Yesterday FHQ examined how this evening would progress given the poll closing times and what we know about the competitiveness in each state. Here are those assumptions again:
1) All strong states are able to be called as soon as the polls close in those states.
2) All lean states have an hour lag before they are called.
3) All toss up states with an FHQ average over 2 points have a three hour lag before they are called.
4) All toss up states with an FHQ average under two points have a four hour lag before they are called.
Given those assumptions we can project that Obama will wrap things up about 11pm this evening. But we can handicap this scenario some. We know, for instance, that, despite the late closing times, California will go for Obama and Idaho/Utah will hand McCain their electoral votes. So let's remove that first assumption and factor all the strong states as states that have already decided for their respective candidates. Based on the McCain campaign's final weekend itinerary, we know that they are targeting New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. For the sake of this exercise then, let's assume that both are lean states. If we consult our Electoral College Spectrum, we know that the would give Obama 239 electoral votes and McCain would be spotted 137.
Before the first polls even close, this is what the map would look like:
Between 6pm and 7:30pm polls close in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. But we don't add anything to the map just yet. Those are all still wait and see states.
However, at 8pm we can slide Georgia and West Virginia into the McCain total and Virginia into Obama's tally. Now the Illinois senator is within 18 electoral votes of victory.
An hour later, Colorado's polls close, but if we are assuming that Pennsylvania and New Hampshire are lean states, then Obama would cross the 270 threshold around that time.
Early on in the evening then, we will have a very good idea based on how quickly Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania break who the next president of the United States is.
A very big thanks to Paul Gurian for the suggestion on this one.
Final Update: The Electoral College from a Different Angle
The Electoral College Map (11/4/08)
Open Thread: Election Day! AM Edition