November 5, 2012

Election Night Viewing Guide

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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We all know that voters in around a dozen battleground states really decide the Presidential election (and more precisely, voters in a handful of very competitive counties in those states really decide who wins).  According to the very good analysis by Nate Silver at, President Obama has a comfortable lead in 16 states and the District of Columbia, totaling 201 electoral votes.  Mitt Romney can safely count on 191 electoral votes in 23 states.  That leaves 146 electoral votes in the remaining 11 states up for grabs in the quest for 270 or more electoral votes.  As Election Night unfolds on television, keep in mind the following timeline of key events.

7 pm ET Poll Closings:  Of the states that close early, there are really four states to watch:  Ohio (18 electoral votes), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13) and New Hampshire (4).  They are all very close (polling margins of 1 to 3%), and Obama has the edge in all but North Carolina, according to Nate Silver.  If Obama wins Ohio, Romney has little chance of winning the night.  However, if Romney takes three of these early toss-up states, it could be a very long night for the President.  In any case, if Ohio is not called by 11 pm or midnight, it means the actual vote tallies are extremely close, and it could be a very long time before a winner is declared, especially if Ohio turns out to be the decisive state overall.  Provisional ballots, recounts, lawsuits, lawyers.  It could be ugly in the Buckeye State.

8 pm ET Poll Closings:  19 states start counting ballots at 8 pm, but 16 of these states are non-nail biters like Washington, DC, Maryland and Illinois (hugely Democratic) or Oklahoma, Kansas and Alabama (hugely Republican).  The real action at this hour is in Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20) and Michigan (16).  Nate Silver expects Obama to win the last two, while Romney has an ever so slight edge in the Sunshine State.  Again, if Romney takes two or three of these states, it would be a very bad sign for the incumbent party.

9 pm ET Poll Closings:  The two key states at this hour are Wisconsin (10) and Colorado (9).  Again, Silver gives the slight edge to Obama in both states.

10 pm ET Poll Closings:  Nevada (6) and Iowa (6) are the tightest states in the later hours.

Nate Silver feels the President will most likely win 9 of 11 swing states, and his projections are based on a detailed statistical model.  Just for fun, I laid out another scenario below in which Romney wins 6 of 11 swing states, based on gut, instinct, and most assuredly not a statistical model.  Make your own predictions and follow along as you watch the results Tuesday night.  Like they say at the stadium, you can’t enjoy the ballgame without a program.

ELECTION NIGHT 2012 SCORECARD Nate Silver Projection Metcalf Forecast Your Prediction Actual Results
Close EV Obama Romney Obama Romney Obama Romney Obama Romney
7:00 Virginia 13 13 13
7:00 New Hampshire 4 4 4
7:30 North Carolina 15 15 15
7:30 Ohio 18 18 18
8:00 Florida 29 29 29
8:00 Pennsylvania 20 20 20
8:00 Michigan 16 16 16
9:00 Colorado 9 9 9
9:00 Wisconsin 10 10 10
10:00 Iowa 6 6 6
10:00 Nevada 6 6 6
Safe Obama 201 201 201 201 201
Safe Romney 191 191 191 191 191
TOTAL 538 303 235 263 275

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.