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Analysis: Election Night 2008

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Robert G. Kaiser
Washington Post Associate Editor
Tuesday, November 4, 2008; 7:00 PM

Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser was online Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. ET to break down the general election returns as they're announced and examine what they mean for the parties, the executive branch, Congress and the nation.

He was joined at points during the evening by Mark Blumenthal, editor of Pollster.com; Ryan Thornburg of the Project on Public Life at the University of North Carolina; Washington Post reporter Kevin Merida; and Robert Struckman, editor of New West.

Special Note: Because of the anticipated length of the discussion, responses will be posted in reverse order, with the most recent answers at the top.

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Chicago: I just returned home from the Grant Park celebration outside the fence. What a happy occasion, where the goodwill, relief and peacefulness was palpable. The crowds were somber and subdued and perhaps introspective, but incredibly happy. A few passing cars with horns blaring, but few whoops. On the walk over I joined a diverse group of young adults just coming off the L that hadn't heard Obama had been declared the winner. Their faces lit up as if a breeze came over embers, and for a moment there was pure, quiet joy. Walking home I noticed a black woman security guard at a college building leaning out the door to be a part of this moment, and the same reaction from a parking lot attendant across the street. The sense of peace and hopefulness was pervasive.

washingtonpost.com: Folks, we're done for the night but I wanted to post this nice from-the-scene report before we wrapped up. Join us tomorrow for a special discussion hosted by Post reporter Dana Priest that will bring in six guests to examine various aspects of how the Barack Obama administration will be built and may govern.

Posted 12:52 a.m., 11.5.2008

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San Antonio, Texas: Now that it's finished, will he rule from the left or the center?

Kevin Merida: Obama probably will try to capitalize on the working majorities he has in Congress, though there are such pressing national issues that spin from the economic calamity that his domestic agenda likely will need some reworking.

Posted 12:44 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Arlington, Va.: Where is Joe Biden -- is he in Delaware?

Kevin Merida: Joe Biden joined Obama onstage in Chicago after Obama's victory speech.

Posted 12:41 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Bethesda, Md.: Wonder why McCain decided to be the man he always was tonight. Had he run the true-but-gracious warrior style, he might have won -- or at least had a closer race that would have made it hard to say that Obama had a mandate.

Kevin Merida: There will be a lot of postmortems about how McCain ran his campaign. Was he too nice or too mean? Did he stray from the independence he had carved out for himself in the Republican firmament and decide to placate his right flank, or did he not run hard enough and persistently enough at Obama's weaknesses? There will be a lot of questions, but those are for another day.

Posted 12:41 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Washington: How remarkable is it for a newbie senator, ranking just about at the bottom of the pack, to become the new president? It feels like one heck of a promotion. Is there much precedent for that? I'm wondering how it compares to JFK, for example.

Kevin Merida: JFK also was very young, and was considered untested., but he had many of the qualities that seem to have attracted people to Obama.

Posted 12:35 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: I am going to sign off and leave this to my colleagues. Thanks to all. We have shared a night to remember in American history.

Posted 12:32 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Los Angeles: Good evening from California. I'm 36, almost 37 years old, and I never have been as proud of America as I am right now. After the most recent two elections I didn't think we had it in us as a nation to do what we are doing tonight. Tonight we show the world again that America is full of surprises and that we can again be a moral, spiritual beacon for the rest of the world. Thank you.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 12:30 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Washington: Will Axelrod be in the new administration? What's the path for the chief strategist of the campaign when they win?

Robert G. Kaiser: He has said repeatedly that he will stay in Chicago. I'm not certain about that.

Posted 12:30 a.m., 11.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: We're about to be joined by Post reporter Kevin Merida, who has written extensively on Obama's campaign and life.

Posted 12:17 a.m., 11.5.2008

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New York: Mr. Kaiser, I'm really appreciative for your chats at key moments in the nation's history, and I'm here tonight again. I'm already starting to hear some pundits demand "bipartisanship" from Obama -- and, of course conservatives (for whom it's suddenly very convenient, after eight years of caring nothing for it) are calling for the same.

My question is simple: With Republicans having left the economy in tatters, involved us in an unnecessary war, run Congress in a brutally single-party fashion and turned government into a cash-cow for their supporters, why on earth would Obama want to involve them? Isn't that like rehiring Brownie to run FEMA? Thanks for your comment!

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. Being a hopeless romantic myself, I'm going to disagree with you. I've written a book, coming out in January, about how our politics descended into the toilet in the past 30 years. One of the important reasons was partisan warfare. If we can't break out of the cycle of zero-sum, all-out war between the parties, we won't be able to deal with the huge problems before us. Will we escape it? I have no idea. Is it worth a try? I think it is.

