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Live Blogging of the Election Tonight

Starting around 6 P.M. EST or so, the main page and Senate pages will switch to blank maps that will be updated throughout the evening as election results come in. But be aware that very early reports can be confusing. If Austin happens to report first, Texas might be dark blue for a little while. If problems in New York City due to the storm delay reporting until after upstate districts report, New York might be dark red for a while. But it will be interesting to see the colors spread out from east to west as the results come in. Come back tonight.

Here Are the Final National Polls

"The time has come," the walrus said ... After an endless series of Republican primaries, three presidential debates, two conventions, and one hurricane, it has all come down to today. Here are the final national polls.

Pollster Obama Romney Leading
ABC/WaPo 50% 47% Obama +3%
PPP 50% 48% Obama +2%
Ipsos 48% 46% Obama +2%
UPI 49% 47% Obama +2%
ARG 49% 49% Tie
Monmouth 48% 48% Tie
Opinion Research 49% 49% Tie
Gallup 48% 49% Romney +1%
Rasmussen 48% 49% Romney +1%

The bottom line is that the popular vote is close, with Obama perhaps having a lead of around 0.8%, well within the margin of error. If all goes well, we will know who won the presidency and which party controls the Senate and House tonight. But there are no guarantees. Recounts, delayed absentee ballots, fights over provisional ballots, or Anthony Kennedy taking his time to decide who to appoint as President could all push the results far into the future. One thing is for sure, though: the electors meet on Dec. 17 to cast their votes. The worst-case scenario is that multiple slates of electors show up in their respective state capitals that day and want to vote. There are no provisional ballots for electors, so any messes had better be sorted out by then.

One recent development that might toss the election into the courts is a decision by Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, to require voters, rather than poll workers, to record the form of identification used on provisional ballots. Many voters won't understand this and will do it wrong, in which case their votes won't count.

A sign of the closeness of the race comes from the first actual election returns, as usual, from Dixville Notch, NH. Traditionally all the voters assemble at the polling station at midnight on the start of election day and vote. The votes are then reported at 12:01 A.M. The village has correctly predicted the past three presidential elections. This morning the results were announced. It was a tie, 5 votes for Obama and 5 votes for Romney. An inauspicious omen.

The Race to 270

The electoral college map shows Obama set to win 303 electoral votes. North Carolina is a tie on the basis of two PPP polls. However, a poll from SurveyUSA showing Romney ahead by 5 points fell just outside the 1-week window and thus doesn't count. Even though PPP is located in North Carolina and presumably knows the territory well, my personal guess is that Romney will take North Carolina and the final score will be Obama 303 to Romney 235. That leaves Obama some margin for error. He could lose Virginia and be at 290. He could lose Virginia and Ohio and be at 272 and still win if he hangs onto Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire. For Romney, it is looking tougher. He has to win Florida, which most pollsters say he will (and this is not even taking the chaos there into account) as well as Virginia and Ohio and one more state. It's possible, but it is a tall order.

What does everyone else say about the race? puts the chances of an Obama victory at 70%. Nate Silver at the New York Times has a 92% chance of an Obama victory, with his expected electoral college score at 315 EVs. Mark Blumenthal at Huffington Post gives Obama at least 271 EVs, with six states as tossups.

What do conservatives think? The Denver Post has collected maps from eight conservative map makers. Here are the electoral vote scores they are predicting.

Pundit Obama Romney
Dick Morris 213 325
George Will 217 321
Michael Barone 223 315
Dean Chambers 227 311
Andrew Beyer 254 284
Karl Rove 259 279
Ben Domenech 260 278
Leslie Sanchez 263 275

Comments about alternative universes will be held until tomorrow. However, Election Projection, a very conservative, but data-driven, site, has Obama at 303, just as we do.

Democrats Poised to Hold the Senate

Our Senate map shows the Democrats with 51 seats, the Republicans with 45, and 4 ties. One of the ties is Maine. No one doubts that Angus King will win, but the only issue is whether he is a secret Democrat or a secret Republican. Most people think he will caucus with the Democrats, giving them 52 seats. North Dakota is tied, but it is such a red state that even with Heidi Heitkamp running a very strong campaign, she is probably going to go down. The other two ties, Montana and Wisconsin, are really too close to call. Our best guess is that the Democrats will get 52-54 seats in the new Senate. If the Democrats get 52 seats and Paul Ryan is elected Vice President, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock are not going to be real popular in the Republican Party tomorrow, since they will have cost the Republicans the majority. But maybe Tammy Baldwin will win in Wisconsin and save them from being tarred and feathered. Here are the current poll averages for the competitive states. The map gives the polling data on all states.

