Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tuesday Night Caution and Clues

November 3, 2008, 6:25 a.m.; November 4, 2008, 7:00 a.m.

. . . New Hampshire has

Obama Sweeps Dixville Notch, 15-6!

"[I]n northern New Hampshire . . . registered voters in Dixville Notch cast ballots in a matter of minutes just after midnight. Obama carried the town with 15 votes, while McCain took six. Obama also won the nearby town of Hart's Location, with 17 votes to McCain's 10 and write-in candidate Ron Paul's two." Mary Pat Flaherty, "New Hampshire Voters Cast First Election Day Ballots," Washington Post, November 4, 2008; 6:24 a.m. CT

How late will you have to stay up Tuesday night?

Polls can be, and sometimes have been, misleading. Until either Senator Obama or McCain goes over 270 electoral votes Tuesday night we won't know for sure who our next president will be. And no one can predict for sure how late we'll need to stay up to find out.

I share the nervousness of those pollsters who are a little apprehensive this morning about their numbers. Partly that's because I've always felt that no election's over until the votes are counted, litigated if necessary, and the Electoral College members have cast their votes. Partly that's because of past experience with youthful and first-time voters who are enthusiastic at rallies but then fail to vote. Partly it's anxiety that the so-called "Bradley Effect" may not be the thing of the past that we hope it is. And partly it's because last Saturday, during the night, I was tuning up and down the AM dial rather than just listening to the BBC World Service.

Traveling the country In the 1970s I would return to Washington warning the politicos about the commentary I was hearing on radio stations all across the country from this guy Ronald Reagan. There was nothing to balance his views. But he wasn't on the radio in the Washington, D.C., area so my warnings were largely ignored. In case you've forgotten, he later turned up in Washington as President of the United States.

The talk show hosts and callers are really scary. Forcefully presenting as "facts" about Senator Obama what they must know are lies. Hate speech, venom and slander that would subject them to enormous damages for defamation if he was not a public official/candidate/public figure. All swimming in a sea of ignorance.

One drifted off into religion and whether the Bible was literally accurate with regard to the six-day creation of the Earth. One of the more flexible callers suggested that, "while we think of a 'day' as the time it takes the sun to go around the earth" -- that's right "the sun to go around the earth" -- that a "day" for God could be the time it takes our solar system to go all around the galaxies.

Elections always remind me of a story told by one of my colleagues about the McGovern campaign. A student came rushing into his office and excitedly repeated, "McGovern's going to win! McGovern's going to win!" My colleague asked how he knew; to which the student replied, "Everybody I know is voting for McGovern."

Everybody you know may be voting for Senator Obama. But that ain't the same as "everybody." Those talk show callers and listeners are going to be voting on Tuesday, too. And there's a lot more of them than cross my path each day.

Senator Grassley thinks it will either be a landslide for Obama or a squeaker for McCain. Tuesday night could be a long one.

Political scientists and professional political advisers will be going over the returns for months. But we'll have some early clues -- at least as to who the ultimate winner is likely to be.

Here's a list of the eastern states and others that close their polls between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Those with a * will be indications of the ultimate outcome -- especially if Obama is doing better than expected in rural areas, or McCain in urban areas. If one or the other is picking up a disproportionate share of the "swing states" it will be an indication that they will probably end up winning the presidency by the end of the evening.

Polls Closing, Central Time
[Source: CNN Election Center 2008]

* = states to watch for early clues regarding ultimate outcome (Real Clear Politics
is calling Georgia, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio "toss-up" states. Virginia will also be a bell weather.)

* Indiana (ET counties)
Kentucky (ET counties)

* Florida (ET counties)
* Georgia
* Indiana
* New Hampshire (some towns 5:00)
South Carolina
* Virginia

* North Carolina
* Ohio
West Virginia

District of Columbia
New Jersey
* Pennsylvania


Rhode Island

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