How to Know Early if the Democrats Are Screwed

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 2 2010 12:01 PM

How to Know Early if the Democrats Are Screwed

There are at least have a dozen excellent guides to election night out there, with information on how quickly you will know if the Republicans are outperforming the polls, if Democrats or hanging on, or if -- no fun -- everything is going exactly as Nate Silver predicted.

Here's what I'm watching.

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7 p.m. ET This is when all of the polls are closed in Kentucky and Indiana. Just as we knew that Obama was going to win when the networks couldn't call Indiana -- in an instant it was clear the "Bradley effect" was a myth -- and just as we knew that the Democrats were winning the House when Democrat John Yarmuth started winning in Kentucky's 3rd district, we will know a lot after 7 this year. If Yarmuth is struggling, against a Tea Party candidate who beat the NRCC's choice, Democrats are basically doomed -- they are losing in an urbanized district which has been steadily trending toward them. It matters a bit less if Ben Chandler is struggling in the 6th district, as Democrats are going to struggle in many such mostly rural districts. Democrats can still hold the House if they lose the 8th district of Indiana being vacated by Brad Ellsworth. But in the 2nd district, Joe Donnelly has run one of the fiercest "I'm not like Pelosi" campaigns of the cycle, and his opponent Jackie Walorski only caught fire after Mike Huckabee and other national Republicans started to see if they could play here.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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