As you can see from the picture, it all starts with a blank map tomorrow night. In prepara-tion for Election Day, I thought I'd share a few final thoughts and things to be looking for as you watch the coverage on election night.
1. More 2004 Similarities: For those of you who have been reading this election analysis all along know that I have been drawing many comparisons to the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Here are a couple more to add to the list: Yesterday I was watching NBC's Meet the Press and they released the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and it found Obama leading Romney by a margin of 48% to 47%. And what was the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in 2004? You guessed it – Bush was leading Kerry 48% to 47%.
If Obama does repeat Bush's performance and gets reelected, then there is another similarity as well. You may have heard over the weekend that the Washington Redskins have been a predictor for presidential elections over the years. The predictor is as follows: if the Redskins win their last home game before the election than the party that currently controls the White House will win the election and conversely, if the Redskins lose than the challenging party will win. Since 1940, this predictor has been right 17 out of 18 times. The one time it was wrong? Once again, you guessed it – 2004 when the Redskins lost to the Packers, but President Bush was reelected.
2. Early State Results: At 7:00 EST, polls will close in six different states – Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia & Vermont. I fully expect the networks will call Kentucky, South Carolina and Vermont shortly thereafter as Kentucky and South Carolina are in the “Safe” Romney category and Vermont is in the “Safe” Obama category. I would be shocked if Virginia is called for either side before any real results start coming in as it has been a clear tossup state throughout this entire race. However, the more interesting states that will be closing first are Georgia and Indiana. Both of these states are in the “Likely” Romney category and I would expect they would be called relatively early in the evening. However, I will be paying especially close attention to how quickly Indiana is called. It was a state that went for Obama in 2008, but the president has not really contested it in this cycle. If it is called immediately for Romney, that is clearly a good sign for the Republicans, but if it lingers throughout the evening, that could be a sign of a long evening for the Romney campaign.
On the flipside, there are no real comparable Obama states that would give a similar indication until you get to 9:00 EST which is when the polls close in Minnesota and New Mexico. These are both states that are in the “Likely” Obama category and have had similar poll numbers to Georgia and Indiana. If there is a lack of calling these two states shortly after they are closed, that could portend poorly for Obama.
3. FLOHVA: I mentioned that Virginia closes polls at 7:00 EST and this is the first of the major battlegrounds that could potentially get called. As I said in my prediction post yesterday, Romney will most likely need to sweep FLOHVA in order to win. If you don't believe me, just look at where Romney is spending his last full day of campaigning: he was in Florida this morning, then he goes to Virginia and then he goes to Ohio before finishing the day in New Hampshire. All three of these states close their polls relatively early in the evening as Ohio closes at 7:30 EST and Florida closes its final polls at 8:00 EST. Many of Florida's polls will actually close at 7:00 EST, but since the Florida Panhandle is in the central time zone, those polls remain open until 8:00 EST. All this raises good point, whenever I'm talking about polls closing, I am using the time at which point ALL polls are closed in a state.
4. Poll Closing Times in the Battlegrounds: As for the 11 battleground states that I have previously identified, the polls will close in these 11 states at the following times (all times EST):
7:00 – Virginia
7:30 – North Carolina, Ohio
8:00 – Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania
9:00 – Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin
10:00 – Iowa, Nevada
As I've said all along, these are the states to watch and obviously as they start to get called we will have a better idea of who the next president will be. North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan are the ones that should be the easiest to call as North Carolina has been trending towards Romney and Pennsylvania and Michigan towards Obama. If it gets late in the evening and any of these states has not been called, that is bad news for the candidate who is expected to win that state.
5. Poll Closings for Senate Battlegrounds: On Saturday, I provided my predictionfor the Senate races as well. As a reminder, below are the poll closing times for those states that I think will determine which party controls the upper chamber in Congress. Once again, all times are EST and as with my Senate chart, I have labeled the states in blue if there currently controlled by the Democrats and in red if there currently controlled by the Republicans and the asterix behind the state name indicates that it is an incumbent that is running.
7:00 – Indiana, Virginia
8:00 – Maine, Massachusetts*, Missouri*
9:00 – Arizona, Wisconsin
10:00 – Montana*, Nevada*
I have added Maine to this list only because the significance it could have if independent candidate Angus King does win as expected. If he does, I doubt he will indicate a preference for which party he will caucus with, but it will be interesting to see if you can read anything when and if he does give a victory speech.
6. Turnout in States Affected by Hurricane Sandy: How the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York respond to the devastation from Hurricane Sandy and provide for polling places might be an interesting story. In fact, I would guess that turnout will be lower in these three states, especially New Jersey and New York. While I do not expect this to affect who wins these states, it could impact the larger popular vote total. Obama is expected to win all three of these states and if he ends up winning the Electoral College, but turnout has been suppressed in these three states than it is a very real possibility that Sandy may cause a split decision and Romney pulls out a popular vote victory. If you read my prediction post yesterday, you know that I thought about predicting a split decision. While I do not think it will happen, the most likely scenario if it did occur would be Obama winning the Electoral College and Romney winning the popular vote and Hurricane Sandy might be the culprit if it does occur.
7. Is 11:00 Really the Midnight Hour? In looking at when all the polls close, I went through a scenario of what the map might look like on election night. Unless there is some big surprise and one of the key battleground states gets called early in the evening, Romney will probably have the electoral vote lead for most of the evening. However, that lead might turn into a pumpkin at 11:00 EST. That's because there are 78 electoral votes in the states of California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington that will most likely go into Obama's column at 11:00 EST when those states’ polls close. In fact, while I doubt it will happen, if Obama gets to 192 electoral votes or higher prior to 11:00 EST, then the race is over as those 78 electoral votes will put him over the top. So if you're rooting for Romney and you see an electoral vote lead early in the evening, just remember the lesson of Cinderella as 11:00 just might be your midnight hour.
8. Victory Speech: Whoever wins on Tuesday will have a difficult road ahead of him as the country is clearly divided and Congress will most likely be divided with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate. This means that whoever is elected president will have to deal with the other party to get things done. You could have an honest debate about which of the two candidates is best equipped to do this, but there is no escaping the fact that there will need to be some bipartisanship to accomplish any agenda. Additionally, it's clear to me that barring something unforeseen on election night, neither candidate will be able to claim a mandate for his election. Therefore, if we do get a victory speech early Wednesday morning, then I am very interested to see what tone the victor takes. Will he be humble in accepting his victory recognizing that he does not have a clear mandate and must try and repair a divided nation? Or will he take a tone where he misreads the election and tries to claim a mandate?
Well those are my final thoughts and things to look for on election night. Check back tomorrow as if there is anything that develops before the polls are closing, I'll try and post. Likewise, if there are any final changes in my categories for the states, I will also report that. Once again, Happy Voting!!