All times Eastern:
1. If you haven’t already, vote. (Personally, I prefer that spirit of engaging in a grand democratic tradition that you only really get on Election Day to early voting, but to each his own.)
2. Watch the exit polls, but don’t expect them to be terribly accurate. Exit polling has undersampled Republican voters in recent elections --in 2004, the exits showed John Kerry performing 5.5 points better nationally than he actually did-- and the same will almost certainly be true again this time around. Still, they’re something, and I’ll be periodically posting the numbers here as they leak to the net.
Polls close in most of Indiana, and the first counting of votes cast on the day starts. (CNN has a good interactive chart of poll closing times for all the states available here.)
Polls in Virginia and Georgia, the rest of Indiana, and most of Florida close.
By this time we should have a decent chunk of the vote from Indiana in. If the race looks tight, it will probably signal a bad night for McCain nationally. But if he’s up by at least five points or so, it could be the first piece of evidence that pre-election polls seriously underestimated his strength.
Polls in Ohio and North Carolina close. As do polls in the Great State of West Virginia.
Should have a good sense of how Indiana will go at this point, and enough data (votes and exit poll numbers) from Virginia to reasonably guess how tight the race will be there. If Obama is on track for a blowout nationally, we’ll probably get the first confirmation around this time with a call of Virginia for Obama, an Obama lead in Indiana, and a fairly tight race in Georgia.
Polls close in Missouri and Pennsylvania, in the rest of Florida, and in a number of other states.
We’ll likely know whether McCain has a plausible chance of winning at this point: he’ll need to have Indiana and Georgia in his column, be up in Virginia, and be up or very close in North Carolina, Ohio, and Florida.
If Obama’s going to win by more than 5 points or so, we’ll know. See the above states (except PA, where the heavily Democratic Philadelphia area vote will come in first and obscure the state of the contest there).
Polls close in Colorado and most of the rest of the middle part of the country.
If the race is still close, look for some very important calls between now and 10:00pm.
Bonus: If the contest is tight in New Hampshire (last polls close at 8:00) that may or may not tell us a lot about the race nationally, but it will tell us that the pollsters screwed the pooch once again there this year (after Hillary’s shocking win in the Democratic primary).
Polls close in Nevada.
We should know or basically know whether McCain has won the in-play Eastern red states (IN, VA, NC) and swing states (OH, FL, MO) he needs. If he has, he’ll still need to take either (1) PA or (2) both Colorado and Nevada.
(By the way, here’s CNN’s electoral map calculator.)
By midnight Obama turns Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado blue, winning at least 273 electoral votes and the Presidency. McCain holds IN, VA, NC, OH, FL, and MO, though mostly by quite slim (2-3 point) margins. Nevada is extremely close, and remains too close to call into Wednesday. Obama takes PA by about 4 points. Obama wins the national popular vote by a spread of about 3.5 points.
- Sen. Norm Coleman holds off Al Franken in Minnesota.
- Dems fall short of capturing 60 seats in the Senate.
- McCain wins West Virginia by double digits.
Stay tuned for coverage throughout the day tomorrow, and frequent blogging tomorrow night.
[11/04 Update: Made a few cursory grammar, etc. corrections]