Posted 12:17 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Helena, Mont.: Do you think that now the Republicans finally may see that the American people don't want more culture war -- the constant fight against gays, the abortion debate, the theocrats trying to impose their god on us -- and just want competent government? And when will McCain do a mea culpa on all the sleaze of this campaign and redeem himself with the media?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't know. Thanks for posting.

Posted 12:01 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: Mr. Kaiser, thank you, sir, for hosting this forum. It has been a memorable evening.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you.

Posted 12:00 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Robert Struckman: Hi. Robert Struckman here at NewWest.Net in Missoula, Montana. I'm glad to join the conversation again. Thanks for having me.

Posted 12:00 a.m., 11.5.2008

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washingtonpost.com: We're now joined by Robert Struckman, editor of New West. Send in your questions about Rocky Mountain races now.

Posted 12:00 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Stockholm, Sweden: Thanks for showing the small comment -- we cannot forget what we are up against every single day.

Robert G. Kaiser: You're welcome.

Posted 12:00 a.m., 11.5.2008

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To Washington from an African-American woman: If black people voted only for black people, Alan Keyes would have tied Obama in 2004, and tonight might have looked a lot different. Or Alan Keyes would have been elected senator in Maryland in 1988 or 1992. To go with your supposition, Keyes should have split the vote with Obama tonight -- he ran under the Constitutional party. None of that happened, because blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, young, old, rich, poor -- more than 45 million people voted for him. It's policy and ideals and beliefs and hope that got Obama elected, not skin color.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 12:00 a.m., 11.5.2008

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Yonkers, N.Y.: To get back to grimy politics, the Democrats wanted to break into the Western region, and they seem to have done so. The GOP stands accused of being a Southern regional party.

Robert G. Kaiser: Don't forget the upper plains states -- but you're right, it's a smaller Red America for sure.

Posted 11:43 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: When will the African American community allow itself to be held accountable for its own bigotry? Tomorrow, I hope we ask African Americans who voted for Obama why they voted for him. Because he is a socialist? Because he is pro-abortion? Or was it primarily because he is black? Sadly, Obama's race is likely to be the primary reason that most African Americans chose Obama. That is bigotry.

Robert G. Kaiser: If I may say so -- and I guess I can -- this is a really small and nasty comment. I thought about ignoring it, but decided to let everyone see it.

The exit polls show that more than 40 percent of white voters cast their ballots today for Obama. Why did they vote for Obama? Might they have thought him the best man for the job? Might black and brown voters had the same opinion?

Posted 11:42 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Oak Hill, Va.: Great concession speech by McCain. Had that been his message all along, I would have voted for him. I wonder why he went Rovian instead of staying on board the Straight Talk Express...

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 11:38 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Fairfax, Va.: My memory of Gore's and Kerry's concession speeches is a bit fuzzy, but is it common to hear boos from the crowd whenever the winner's name is mentioned? I found it to be an odd reaction to the name of the next president-elect of the United States

Robert G. Kaiser: I thought that was a remarkable moment. Those initial boos were indeed typical of such situations; the emotionally committed supporters didn't want to acknowledge what had happened. But McCain's powerful speech overcame those initial emotions. Soon the crowd was applauding McCain as he congratulated Obama for his accomplishment. Quite something.

Posted 11:38 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Eastern Shore, Md.: From an Obama supporter: McCain is giving what sounds to me like a pretty gracious concession speech. If his campaign had been conducted in a similar tone, he might have had a different result.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 11:26 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: Yes, fireworks are legal (different chatter!) John McCain's concession speech is proof at how his campaign was grossly mismanaged. He already sounds like the fantastic senator we knew before. We were blessed with two amazing candidates, and are lucky two great Americans want to lead this country.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. I agree, it is a remarkable speech. It's still going on.

Posted 11:24 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: Robert -- do you believe that campaign insiders (on either side) are generally surprised by the incredibly narrow margin in the popular vote nationally? To what extent has the electoral map really been "redrawn" given this tight margin?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't think the margin will be narrow in the morning. Remember, California.

Posted 11:24 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Barbados, West Indies: Not a question but a comment. I am very happy that Elizabeth Dole lost. I hope that this will make politicians think twice about extremely negative ads.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 11:18 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Ann Arbor, Mich.: In the middle of the city, there are fireworks going off.

Robert G. Kaiser: Is that legal?

