The Fix’s election night viewer’s guide

November 5, 2012

Sunday's paper featured a detailed breakdown of the key races in all 50 states.

But how to follow it all? Below, The Fix breaks down all of the major presidential states, ballot measures and House, Senate and governor races, hour (and half-hour) by hour, so you know what to expect and when. We've grouped the states below by when their polls close so you can follow the race(s) across the country as they happen.

In the meantime, make sure to check out our presidential, House, Senate and governor race ratings to get a sense of the state of play.

Enjoy!

6 p.m.

Indiana (some polls in western part of the state close at 7 p.m.)

Presidential: On the presidential level, Obama surprisingly carried this state in 2008. He won’t do it again, but Mitt Romney’s margin of victory here could be the earliest indicator of his prospects. A double-digit Romney win would be a good sign for the GOP.  By way of comparison: George W. Bush won the Hoosier State by 21 points in 2004.

Senate: Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) is a slight underdog against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) after Mourdock’s controversial comments about rape and pregnancy during a late October debate. If Republicans lose this one, their path to retaking the majority grows perilously narrow.

Governor: Rep. Mike Pence (R) is favored to succeed term-limited Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), but former state House speaker John Gregg (D) has made the race a little closer at the end. If Pence wins, look for him to immediately become part of the 2016/2020 national ticket conversation for Republicans.

7 p.m.

Florida (some polls on panhandle close at 8 p.m.)

Presidential: The biggest electoral vote prize among the seven remaining swing states is a must win for Mitt Romney. Polling suggests the race is very close but of the battlegrounds, Florida is where the Republican's campaign feels best. If he loses Florida, the chances Romney will be president drop into the single digits.

Senate: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is a second-tier target for the GOP, and an upset by Rep. Connie Mack (R) would give Republicans renewed hope for winning the majority.  Republicans have internal polling that suggests the race is close than public data suggests but for Mack to win he would need a four or five point Romney victory in the state.

House: Democrats are likely to unseat embattled Rep. David Rivera (R), but they also have a shot at beating freshman Reps. Allen West (R), Daniel Webster (R) and Steve Southerland (R). Republicans hope to win the Democratic-leaning 22nd district – the seat West vacated to run in a neighboring district.  

Ballot Initiative: Amendment 1 would amend the state's constitution, specifying that Floridians and businesses cannot be compelled to take part in a health care system -- i.e. Obamacare.

New Hampshire (some polls close at 8 p.m.)

Presidential: One of the swingiest states on the map continues to look like a tossup.While this is the smallest electoral vote prize of the swing states, it's telling that President Obama has made several stops in the state in recent weeks -- a suggestion that his side is doing everything it can to preserve as many paths to 270 electoral votes as possible.

Governor: Democratic former state senator Maggie Hassan is a slight favorite to succeed popular outgoing Gov. John Lynch (D). She faces Republican Ovide Lamontagne, who lost a 2010 GOP Senate primary and the state’s 1996 governor’s race.

House: The state’s two Republican congressman – Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta – are both vulnerable, with Bass in a slightly tougher spot in the state’s more Democratic congressional district.  If both lose, New Hampshire will have an all-female federal delegation (2 female House members, 2 female Senators).

Ballot Initiative: Amendment 13 would ban any new income taxes in a state that is already diametrically opposed to them.

Virginia

Presidential: Virginia, like Florida, is a state that Romney almost certainly has to have if he wants to head westward with a solid chance at 270 electoral votes. History is working for Romney as Obama's victory in 2008 was the first by a Democrat since 1964 in the Commonwealth. Polling suggests the race is very, very close and the candidates' attention to it in the final two days sends the same signal.

Senate: Former Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine (D) looks to have the late edge in this race although it's plenty close enough for former Sen. George Allen (R) to win too. Virginia is one of five toss-up Senate races on the map, and the GOP needs to win all five and one more in our "leans Democratic" category to get to a 50-50 tie in the Senate.

7:30 p.m.

North Carolina

Presidential: The Obama campaign signaled early on that they believed he could win the Tarheel State again in 2012 by putting their national convention in Charlotte. And, they continue to insist that the state's young and minority populations -- coupled with a very strong ground game -- makes them a potential winner. But, the fact the President hasn't set foot in the state since the end of his party's convention is telling as to where it ranks on Democrats' priorities list. If Obama wins North Carolina, he will almost certainly be re-elected

Governor: Republican former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory is a strong favorite against Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton (D) in a state where the Democratic party has collapsed thanks to problems surrounding retiring Gov. Bev Perdue (D). If McCrory doesn’t win, that’s bad news for the GOP.  Really bad news.

