Your Tuesday Electoral Cheat Sheet

Welcome to Election Day, at last.

I thought I’d put together a little summary of what you should be looking for if you, like me, plan to sit glued to the Idiot Box from 7:00 pm ET on.

Here are some things to think about as the polls close in various states. Remember, just because the polls close doesn’t mean we’ll know the results. Ever since calling it too early in 2000, the networks have been cautious about deciding who wins each state. But with this little cheat sheet, when the results come in, I hope you will have a better understanding of what’s happening.

As a reminder, you need 270 electoral votes to become president. All times listed are Eastern.

At 7:00 pm, the polls close in Virginia and Indiana. Romney is expected to easily steal Indiana from Obama, who won it in 2008. The state to watch here is Virginia, whose 13 electoral votes Romney needs badly to become president. There are paths to winning without it, but a loss here would indicate weakness in other swing states where Romney also must win, and he’d have to get a lot of them to win.

At 7:30 PM, the polls close in Ohio and North Carolina. First of all, if Romney loses North Carolina, it’s pretty much game over. Most analysts believe the state, which uncharacteristically went Democratic in 2008, is in Romney’s corner.

Now, Ohio. I agree with most pundits who say that whoever wins Ohio’s 18 electoral votes will likely win the election. Assuming Romney wins Virginia – and Florida, where polls close at 8:00 pm and Romney is expected to edge out Obama – there are still ways for him to win if he loses Ohio, though it won’t be easy. But it’s doable, especially if he picks up Pennsylvania.

If Romney wins Ohio, Virginia and Florida, he still needs at least two more swing states to win – any combination but Nevada and New Hampshire will do. Obama at this point would be in a bit of deep doo doo. He would have to win at least four of the remaining six swing states to get to 270.

At 8:00 pm the polls close in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Hampshire. Florida is truly a must-win state for Romney. He has few options once he loses it’s 29 electoral votes.

If Romney wins Pennsylvania and its Dutch Treat of 20 electoral votes, it is the flip side of what would happen if Obama wins Virginia or Florida – that is, it’s a lot of electoral votes Obama can’t afford to lose, and it will suggest he is weak in other places where he needs to be strong.

New Hampshire, with four electoral votes, is kind of an insurance policy for either candidate. There are a couple of paths that get a candidate to exactly 270 if they win the Granite State.

At 9:00 pm, voting ends in Michigan, Minnesota and Colorado. If Obama is losing in Michigan, after showering the automakers with federal cash, he can forget it. Minnesota also in recent days has become a swing state which, if Romney takes it, will be very bad news for Obama.

Colorado with nine electoral votes is a swing state which both candidates would love to have but which is quite not as critical as some of the other states.

Ditto Iowa and Nevada, which each have six electoral votes and where polls close at 10:00 pm. Obama may have a bit of an edge in Nevada, where Harry Reid’s machine is expected to help him. But I think Romney takes it because the economy is so bad there.

Nevertheless, in a close matchup, any of these relatively minor states could decide it.

Monday, I predicted the results in WHD for each of the states, ending up with 321 electoral votes for Romney and 217 for Obama. Follow the link and leave your own prediction in the comment section if you like.

And enjoy the evening. And probably, the early morning hours too.

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Award winning journalist Keith Koffler has 16 years of experience covering Washington. As a reporter for CongressDaily, National Journal magazine, and Roll Call, Keith wrote primarily from the White House, covering three presidents and learning as few have the intricacies of the West Wing and the behavior and motivations of its occupants. While mainly stationed at the White House, he also extensively covered Congress and Washington’s lobbyists. Keith has also written for a variety of other publications, including Politico, The Daily Caller, and The London Observer. He currently writes regular opinion columns for Politico. He blogs at

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