Posted 11:18 p.m., 11.4.2008

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The Economy, Stupid: If that's what got Obama in, how long a honeymoon is he going to have? It's not clear to me how a president turns around an economy on a dime. Might disappointment settle in rather quickly if economic malaise continues or increases?

Robert G. Kaiser: Presidents' ability to improve an economy are indeed very limited. Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't do it throughout the '30s, but he won support from a depressed nation by trying very hard to make things better. I don't know if Obama could do that.

I do think we have opened a new door, and are moving out on something entirely new that we should not try to judge by the standards of the old politics. I could of course be wrong!

Posted 11:18 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Happy in the Heartland: Whatever else Barack Obama does as president, the enthusiasm he has summoned in our young people is truly gratifying. I work on a college campus, and four years ago I had students in my office weeping when Bush won. In the past year, I have been so heartened by the hope and energy Sen. Obama has inspired in these young people. Our country will need all of that youthful energy to work its way back.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 11:15 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: McCain has phoned Obama to congratulate him, according to NBC.

Posted 11:15 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Asheville, N.C.: Response to speculation posted earlier, on Virginia and North Carolina -- these states have a history of voting for Democratic governors and senators but Republican presidents. In other words, voters have a history of splitting tickets in these states. I tend to think anyone voting for Hagan or Warner would be inclined otherwise to vote for a generic Democrat over a generic Republican, but don't leap to the conclusion that it necessarily is racial. Man am I hoping North Carolina goes to Obama. I may be up late waiting for that call.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 11:06 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Fairfax, Va.: How many votes are left to be counted?

Robert G. Kaiser: Millions, but we know the result.

Posted 11:06 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Lewisville, N.C.: After living through a very dark and divisive time in American history, for the first time in many years I am feeling truly optimistic about our future. My 10-year-old son got very involved in the political process -- we placed a yard sign, carved an Obama "rising sun" jack-o-lantern, he participated in exit-polling at his school and I took him with me to the polls where he and I pressed the touch screen together for Obama, after waiting in line for three hours (during which I explained to him that waiting three hours was no big thing compared to the sacrifices by those who ensured our ability to do so). This is certainly a historic election that I mark as a turning point -- in which we live in an America where anything is truly possible, anyone can grow up to be president, and extremism no longer rules.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thank you for sharing this.

Posted 11:04 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: Just want to thank George Bush (and maybe Sarah Palin) for getting us our first black president!

Robert G. Kaiser: And I thank you.

Posted 11:04 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Seattle: What do you make of Palin releasing her medical records the night before the election when they were promised much earlier? They were short and not negative, so it is hard to see why there was a delay. Was it just to show that the press essentially is toothless?

Robert G. Kaiser: Not much.

Posted 11:01 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Oak Hill, Va.: Robert, Its time to tag 'em and bag 'em. McCain is toast -- it's just a question of whether he's well-done or extra-crispy.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. I can't quarrel.

Posted 11:01 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: ABC and other networks are calling the election for Obama at this hour. We have a new country.

Posted 11:01 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: Any prediction on the North Carolina presidential vote, based on the remaining precincts?

Robert G. Kaiser: Just talked to a smart friend in North Carolina who says that Obama will win. Let's wait a while.

Posted 11:00 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: What more do folks need to call Virginia for Obama? He is winning with 88 percent reporting, and the remaining precincts predominantly are in Democrat-friendly areas.

Robert G. Kaiser: The Post is now contemplating the question; I expect a call for Obama in Virginia soon.

Posted 10:59 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Los Angeles: I'm never asked for ID when voting either. Of course, my neighbor over the back fence and her daughter -- both of whom know me -- always are poll-workers at the table, and call out the street I live on to the person looking up in the address book.

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm pretty sure that most states don't require identification.

Posted 10:59 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Northern Virginia: Obama pledged not to raise taxes for those who make under $250,000 What about capital gains tax? Many who make less than that pay capital gains on stocks and business sales. At some point he said he would raise that tax as much as needed. What's your feeling about where the capital gains tax will go under an Obama administration?

Robert G. Kaiser: I expect Obama to propose major tax reform. The capital gains tax and taxes on dividends could both go up.

Posted 10:58 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Northeast Washington: What's the latest on the Carol Schwartz numbers?

washingtonpost.com: Discussion: Marc Fisher on Local Election Results (washingtonpost.com, Live NOW)

Robert G. Kaiser: It's close. Here's a link to Marc Fisher's chat, where he is writing about this.

