) is a national figure and Tea Party Caucus founder that went deep into the Republican Presidential Primary, so it is something of a surprise that she is having trouble fending off self-funder Jim Graves (D).

           R   MN-08 :  After ousting former Rep. Jim Oberstar (D) in 2010, Rep. Chip Cravaack is a prime target for Democrats – especially since they were able to recruit former Rep. Rick Nolan (D) to lead the charge.

           R   NY-11 :  Freshman Rep. Michael Grimm (R) finds himself in hot water for potentially accepting illegal cash bribes, giving Mark Murphy (D) an opening in this otherwise conservative district.

           R   NY-18 :  Another freshman, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R), must battle former Clinton Aide Sean Patrick Maloney (D) in an expensive race for the New York suburb seat.

           R   NY-19 :  Former Al-Qaida prosecutor Julian Schreibman (D) tries to paint freshman Rep. Chris Gibson (R) as a conservative die-hard, despite Gibson’s votes against the Ryan budget.

  D              NY-27 :  Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) has earned accolades amongst Democratic circles for her pioneering attacks against the Ryan budget in a 2011 special election, but may struggle to stay in office against moderate Chris Collins (R).

           R   WI-07 :  Freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R), who associates himself with the Tea Party, is challenged by former news anchor and state Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D).

10:00 PM: Polls close in Montana, Idaho, Iowa, North Dakota, Nevada and Utah at 10:00 PM.  Only swing state Iowa and possibly Obama leaning Nevada seem likely to be called more than a nanosecond after the hour, as these four Mountain states are seen as almost certain to go to Romney.  This may take Romney close to 200 electoral votes or more if Florida or Virginia have been decided in his favor.

D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   Idaho (4 electoral votes)

           R   Montana (3 electoral votes)

           R   North Dakota (3 electoral votes)

           R   Utah (6 electoral votes)

  D              Nevada (6 electoral votes)

                 Iowa (6 electoral votes)


By the end of this hour polls have been closed in Virginia and Florida for nearly four hours, 31/2 hours in Ohio, and 3 hours in Pennsylvania, so it is not unrealistic for expectations to build for some decisive results.  Obama will likely still trail Romney in the electoral vote count, by as much as 40 to 60 votes (depending on whether Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Florida, or Ohio have been decided), but with California, Oregon and Washington expected to bring him 74 electoral votes at 11:00 pm on the east coast, a victory in any two of these states could prove decisive at this stage. 


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              North Dakota: With the retirement of Sen. Kent Conrad (D), Republicans see North Dakota as one of the likeliest seats to swing red this cycle.  As with every close race this year, though, the Democratic nominee – former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) – has made this campaign a straight toss-up with Freshman Rep. Rick Berg (R).

  D              Montana: Sen. John Tester (D) has distanced himself from the national party to try to hold on to his seat in this red state against a challenge from Montana’s only house member, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R).  This is a tight race, and the effects of Tester’s strategy will be decided at the polls.

           R   Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller (R) was appointed to his seat after the abrupt retirement of scandal-ridden Sen. John Ensign (R), so this is his first statewide election since 2002, when he was reelected as Secretary of State.  Heller and his opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkely, have made this one of the most expensive races in the country – including over $26 million in outside spending.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   IA-04:  In one of the most watched races of the year, Tea Party hero Rep. Steve King (R) faces off against Christie Vilsack (D), wife to former governor and now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

           R   NV-03:  State Assembly Speaker John Oceguerra (D) is challenging freshman Rep. Joe Heck (R) in this highly competitive district.  Heck, in a slightly more favorable district, won by only 2,000 votes in 2010.

  D              UT-04:  One of the Republican’s star recruits, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R), appears to be running ahead of Rep. Jim Matheson (D) in this deeply conservative district.  Love would be the first Republican African American woman to serve in Congress.

11:00 PM: Polls close in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.  The last state still voting will be Alaska where most polls close by midnight eastern time.  There are no swing states in the pacific time zone (or westward) so the results may come quickly, and if the key swing states have moved decisively earlier in the night a call of the national presidential race is possible soon after the turn of the hour.  Far more likely a decision will have to await votes still being tallied in Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado or other swing states far to the east.      


D   —   R (Polling leader indicated with either a D or an R)

  D              California (55 electoral votes)

  D              Oregon (7 electoral votes)

  D              Washington (12 electoral votes)

  D              Hawaii (4 electoral votes)

           R   Alaska (3 electoral votes) Most polls close at 12:00 Eastern.


President:  Even if he is headed toward victory it is quite likely that the 11:00 hour brings Obama his first lead of the night in the electoral vote count, as California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii come in fairly quickly with a total of 77 electoral votes for the Democrat.  If Pennsylvania has fallen in line for Obama, and Florida has moved to Romney, the race will be close but Obama may be 10 electoral votes ahead with Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Iowa holding the balance of the election as we knew they would all along.


D  —  R (Party controlling the seat indicated with either a D or an R)

           R   CA-07:  Rep. Dan Lungren (R) is in a rematch from 2010 against Dr. Ami Bera (D), except Bera benefits from a district redrawn in his favor.  Lots of outside groups have stepped in on both sides of this hotly contested seat.

           R   CA-10:  Freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R) probably wasn’t expecting to see his safe Republican district turn into a competitive race, but he is holding his own against Astronaut Jose Hernandez (D).  Like California’s 7th district, this race has attracted a large amount of outside attention.

  D              CA-24:  Both Rep. Lois Capps (D) and former Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado (R) have faced accusations that they aren’t paying their taxes in this fiercely contested race.

                 CA-26:  “Young Gun” State Sen. Tony Strickland (R) and Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) have both nearly raised $2 million trying to win this open redistricted Santa Monica seat.

           R   CA-36:  Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R), a favorite target of Democrats, is again in a close fight for her seat – this time against Dr. Raul Ruiz (D).

           R   CA-52:  Rep. Brian Bilbray (R), like several other Republicans on this list, saw his safe seat swing competitive thanks to redistricting this year.  His competitor, San Diego Port commissioner Scott Peters, has made $2 million in loans to himself in order to win this seat.

It’s late. The food on the election party table is stale and fortune smiles upon you if there is still ice at the bar and something to pour over it. The television is now flipping through the small number of contests that have not yet been decided. We can all hope the election will allow voters a voice in matters of consequence and that 2012 outcomes will not end up in the hands of lawyers and judges.



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