Races To Watch: '08 National Edition
Tue, 11/04/2008 - 6:09pm
Why are you paying so much attention to your television? Watching minute-by-minute changes in Idaho won't change who ends up winning the presidential election. And inauguration still won't happen until next year. Just make an early night of it and pick up the paper tomorrow.
What, you're going to bite your nails and watch anyway? Yeah, we will too. To give a little order to your Election Night madness, here's the Blue's guide to national races this year.
First, a word of warning: exit polls will not be a very reliable indicator of state results. Remember that historically high early voting turnout you've been hearing so much about? Well, exit polling will give you a mediocre-to-good indication of those voters that voted today, and nothing else. When half or more of a state's voters voted early, exit polling is of limited use. Depending on how individual states have been handling the tallying of early and mail-in votes, we may have to wait days to get accurate final results from some states. No, I know that's not what you want to hear. Just hope and pray that enough states have enough of a spread to reliably call the race tonight. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
With that being noted, here are the states to watch.
Indiana and North Carolina: We'll be hearing from these guys first. Indiana has been leaning Republican and North Carolina Democratic, though for both the race has gotten very close in the last few days. This'll probably matter less once early votes are tallied, as neither state was that close a few weeks ago. But those two states will be the canary in the coal mine for whether we'll be heading off to bed at 11 or be up until 4 in the morning again.
North Carolina also has one of the Senate races to watch, with Democrat Kay Hagan running against incumbent Republican Elizabeth Dole. The Senate race is likely to go the same way the state goes.
"How about Florida and Virginia? Won't they be in early too?" Yes, they will. And they'll both be blue. I feel like I should knock on wood when I say that about Florida, but polling's been pretty consistent down there lately. Virginia I have much less doubt about.
Missouri: The only honest-to-goodness tossup state in the nation. When multiple polls in the past week or so have the race at a one-point spread, that's close. Add to that the fact that there's no real way to early vote in Missouri, and you have the makings of a nail-biter.
North Dakota: It boggles the mind that people have actually called this state. I mean, granted, it's North Dakota. You've got to say it's leaning Republican just because it's North Dakota. But there has been remarkably little polling in the state in the past few weeks, and only one poll has had a greater than one- or two-point spread -- and it's an Internet poll. I wouldn't look for a surprise here, but this is one for us statistics geeks to keep an eye out — if only because it will give us a chance to complain about bad poll coverage and armchair pundits that call states on too little data.
Minnesota: No, Minnesota probably won't be an electoral college surprise. The reason to watch the state is for the one toss-up of a Senate race, as Al Franken looks to unseat Norm Coleman. Polls have the two neck-and-neck, though I tend to think that the same get-out-the-vote efforts that will have Minnesota going blue will give Franken a win in this squeaker.
Georgia: If you want a lot of excitement early, this will be where to keep an eye out. Georgia should go Republican, if polls and history are any indication. But turnout in the state has been reported at an all-time high, and much of that seems to be coming from historically underrepresented communities — 35% of the early vote in Georgia was African-American. This could be a real thorn in the side of Republicans, not only because it would be icing on the cake of an Obama blowout, but because there is a Senate race in Georgia that has been looking more and more competitive as time goes on. I wouldn't put money on it, but there is a possibility that this could be yet another very unexpected Democratic pickup.
States you won't have to watch for: Well, I already mentioned Florida and Virginia. Ohio and Montana are two other states that have been called "toss-ups" that I just don't see. Both those states had very strong early voting, and polls that were much wider apart during early voting than they are now. Ohio will be going blue, and Montana red.