House: Republicans could win as many as four seats from Democrats thanks to a partisan-drawn redistricting map. The seats of retiring Reps. Brad Miller (D) and Heath Shuler (D) are basically gone, as is Rep. Larry Kissell’s (D) seat. Rep. Mike McIntyre is the one Democrat who could hang on.

Ohio

Presidential: Ohio is the single most important state for the electoral math of both Obama and Romney. With it, Obama is close to unstoppable as long as he doesn't lose longtime Democratic presidential strongholds like Minnesota, Michigan or Pennsylvania.  Without it, the incumbent could be on the run as the race heads west.

Senate: Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) appears to have an outside chance at beating Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), but as with the Florida Senate race, a Mandel victory is entirely dependent on Romney winning the state.

House: The matchup between Reps. Jim Renacci (R) and Betty Sutton (D) is the only tossup race in this state, which is normally home to many competitive House races. Elsewhere, freshman Rep. Bill Johnson (R) is a slight favorite to beat former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) in a 2010 rematch.

Ballot Initiative: Issue 2 would create a citizen commission to draw the state's congressional and state legislative districts, rather than leaving that power in the hands of the state legislature. That would be pretty similar to the set-up in California.

West Virginia

Governor: Businessman Bill Maloney (R) is challenging Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) for the second straight year after Tomblin won a close race in a 2011 special election. The question on Election Day is whether Obama’s huge unpopularity in this state is enough to sink Tomblin. It seems unlikely.

8 p.m.

Alabama

Ballot Initiative: Amendment 6 would update the state's constitution, specifying that Alabamans and businesses cannot be compelled to take part in a health care system -- i.e. Obamacare.

Connecticut

Senate: Republican businesswoman Linda McMahon has self-funded tens of millions of dollars for the second straight Senate race but, unlike 2010, she actually could win this time around.  While McMahon is in the game, Rep. Chris Murphy (D) appears to have righted the ship after a rough summer and enters Tuesday as the favorite.

House: Republicans hope to pull an upset for Murphy’s Democratic-leaning House seat, where polls show state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R) running close to former state representative Elizabeth Esty (D).

Illinois

House: The Prairie State is a major opportunity for Democrats to wrack up gains. They could pick off as many as five Republican-held seats after they drew a redistricting map that made all of those districts more Democratic. Four districts (held by GOP Reps. Robert Dold, Joe Walsh, Judy Biggert and Bobby Schilling) would have given Obama 60 percent of the vote in 2008, and Democrats also hope to win retiring Rep. Tim Johnson’s (R) swing seat. Republicans could get one back in retiring Rep. Jerry Costello’s (D) district, though. Walsh’s seat is likely to go Democratic; the rest are tossups.

Maine

Presidential: Maine is one of two states (Nebraska is the other) that award electoral votes by congressional district. There has been some thought that Romney could win the state’s more rural 2nd congressional district and come home with one of the state’s four electoral votes, but it’s unlikely.

Senate: Independent former governor Angus King got a scare from Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers (R) late this summer but after polls showed the race tightening, the negative ads began to fly and King is now (back) on track for the win. King has still not said whether he will caucus with Democrats but the expectation in Washington and Maine is that he will.

Ballot Initiative: Question 1 would repeal the state's ban on gay marriage and allow for legal recognition of gay marriage. Similar measures have failed in all 32 states where they have been on the ballot

Maryland

Ballot Initiative: Question 6 would legalize same-sex marriage.

Massachusetts

Senate:  After months of polling that showed the race between Sen. Scott Brown (R) and Elizabeth Warren as a dead heat, both sides now acknowledge the former Obama Administration official is likely to unseat the incumbent. If Warren wins, watch for the talk of her as a national candidate in 2016 to begin almost immediately. 

House: Rep. John Tierney (D) has found himself in a closer-than-expected race in his Democratic district after Tierney’s wife was implicated in a gambling scandal involving her brother. Tierney faces former state senator Richard Tisei, a gay Republican, in a tossup race.

Ballot Initiative: Question 3 would legalize medical marijuana.

Michigan (some polls in Upper Peninsula close at 9 p.m.)

Presidential: Of the late attempts by Romney to expand the map, this state seems like the heaviest lift for the Republican nominee. Romney was born here and his father served as governor, but it’s still leaning toward Obama.

Senate: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is a clear favorite against former congressman Pete Hoekstra (R), despite some indications that this race could have been closer.

Missouri

Presidential: The Show me State is a swing state no more. Despite coming within 4,000 votes of winning it in 2008, President Obama has spent neither time nor money in Missouri this time around.

