Three Things to Watch For on Election Night

This entry was posted by Tuesday, 2 November, 2010
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Since we won’t have the late, great Tim Russert to guide us in reading the tea leaves on Election Night, here are three things to watch for as you try to guess whether donkeys or elephants will run the halls of Congress next year.

1. Whither goes New York and Pennsylvania? Four upstate New York districts (the 19th 20th, 23rd and 24th) and three Eastern Pennsylvania districts (the 8th, 10th and 11th) each feature Democratic incumbents in tight toss-up races.  GOP sweeps in these districts (especially in New York, where the Democratic Gubernatorial and Senatorial candidates should win easily) will give an early indication that it could be a long night for Democrats.

2. How closely do exit polls and turnout reports align with early balloting results? Recent reports have indicated a surge of early voting in key Democratic districts across the country, which seems contrary to the conventional wisdom of an “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats.  If this late surge in blue precincts bears out on Election Day, could it help Democrats hold in swing districts?

3. Will the West Coast just keep us up late, or into the next day(s)? If control of the House and Senate is still up for grabs as polls on the West Coast close, it may be days before we know who controls each chamber.  Virtually every scenario for GOP takeover of the Senate includes must-wins in California (Fiorina over Boxer) and Washington State (Rossi over Murray). And there are six tight House races (CA-3, CA-11, CA-20, OR-5, WA-2, WA-9) in California, Oregon and Washington as well. The kicker: Oregon and Washington vote almost entirely by mail, and a ballot mailed and postmarked by Election Day must be counted.  So if any of these races are close…it could be days before we have results.

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