The Campaign Spot

Thinking Ahead, Perhaps Too Far Ahead, to Election Night

A reader asks:

One of the factors that I think might help make this a wave election would be if the eastern time zone races break to the GOP.  I base this on the same dynamic that some say (with I think some basis) led to many central time zone voters in the Florida panhandle from sticking around or showing up to vote for Bush in 2000, when several networks had already called Florida for Gore. There is also the Democratic anger of Jimmy Carter conceding in 1980 before the polls had closed in the Pacific time zone.So here is what I would kindly ask you to consider addressing: is there anything to this? Is this a real, measurable phenomenon?

It can have an impact, but it usually takes something big and dramatic, like the mentioned examples of Carter conceding while the polls are still open, or Florida being called for Gore while the Panhandle was still voting. To dissuade someone from voting, you need a big, powerful early indicator, and I’m not sure that the early states have any races big enough to tell a California or Hawaii Democrat to just stay home this year.

Among the states that have their polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern . . .

Georgia: I suppose it’s possible that the governor’s race between Republican Nathan Deal and Democrat Roy Barnes could get competitive, but for now it is not. There are a trio of competitive House races with potentially vulnerable House incumbents, but I’m not sure if you’ll see any of them called early in the evening. If we hear Sanford Bishop, Jim Marshall, or John Barrow are defeated, we’ll know it’s a big night for the GOP, but the average voter out West probably won’t.

Indiana: There’s the Senate race, where Dan Coats should win pretty easily. A couple of interesting House races, where incumbent Democrats  Joe Donnelly and Baron Hill could get knocked off.

Kentucky: Perhaps the highest-profile race of the early states is Kentucky’s Senate race, but even there . . . the GOP’s Rand Paul leads by between 5 and 15 points. If any result might depress West Coast Democrats, it might be the networks declaring Rand Paul the winner right after the polls close at 7 p.m.

Two of my big early indicators will be Republican Todd Lally vs. John Yarmuth in the state’s 3rd congressional bistrict and Republican Andy Barr taking on Ben Chandler in the 6th. Having said that, if they’re competitive races, the networks might not call them until later in the night when more of the vote has been counted.

South Carolina: Nikki Haley should win easily in the governor’s race, and somehow Jim DeMint should figure out a way to squeak by Alvin Greene. The House race of note is Mick Mulvaney vs. incumbent Democrat John Spratt in the 5th congressional district.

Vermont: The governor’s race, between Republican Brian Dubie and Democrat Peter Schumlin. This one is looking close, and it will be an interesting indicator of whether there’s a GOP wave in states that haven’t been friendly to Republicans in most races.

Virginia: There are no big statewide races — no statewide races at all, in fact — but a bunch of House races with vulnerable Democrat incumbents that could be big indicators: Glenn Nye vs. challenger Scott Rigell in the 2nd Congressional District, Tom Perriello vs. Robert Hurt in the 5th, Rick Boucher vs. Morgan Griffith in the 9th, and Gerry Connolly vs. Keith Fimian in the 11th. If there’s a miracle, my congressman Jim Moran will be forcibly retired by Patrick Murray.

Having said all that, Ohio’s polls close at 7:30 Eastern,and if that state features as many GOP landslides as the polls currently indicate, then maybe the Election Night coverage will feature James Carville putting a wastepaper basket on his head again. Also at that time, West Virginia’s polls close, and if John Raese beats Joe Manchin, then we’ll know it’s tsunami time, and control of the Senate is in question. North Carolina’s polls close at that half-hour as well.


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