State Democrat D % Republican R % Ind I %
Arizona Richard Carmona 46% Jeff Flake 51%    
Connecticut Chris Murphy 52% Linda McMahon 44%    
Florida Bill Nelson* 51% Connie McGillicuddy 42%    
Indiana Joe Donnelly 46% Richard Mourdock 41%    
Maine Cynthia Dill 12% Charlie Summers 35% Angus King 50%
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren 50% Scott Brown* 46%    
Missouri Claire McCaskill* 50% Todd Akin 46%    
Montana Jon Tester* 48% Denny Rehberg 48%    
Nebraska Bob Kerrey 47% Deb Fischer 50%    
Nevada Shelley Berkley 46% Dean Heller* 48%    
North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp 48% Rick Berg 48%    
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 49% Josh Mandel 44%    
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 49% Tom Smith 44%    
Virginia Tim Kaine 49% George Allen 45%    
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin 47% Tommy Thompson 47%    

We haven't tracked the House because so few races have been polled. In previous cycles, we made a model based on the voting history of each district, but since most of the districts are new now, there is no history. Most pundits expect the Democrats to pick up seats in the House, but not enough to hand the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi.

Legal Challenges Are Ongoing

A federal lawsuit filed in Ohio yesterday challenges the legality of unverified software that was installed in Ohio's voting machines just before the election. There are strict certification procedures for voting machine software, but Ohio Secretary of State, Jon Husted, said they weren't necessary in this case because the software patches are merely experimental. This is a legal loophole that might save Husted, who claims that the patch merely reformats the output, making the results easier to tabulate. Democrats simply don't believe him. Given that today is election day, it is not clear what a ruling, even this afternoon, would do. Of course, if the judge rules that the software is illegal and Romney wins the election with Ohio being an essential state, there is no telling what could happen.

In Florida, a lawsuit over long lines and election chaos was settled out of court yesterday. The problems were caused by the state legislature reducing voting days and hours, which led to crowds that several counties in South Florida could not handle. The settlement says that voters will be allowed to turn in absentee ballots today.

Poll Closing Times

Here are the poll closing times, more or less. A few states span multiple time zones. In most cases, the polls remain open an hour longer in the western portion of the state. Sometimes the networks will call the state when polls are closed in the eastern part of the state. If you want the exact story on poll closing times, look here. The swing states are in boldface.

  Closing time (EST) EVs States
  7:00 P.M. 60 GA IN KY SC VT VA
  7:30 P.M. 38 NC OH WV
  8:30 P.M. 6 AR
10:00 P.M. 21 IA MT NV UT
11:00 P.M. 85 CA HI ID OR WA
  1:00 A.M. 3 AK

How the Right Will Rationalize a Romney Loss

If we have a winner tonight--a big if--there will be a lot of postmortems tomorrow. But why wait? The reasons for each side winning or losing are well known now. All we don't know is which set of arguments hold.

If Romney loses, a full-blown civil war will break out in the Republican Party. The North will be played by Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove, and the rest of the establishment. If Obama takes Virginia, they will be in a state of advanced panic because the GOP's base is the South, and if Virginia secedes from the South and becomes a warmer version of Maryland, the road ahead looks grim. The rebels will be played by the tea party, whose motto is: "To hell with winning, purity comes first." The pros will realize that having boatloads of money isn't enough. You need a good candidate and they didn't have one. The tea party types are going to be saying things like this:

How the Left Will Rationalize an Obama Loss

Left-wing commentators and Websites like Daily Kos will be full of explanations of what happened, should Obama lose. These will include:

Why Did Obama Actually Win

Obama didn't build it entirely on his own. Romney blew it in many ways. Some factors are as follows.

Why Did Romney Actually Win

Could There Be Faithless Electors?

Presidential electors are supposed to vote for the person who got the most votes in their state (or for three electors in Nebraska and two in Maine, their district). But an electoral vote for someone else counts, even though it may violate state law. If the electoral vote is close, there will be intense lobbying of the electors to switch sides. Electors have received death threats in the past. No doubt some have been offered bribes as well. There is also a small possibility that some Romney electors will vote for Ron Paul.

Women Could Clean Up in New Hampshire

If the Democrats do well in New Hampshire tomorrow, the state could have a female governor, along with women in both Senate seats and both House seats. Nothing like this has ever happened before. The two women in the Senate are for sure, as neither Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) nor Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is up for reelection. State senator Maggie Hassan has a wide lead over her Republican opponent for the governor's mansion. Ann Kuster is leading Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) in NH-02 and Carol Shea-Porter is tied with Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) in NH-01.

Marriage Equality on the Ballot in Four States

So far, same-sex marriage has been approved by the courts and by state legislatures, but never by the voters. Tomorrow might change that. Referendums on the subject, in one form or another, are on the ballot in Maryland and Maine, where they have a good chance of passing. It is also on the ballot in Washington state. In Minnesota, a ballot measure would enshrine the current state law banning same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Polls show that it is close.