Posted 10:58 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: Off the top of your head, who on the Republican side may be preparing for 2012? Personally I think the euphoria won't last that long. It won't even take some "testing" of a new president's mettle -- reality will set in. I'm no conservative, I'm just jaded.

Robert G. Kaiser: Republicans face huge problems. They are going to be at each other's throats. They have a serious paucity of national leaders. Today I'd bet that you'll see hats in the 2012 ring from Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee. Will that excite the country?

Posted 10:56 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Barbados, West Indies: I think, from someone watching the election from afar, that the main reason the Hispanic vote went for Obama is the McCain/Palin message that some people are more American than others. Not a comforting message if you speak with an accent and have browner skin...

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:55 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Salisbury, N.C.: Seems locally that the early voting numbers (both locally and statewide in North Carolina) were not accurate predictors of voter turnout. We had far less voting today than we expected based on early voting numbers. Is that holding true throughout the country?

Robert G. Kaiser: Do you know that for sure? I'm dubious.

Posted 10:55 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Salt Lake City: Assuming for the moment that Obama wins, do you think we will see a decline in negative ads in the next campaign cycle? Dole is out -- and as you mention, McCain was viewed as even more negative. Is it a fluke this year that negative campaigning didn't work, or is it a seismic shift?

Robert G. Kaiser: Good question. And I think we can assume for more than the moment that Obama is our president-elect. He has 202 electoral votes on The Post home page, and there are 73 more to come from California, Oregon and Washington alone. He needs, as I know you remember, 270 to win.

Negative ads defeated Liddy Dole, I'd argue -- they hurt all the Republicans running for Senate -- but they did no good for McCain, obviously. I doubt we've seen the last of them, not least because some will argue that Obama's negative ads helped him.

Posted 10:54 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Kristol on Palin: I don't know if you are watching it, but this "Daily Show"/Colbert thing on right now is a little disappointing.

Robert G. Kaiser: Hey, I'm chatting with you! "The Daily Show" has to wait.

Posted 10:52 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Re: Third Term in a Bad Economy: What was the economy like in 1988 when Bush won "Reagan's third term"? I don't remember, I was only three years old.

Robert G. Kaiser: It was in good shape.

Posted 10:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Minnesota Senate race: I just don't get what is happening with Coleman and Franken. Does anybody in Minnesota actually think that a "Saturday Night Live" comedian with no political experience will make a good senator? It'll take just one long, drawn-out hearing of the Agricultural Committee to make Franken regret his decision -- I just don't see him as having any interest in doing the often boring, work-a-day business of running a government. I think he ran just to get rid of Coleman, but anybody who votes for a candidate simply to get rid of another one is just nuts. You'd think people would know better.

Robert G. Kaiser: Hey, Americans have been throwing the bums out forever. It's an old national instinct.

Posted 10:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Reston, Va.: How can they call states that aren't reporting many precincts -- New Mexico, for instance?

Robert G. Kaiser: On the basis of thin returns and very strong exit poll results.

Posted 10:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Winchester, Va.: I agree with Helena, Mont. -- the democratic process in the United States isn't error-free, but we historically have weathered the change of parties and administrations calmly and without the violence and blood you see in other nations. While I firmly believe in the Democratic Party, the fact that our country is so evenly divided means it would be difficult for any branch to make major changes to our systems. As much as I would love to see some Democratic measures passed, I'm glad we have Republicans to temper any extremes. Thank you to the founding fathers for a system that, in its basic principles, works well.

On a side note I'm incredibly excited at the prospect of an Obama administration -- not because I think he's going to change the world, but because I think he's going to inspire us all to participate in our communities, in our country, in our world. We need a leader who asks us to look outward again.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:50 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Alexandria, Va.: Do you think a Democratic supermajority would enact the kind of legislation GOP fear-mongers warned about, such as new gun bans, higher taxes, etc.? Recall there was a 10-year gun ban and high tax rates under Clinton until Bush came in.

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't. I expect Obama to govern with some caution, and to make a serious attempt at the bipartisanship he has been talking about. How serious? I don't know.

Posted 10:50 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Las Vegas: I think it's pretty obvious Obama is going to win more than 300 electoral votes tonight. I just hope hope McCain gets up there and concedes without any fuss.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:30 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: I voted today at 16th and Q streets N.W., and wasn't asked for identification. My friend, who voted at the same precinct about 15 minutes before me, also wasn't asked. Though I had to sign the book, there was no signature from previous years to confirm I was who I said I was. Is this legal? How do they know there isn't voter fraud?

Robert G. Kaiser: I voted at 14th and U streets and was not asked for identification either. I don't remember ever being asked for it in Washington.

