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Election Night Hour-by-Hour: What To Watch For

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This helpful map was created by the folks at Swing State Project

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A few things that might be worth watching for as Election Night passes (all times Eastern, of course)

6:00 PM (Kentucky and Indiana): There’s little doubt that Kentucky will go for John McCain this year but there’s a serious question about Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat. If he loses, it could be the beginning of a really bad night for Senate Republicans. The same goes for Indiana; ordinarily this is an easy Republican win, but the polls are tight and a win by Barack Obama here could portend a big night for him.

7:00 PM (Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and New Hampshire): The big states this hour will be Virginia and Florida. Obama is likely to win at least one of these, and if he wins both it will signal the beginning of a bad night for the GOP. McCain would need to win at least Florida to have a chance at the 270 Electoral votes needed to win. South Carolina seems like a safe Republican state, but heavy turnout there among African-Americans could lead to a surprise. New Hampshire, meanwhile, seems safely in Obama’s corner.

7:30 PM (Ohio and West Virginia): Ohio is the big prize, of course, and that race remains tight.; West Virginia, on the other hand, seems solid for McCain. Don’t count on Ohio being called early.

8:00 PM: Many states will close at 8:00 pm, the most important this year will be Pennsylvania and Missouri. In this case, if McCain doesn’t win both, then it’s hard to see where he’d be able to pick up enough Electoral Votes the rest of the night to get him to 270. If Obama wins one of these two, he’s on course to victory, if he wins both then it’s time for John McCain to start reviewing the draft of the concession speech.

8:30 PM: By this time, the final polls will close in North Carolina. Obama is ahead in the polls here and should win. Still unclear, though, is the fate of Elizabeth Dole, who is trailing in her bid for re-election.

9:00 PM: The important states to watch at this hour will be Colorado and New Mexico. If, as expected, Obama wins both then he’s pretty much boxed McCain in, if he also wins Arizona, then we’re talking landslide. Also of interest at this hour will be traditionally Republican North Dakota.

10:00 PM: Nevada closes at 10pm EST and is the last of the Bush 2004 states that is being contested by Obama. At this point, if not sooner, Obama is likely to have the 270 Electoral Votes he needs to win unless McCain has somehow pulled off miracles in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In fact, if John McCain doesn’t have at least 267 Electoral Votes by the time we know the fate of Nevada, then you can pretty much assume that Barack Obama is the next President, because there won’t be any states left, other than Alaska, where McCain has a chance to win.

11:00 PM: Don’t expect any major surprises out of the West Coast and Hawaii, although it will be interesting to see what happens to California’s Proposition 8.

12:00 AM: The election will most likely have already been decided by the time polls close in Sarah Palin’s Alaska, but we’ll still be waiting up to see what happens to Ted Stevens.