When to Start --There is something to say for the argument to take a nap early, assuming your nerves will allow it. There will be a period from about 6 to 8 p.m. during which there will be little in the way of solid returns, the networks will talk about certain characteristics in their exit polls but not the results themselves, and there will be a lot of talk about what to expect, what are the themes, etc., none of which will be very surprising.
The first first two states to report in something like full measure will be Indiana and Kentucky, both of which will be easy Trump wins. Kentucky will be the first state in history to be called for Donald Trump in a general election, a dishonor for my native birth state. There will be a couple points of interest in Indiana; the main one is the race for the Senate seat which Evan Bayh is trying to reclaim. He joined the race late, was favored to win, but has been damaged by the charge of being an outsider, and now is perceived from recent polling to be trailing narrowly. If Bayh can win his race, the Democrats' chances to regain control of the Senate move from likely to highly probable, though that may take some hours to emerge. The other is the governor's race which I interests me most, in which Democrat John Gregg is a slight favorite to take the chair being vacated by Mike Pence.
Virginia (closing 7 p.m.) will be the first good indication of the nature of the Presidential race. Hillary Clinton is favored to win by about 5% there, and the votes should come in fairly quickly. If she wins narrowly, or if the race is not called within an hour or two, that will be an indicator of possibly a bad night for Clinton (much worse, of course, if she doesn't win it--that would be disastrous). So, you could tune in at 8 and see how it looks.
The Game is Underway - It gets faster and is fully engaged after 8, when the returns from both time zones begin to report for the critical state of Florida (there will be some partial, indeterminate results in the hour before). Florida is not just a bellwether, though; it is the state which will tip the balance, the whole race in a nutshell, where most of the themes will be tested--turnout and the extent of Trump support among poor whites, turnout of African Americans, and, above all, the extent to which Latinos will turn out, one-sidedly, against Trump. We can expect the statewide outcome to be close enough that it will take a couple of hours to see who is likely to win it. If it's Clinton, it will not be such a late night for the Presidential race; if it's tied or Trump winning, we will have to stay tuned.
Ohio and North Carolina will close their polls at 7:30, but we should not expect either of those states to resolve quickly. In the case of Ohio, unusually, it does not appear to be critical. Trump is perceived to be leading, though the gap may be narrowing, but his victory there does not presage Electoral College success. North Carolina's demographics are shifting and becoming more diverse; it's actually one of the states where the Latino vote will be critical, but I have learned not to trust the outcomes from there.
The next main tests will be Pennsylvania and Michigan, both of which will have their polls close at 8 p.m. I expect there will be huge lines in both states, heavily contested but without significant early voting, and they will necessitate the polls staying open in some locations, so the returns may be delayed. In any case, PA and MI will test whether Trump has a real chance to pull off a major upset--if he can win either, the electoral map for Clinton will be dramatically more challenging.
Two Somewhat Risky Approaches - One could actually suggest extending the early-evening nap until 9:30 or even 10, with the expectation that VA, PA, and MI will go according to form,that NC, OH, and FL will not be decided early, and one can be fairly certain that the race can not officially be called until 11 p.m. Eastern, when the polls close in California. The following hour--between 11 and 12--will probably be the climax,, when the close Eastern time zone states will finally resolve. There is a bit of a risk, though, that the dominoes could fall faster and you could miss the decisive moments when the outcome will be indicated.
A different approach would be to skip the nervous hours, between 8 and 10, when things may unfold somewhat predictably but also slowly. Get those early indications before 8, and decide whther to resume viewing at 10:30 or 11 for the climax and the call, or if it looks bad early for the Democrats, set the alarm for midnight--that is probably the earliest that a Trump victory, a dead heat-type outcome, or a contested outcome could fully emerge.
Predictit.org Status and Final Predictions
In the past 48 hours, as Clinton's poll numbers stabilized, then improved (helped by FBI Director Comey's announcement that the Weiner laptop was, investigatorially speaking, a big nothingburger), the uncertainty in the betting markets has reduced dramatically. The odds for most of the Electoral votes--with the exceptions of Maine's 2nd Congressional District, NC, OH, and FL, in rough order from closest to a pure toss-up--have moved toward the extremes. Those positions for the Democrats at 15% in Texas or 25% in PA have been closed out.
I have done the same, as I have unwound some of my perfectly hedged positions, like I had in Georgia, Iowa, and Nevada, shifting it toward the favorite. I have always favored the Democrats in NH, PA, VA, and the upper Midwest states, even in the tough times. I have moved out of most of my true underdog positions (I have some small ones on Democrats in Montana, the Indiana and Florida Senate races). I still am hedged on the big 3, FL, NC, and OH, which will allow me to move toward one side or the other if I am so inclined, and the Nevada and New Hampshire Senate races.
Some of the more interesting markets are on some "point spread" type bets--on 1) the Electoral votes for the winner, 2) the margin of victory on the popular vote, and on 3) the final number of Republican Senate seats and on 4) the number (ranged) of Republican House seats. My positions on each are as follows:
- spread somewhat evenly on four ranges between 280 and 359 Electoral votes (and no on the other ranges);
- evenly between 2-4% and 4-6% (holding to my original prediction of a 3.9% margin, the same that Obama had over Romney in 2012;
- 49 or less Republican seats (and a smaller bet on 50); and
- 218-230 Republican seats (231-240 is the favored position).
markets are by state, color-coded for the strength of sentiment. It is updated continuously, or at least has been recently. It is currently showing 307-215 for Clinton, with ME-2 and NC classified as toss-ups. Larry Sabato's respected political science blog had much the same, 322-216 with NC to Clinton and ME-2 to the Republicans.
As for me, I am stubbornly sticking with most of my Sept. 11 predictions. A gain of five Senate seats (WI, IL, NH, PA, and IN, holding NV narrowly), a 3.9% popular vote margin for Clinton (though the 3rd-party vote has dropped more than I expected), but a decrease in the final Electoral Vote count for Clinton from 296 to 278 (the difference being Ohio's 18). In other words, Obama's 2012 332 votes, minus Florida, Iowa, Maine's 2nd, and Ohio.
In this scenario, a late-night nail-biter, New Hampshire and Nevada become critical for Clinton to hold, above and beyond the states like WI, MI, PA, VA, and CO. I am nervously expecting all of those to be held. I have only hope, but little expectation, for Democratic wins in MO and NC, despite strong campaigns against incumbents and regret that the opportunity to defeat Marco Rubio in the FL Senate race seems unlikely to succeed.
Election Day Update: I neglected to mention the House of Representatives. My bet on 218-230 Republican seats was primarily because I liked the price; the median estimate is more like 235. The two contests I will be looking for are, first: Illinois-10, a third-time-around matchup in the suburbs (where I have my "principal", though not "permanent", residence). Democrat Schneider won it in 2012, "Republican" Dold won it from him in 2014, and this year Dold, though nominated by his party, is running essentially as an independent. The other is California-25, where a Democrat named "Colonel Doug Applegate" has a chance to knock off the odious Darrell Issa. That one I will have to research the next day to find out what happened.
I plan to blog live tomorrow for at least some of the evening (no funny stuff with font size this time, sorry about that), and then the next day to review lessons learned, if Hillary wins, and escape plans if she should lose.