Every four years we have the Olympic Games, and we have a U.S. Presidential Election. And I think we can all agree on one thing: they both make for great TV. So after those of you in the U.S. have gone out and voted, then fidgeted through the rest of the working day, we can settle down to watch what happens.
Here is a finding chart (made using the tool at RealClearPolitics) to help keep track of the important action.
Let me stress that this is not a prediction; it’s a guide for interpreting the results as they come in. Blue states are ones that Obama will almost certainly win, red states are ones that McCain almost certainly needs to win if he is to have a shot. If, as is perfectly plausible, Obama wins North Carolina or even Georgia, the rout is on, and we can settle down to the glorious task of nationalizing the means of production, collectivizing the farms, and redistributing the wealth.
But let’s imagine that we find McCain winning all of these red states. Note that the blue states add up to 243 electoral votes, while 270 are needed to secure victory, meaning that Obama needs to score 27 or more electoral votes from the gray states. Three plausible ways that could play out:
- Florida. That’s 27 electoral votes right there, and the election would be over. However, voting in Florida rarely seems to go smoothly, and the race there is very tight.
- Two states from Pennsylvania/Virginia/Ohio. Obama is way ahead in Pennsylvania and Virginia, so this is the most likely way for things to unfold tonight. If he wins any two of these three states, it’s over.
- One state from Pennsylvania/Virginia/Ohio , and one or more smaller states to the West. This is the only real nail-biter scenario; note that it presumes that McCain wins Florida and all the red states. Overall not probable, but possible.
There are other possibilities — Obama loses all of PA/VA/OH/FL, but wins Indiana + Missouri + Colorado? — but those are not the way to bet. If PA/VA/OH/FL all go for McCain, gloom and doom will be the order of the day. (It’s worth emphasizing: not bloody likely.)
Poll closing times are listed here, so you can plan the evening’s festivities. Figure most results will be announced within an hour of poll closing. Florida is mixed, closing in some places at 7:00 Eastern time and in others at 8:00 Eastern, but nobody will be surprised if there are delays. So the most relevant times are Virginia (7:00 Eastern), Ohio (7:30 Eastern), and Pennsylvania (8:00 Eastern). The thing could be over early for us Left Coasters.