Senate: This is a massive missed opportunity for Republicans to knock off deeply vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). Rep. Todd Akin won the GOP primary and proceeded to make controversial comments about “legitimate rape” rarely causing pregnancy.

Governor: Gov. Jay Nixon (D) appears to be set for a second term, though late polling has shown GOP businessman Dave Spence closing the gap slightly.

North Dakota (some polls close at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.)

Senate: Another red state where Democrats have been (surprisingly) competitive, former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp (D) has polled virtually tied with Rep. Rick Berg (R) throughout this race. She’ll have to overcome what is likely to be a double-digit loss for Obama, though, which means she enters election day as a slight underdog.

Pennsylvania

Presidential: Republicans have flooded the state over the last two weeks in an effort to add its 20 electoral votes to the playing field. Democrats remain confident, though, and point to the GOP’s repeated failure to put the state in play.

Senate: Republican Tom Smith appears to have an outside chance at pulling the upset here. Sen. Bob Casey (D) found himself in a closer-than-expected race and has been outspent by the wealthy self-funder Smith but appears to have woken up in time.

House: Rep. Mark Critz (D) is trying to survive in a conservative-leaning western Pennsylvania district after beating fellow Rep. Jason Altmire in the Democratic primary. Republican Keith Rothfus might have a slight edge on Critz. Meanwhile, Democrats have declined to target three Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs – Reps. Jim Gerlach, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Meehan.

8:30 p.m.

Arkansas

Ballot Initiative: Issue 5 asks voters whether to legalize medical marijuana.

9 p.m.

Arizona

Senate: The race to replace retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R) wasn't supposed to be this close this late but Democrat Richard Carmona, the former U.S. surgeon general under George W. Bush, has been a surprisingly strong candidate. Republicans acknowledge the race is close but also believe Rep. Jeff Flake (R) has an edge and will prevail.

House: The races for the open 1st and 9th districts are both tight, and Republicans hold out hope of beating Rep. Ron Barber (D), who won the special election this year for the conservative-leaning Tucson seat formerly held by Gabrielle Giffords (D).

Colorado

Presidential: By all accounts, Colorado is the single closest swing state in the country. Obama can afford to lose it; Romney probably can't. 

House: Rep. Mike Coffman (R) is in a tight race after being drawn into a swing district. Democrats also hoped to beat freshman Rep. Scott Tipton (R), but Tipton is favored.

Ballot Initiative: Amendment 64 would legalize and regulate the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana for those 21 years and older.

Minnesota

Presidential: This state has the longest-running streak of voting for Democratic presidential candidates, having been the only state to vote for Minnesotan Walter Mondale in 1984. But Republicans have spent some late money trying to make the state competitive, and a late poll from the Minneapolis Star Tribune showed Romney within the margin of error. Still, likely a bridge too far for the GOP nominee.

House: Freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R) is trying to survive in a Democratic-leaning district after pulling a huge upset in 2010 against longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar (D). He faces former congressman Rick Nolan (D). Elsewhere, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) is getting a scare after her unsuccessful presidential campaign.

Ballot Initiative: Amendment 1 would amend the state's constitution to ban gay marriage.

Nebraska

Presidential: This is the other state, along with Maine, that awards electoral votes by congressional district. Obama won one electoral vote from the Omaha-based district in 2008 but is unlikely to repeat that accomplishment.

Senate: Former senator Bob Kerrey (D) has closed late in an uphill race against state Sen. Deb Fischer (R), but Fischer remains favored to claim retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) seat for Republicans. This is Nebraska, after all.

New Mexico

Presidential: Once a longshot swing state for Republicans, the Land of Enchantment has disappeared from the list of competitive races at the presidential level. Remarkable New Mexico fact: George W. Bush carried the state in 2004.

Senate: Former congresswoman Heather Wilson was a big recruit for Republicans and the best possible nominee for the party. But, she appears unable to overcome the state's clear Democratic tilt and trails Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) in all the polls.

New York

House: Upstate New York continues to be a major battleground in the House, with six seats in the region on the line. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) is likely to lose her seat, but keep a close eye on the seats held by Reps. Nan Hayworth (R) and Kathy Hochul (D) – the state’s tightest House races. Elsewhere, Reps. Michael Grimm (R), Chris Gibson (R), Tim Bishop (D), Bill Owens (D) and Louise Slaughter (D) are vulnerable but favored to win.

Wisconsin

Presidential: The last time a Republican presidential nominee carried the Badger State was 1984. But both sides see Wisconsin as competitive in this election due in no small part to the enthusiasm gap that Republicans carry in the state. Romney has lots of ground to make up though; President Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008.

