What To Watch For On Election Night

We’ll soon know who’ll be the country’s 44th president. To help you
know the real score as it happens, here’s quick guide to what to watch
for Tuesday night, starting at 7 p.m. EST.

KEEPING SCORE: The best way to keep score is to start with the
result in 2004, when Republican President Bush won 286 Electoral
College votes and Democrat John Kerry won 252.

Then, anytime that
John McCain wins a state that his party didn’t win in 2004, add that
state’s Electoral College votes to Bush’s 286 and subtract them from
Kerry’s 252.

For example, if McCain wins
Pennsylvania and its 21 votes, add that to his column for a running
total of 307 and subtract it from the Obama column, for a running total
of 231.

At
the same time, anytime that Barack Obama wins a state that his party
didn’t win last time, add that to Kerry’s 252 and subtract it from the
Republicans’ column.

So, if Obama wins Virginia and its 13 votes,
add 13 to Obama’s base of 252 for a running total of 265, and reduce
McCain’s running total to 273 from his base of 286.

STATES TO
WATCH: Most states are solidly in one column or the other, so you can
ignore them. New York will vote Democratic, for example.

Watch the states that are close and might switch from the 2004 result.

The watch list, from East to West as polls are scheduled to close:

7 p.m. EST: Georgia, Indiana and Virginia.

7:30 p.m. EST: Ohio and North Carolina.

8 p.m. EST: Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

9 p.m. EST: Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and New Mexico.

10 p.m. EST: Iowa and Nevada.

11 p.m. EST: North Dakota.

LINES TO WATCH: Many states could keep their polling places open late if people are still waiting to vote.

TRIPWIRES:
If Indiana is too close to call, it suggests problems for McCain. It’s
the most Republican of the early states Tuesday night, and he should
win it comfortably if he’s doing OK.

EXIT POLLS: Ignore them. If you stumble across one on the radio, TV or the Web, run away.

Leaked
versions often are from early samples. It takes several samples to get
the polls right, and even then they have to be used along with other
data, such as results from certain bellwether precincts, to “call” a
state. The fact that many voters in North Carolina and other states
have voted early this year complicates the exit pollsters’ problems.

Exit
polls are a valuable tool for analyzing why an election turned out the
way it did, but they can be dangerously misleading when they’re used to
try to predict the outcome. Just ask President John Kerry, who led in
key exit polls four years ago. Some left-wing blogs still think that
the election results must have been tampered with because they differed
from the exit polls.

WHERE ARE THE CANDIDATES? Obama will watch
the results from a hotel suite in downtown Chicago, then speak to
supporters at Grant Park on Chicago’s lakefront.

McCain will watch the results at home in Phoenix, then speak to supporters at a Phoenix hotel.

WHAT
ABOUT CONGRESS? Democrats are expected to add to their majorities in
the House of Representatives, which they now control 235-199 with one
vacancy, and the Senate, which they control 51-49 with the support of
two independents.

Watch the Senate, where they need 60 votes to be able to pass legislation over the “filibuster” objections of Republicans.

SENATE
RACES TO WATCH: Republicans are defending seats in close contests in
Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.
Democrats are defending a seat in Louisiana.

Source: The Miami Herald

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