Slate’s Election Day Viewer’s Guide
What to look for as the votes come rolling in.
The strong Republican counties follow a familiar pattern we’ve seen in other states. They ring the big Democratic areas. So watch Waukesha and Washington. (Say that three times fast!) Romney needs to get 70 percent of the vote there. Also look at Marathon County, in the northwestern part of the state. Romney should get 55 percent there to win. Your Wisconsin swing county is Brown, home of Green Bay.
Colorado is another state that tests the Obama theory about the new electorate. Hispanic voters make up 14 percent of the population. The question is will they turn out? A Pew Hispanic survey from early October showed Latino voters supported Obama by a 3-to-1 ratio but are less certain about voting—77 percent of Latino registered voters say they’re “absolutely certain” to vote, compared with 89 percent of all registered voters.
The Colorado electorate is packed with prosperous young professionals—more than half of the electorate is college-educated, one of the highest levels among battleground states—and that’s a group Obama does well with. But the key group to watch is suburban college-educated women. They helped Sen. Michael Bennet beat back the GOP tide in 2010 by convincing those women that his Republican opponent was an extremist on social issues. That was harder for Obama to do with Romney. Look for the results from Denver suburbs and Larimer County to see if Obama is doing well with this demographic again.
Romney has to do well in the rural counties and run up votes in the GOP strongholds of El Paso (Colorado Springs), Douglas (south of Denver), Weld, and Mesa counties.
In Wisconsin’s Senate race, Tammy Baldwin is trying to hold a Democratic seat against popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson. If Thompson loses, it will be another piece of evidence in the case against the Tea Party. He spent a lot of money and time fighting off a primary challenge that might have hurt his general election chances.
10 p.m: Polls close in Iowa (6) and Nevada (6)
By now some battleground states will probably have been called. Routes to the presidency will have narrowed.
The Obama campaign went into Election Day thinking it had these two states locked. Iowa is the spiritual birthplace of the Obama campaign, where his caucus victory in 2008 propelled him to the White House. At his last rally there Monday night, the president was emotional. Iowa has the lowest unemployment rate of the battleground states. The competition in the state is so close that both sides even use the same language to talk about it. "It started here and it ends here," says Sue Dvorsky, the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, explaining why Obama will win. Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said, "We're the state that launched Obama, but I think in this election we're the state that's going to sink him."
There are more registered independents in Iowa than registered Republicans or Democrats. In all states, the candidates will both try to maximize turnout of their base and win over swing voters, but the question in different states will be: which is the priority? Veteran Iowa pollster Ann Selzer argues that Iowa is different than states like Pennsylvania or North Carolina, where the emphasis is more on base turnout than converting swing voters. In Iowa, there are more voters sloshing around in the middle.
The key area for Obama is Polk County (Des Moines), smack in the middle of the state. Republicans need to do well in Dallas, just outside Des Moines, and the western counties like Sioux and Woodbury, as well as the rural counties. Democrats must do well in the eastern counties.
Nevada: This battleground state may be the easiest to understand. Clark County (Las Vegas) is the largest county, and Democrats traditionally win there. It is perhaps the best county to look at to test a larger theme of this election: economics vs. demographics. Sixty-seven percent of the houses in Clark have mortgages that are bigger than the home’s value. But the county is nearly 30 percent Hispanic.
In Colorado, Republicans win the rural counties, so Romney will have to win places like Douglas County by 64 percent. The bellwether county is Washoe (Reno). If Obama wins Washoe, he will win the state.
Montana Senate race: Incumbent Democrat Jon Tester faces a challenge from Rep. Denny Rehberg. If you want to know what happens to the Senate, you might need to stay up for this race. It could be the crucial seat to determine whether the GOP can take control of the Senate.
Voting has ended in all states but Alaska, which will not determine the election. Based on the way these things have gone in the past, a call might be made between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.. But if you’ve reached this portion of the program and there doesn’t seem to be a clear trend in Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin for President Obama, then you might want to consider going to bed. It’s likely to be a long night. If Romney pulls it out in early states, the result will likely be close, which means lots of caution and probably some disputes in battleground states. Oh, and if you’re thinking about the popular vote, don’t stay up. That won’t be finalized for a few days.
Correction, Nov. 6, 2012: This article originally misspelled Clermont County. It also said Charletson, instead of Charlotte, was in Mecklenburg County.