Senate: Former governor Tommy Thompson (R) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) remain locked in a very close race for retiring Sen. Herb Kohl’s (D) seat. Thompson is seen as more moderate, while Baldwin would be the first openly gay senator.  Democrats believe that if Obama wins the state by 3 or more points, Baldwin wins. Any smaller margin  (or a Romney victory) likely means Sen. Tommy Thompson.

Wyoming

Ballot Initiative: Amendment A would amend the state's constitution, stating that nothing "shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer or health care provider to participate in any health care system" -- i.e. Obamacare.

10 p.m.

Iowa

Presidential: Democrats have built a lead in early voting, but polls here remain tight, and this state is very much a tossup in the presidential race.  Like Wisconsin, Obama has a built-in cushion; he won the Hawkeye State by 10 points in 2008.

House: The race between Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) is one of just two races nationally where a Democratic incumbent is matched up with a Republican incumbent, and Latham has a slight edge. Elsewhere, Rep. Steve King (R) is a slight favorite against former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack (D).

Montana

Senate: Perhaps the purest tossup of all on the Senate map, Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) have polled neck-and-neck throughout this contest. A last-minute Mason-Dixon poll, though, had Rehberg up four.  Internal polling conducted for both parties show the race considerably closer, however.

Governor: Much like the Senate race, former congressman Rick Hill (R) and state Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) are in a very close contest to succeed term-limited Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D). Hill had his campaign account frozen late in the race after a judge raised an objection to a half-million-dollar transfer he received from the state GOP (after another judge momentarily lifted the state’s political contribution limits).

Ballot Initiative: Initiative 124 would repeal a 2011 law that created a more restrictive framework for the state's use of medical marijuana, and Initiative 122 would prohibit state and federal government from compelling people and businesses to buy health insurance -- i.e. Obamacare.

Nevada

Presidential: Combine the Democratic dominance in early vote in Clark County (Las Vegas) with the state's considerable Hispanic population and even Republicans have admitted in recent days that Romney won't win here. 

Senate: Appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) is the slightest of favorites against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who has been forced to deal with an ethics investigation that has dogged her campaign. But with President Obama likely to run upo the vote in Clark County, that could bridge the small single-digit gap separating Berkley and Heller at the moment.

House: Republican Danny Tarkanian, the son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, looks like he just might pull the upset in the newly created and Democratic-leaning 4th district. He faces state Senate Majority Leader Stephen Horsford (D). And freshman Rep. Joe Heck (R) is favored to defeat state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D).

Utah

House: Perhaps the most hyped candidate of the 2012 race for the House, Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R) appears a slight favorite to unseat Rep. Jim Matheson (D) in the congressman’s re-drawn district.

11 p.m.

California

House: An independent redistricting commission totally overhauled the state’s congressional map, leaving behind upwards of a dozen competitive races -- a major change for a state that hasn't seen that many competitive contests in the last decade combined. The ones to watch on Election Day are the seats held by GOP Reps. Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren, Jeff Denham and Mary Bono Mack and Democratic Reps. Lois Capps and Jerry McNerney. There are also competitive open seats in the state’s new 26th and 41st districts. Elsewhere, Democratic Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman face off in a hugely contentious race in the Los Angeles area, and Reps. Joe Baca (D), Pete Stark (D) and Gary Miller (R) face formidable challenges from members of their own party. (California has nonpartisan primaries, which allow two candidates from the same party to qualify for the general election.)

Ballot Initiative: The symbolic home of ballot measures has a few big ones on the docket. Proposition 30 would increase the income tax on those making more than $250,000 a year and increase the state's sales tax by 0.25 percent, Proposition 38 would increase everyone's income tax, and Proposition 34 would outlaw the death penalty.

Oregon (some polls close at 10 p.m.)

Ballot Initiative: Measure 80 would legalize and regulate the production, sale and possession of marijuana for adults and reduce restrictions on hemp.

Washington

Governor: Former congressman Jay Inslee (D) and state Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) are in a very competitive contest, despite the state’s Democratic tilt at the presidential level. The winner succeeds Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), who opted not to run for a third term.

Ballot Initiative: Measure 74 would uphold the state's new law allowing gay marriage, while Initiative 502 would legalize and regulate the production, sale and possession of marijuana for those 21 years and older.

Midnight

Hawaii

Senate: Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) is favored to beat former governor Linda Lingle (R) in the race for retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka’s (D) seat. Most polling shows Hirono up by double digits despite the fact that Lingle was a top-tier recruit and has run a solid campaign.

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Sean Sullivan | November 5, 2012