Posted 10:30 p.m., 11.4.2008

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St. Paul, Minn.: Any chance Obama might get one electoral vote out of Nebraska?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, as I indicated a moment ago. If Esch wins that House seat, Obama gets one vote.

Posted 10:29 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Tarboro, N.C.: It has been said in many television reports that Sarah Palin was a "drag" for the McCain ticket. Many so-called "experts" claim that her down-home image appeared to many voters as phony, which in turn hurt the McCain campaign. Do you think that there is any truth to those statements?

Robert G. Kaiser: There is a lot of truth to them, polls indicate, but because so many Americans concluded that Palin was not qualified to become president on short notice. On the other hand, as I've said earlier, I think the Republicans probably were doomed to lose this year no matter whom they had running.

Posted 10:29 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Helena, Mont.: Watching the large crowd in Chicago and the large crowds in Denver, St. Louis, etc., one thing has really made an impression on me -- the quiet and calmness of these crowds. They're not rowdy, not violent, nothing like that -- just very calm. These are serious people taking their responsibility as citizens of this country seriously. I am so happy for that.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:28 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Los Angeles: Regarding why are Americans apolitical, in my humble opinion it's in part a result of our system. We have fixed terms, so there's almost no chance of a change of government between elections; even when Nixon resigned, another Republican took his place, and it would have been his chosen running mate if Agnew hadn't had to resign as well.

Compare with a parliamentary system -- you don't have a powerful president, and it's the balance of parties that determines who is prime minister; there is no fixed election schedule, and the press always is saying what would happen if an election were held today; and if the government makes a terrible gaffe -- like Bush has done so often -- they can be out of office instantly via a no-confidence vote.

All that makes parties and a parliamentary majority more important compared to politicians, which in turn makes issues and policies important compared to the personal qualities that are stressed in the U.S. Gov. Palin is a choice example. Our Constitution was set up in part to constrain the president's (king's) power, but European parliamentary countries have evolved to a point where the monarch has so little power that they're not relevant, and the checks and balances operate at other levels rather than between parliament and the crown.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. I don't agree, but it's an interesting comment. I think we're apolitical because we're apolitical. De Toqueville saw it a long time ago.

Posted 10:28 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Virginia: Is it safe to guess that Obama will take Virginia? It looks like Fairfax has the most votes to count, and they seem to be voting overwhelmingly for Obama.

Robert G. Kaiser: To guess, sure. I am guessing so myself. But it's still a guess.

Posted 10:27 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: "Capable for electing candidates regardless of their race" ... make that "despite their race." You have to admit that the economy, Obama's well-run campaign and his own persona helped his candidacy. It's not the same thing as America being ready to elect the next qualified nonwhite person. Qualifications, however equal, just don't do it.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Don't be too parsimonious with your recognition of what has happened here. It is, as Ed Sullivan used to say, Really Big.

Posted 10:26 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Stockholm, Sweden: Robert, I'm still with you, barely. Any sense how long after the polls close on the West Coast before McCain concedes? I really want to watch that speech. Of course, I want to watch Obama's more, but first things first.

Robert G. Kaiser: I would guess that there will not be a concession before 11:30 p.m. EST, an hour from now, and it could be later. Sorry!

Posted 10:26 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Logan, Utah: Any news from Nebraska?

Robert G. Kaiser: McCain is winning, but narrowly. Esch, the Democrat in the Omaha district, is ahead in early returns.

Posted 10:25 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Falls Church, Va.: First, I am so glad to be able to change the channel from CNN to a real news station -- Comedy Central. Second -- any news on the overall turnout and whether we are looking at any serious history-making?

Robert G. Kaiser: Turnout is very high, but until we know about California, we don't know enough.

Posted 10:23 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Austin, Texas: Assuming things continue this way, at what time do you expect McCain to concede, and Obama to make a victory speech?

Robert G. Kaiser: We have no information on this. Obviously it's too early now for either to do so. Polls on the West Coast are open until 11 p.m. EST.

Posted 10:22 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Fargo, N.D.: Congratulations on your win tonight! Obama could never have done this without the overwhelming support of the supine press. Who needed journalism anyway?

Robert G. Kaiser: I think this is a really foolish view. There are no, I repeat no cases in American history of a party winning a third consecutive term in the White House when the economy is in bad shape. The Republicans did themselves in here, I think.

Posted 10:22 p.m., 11.4.2008

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washingtonpost.com: Running In Place: The Predictable Election (Post, Nov. 4)

Posted 10:21 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Alexandria, Va.: There are some exit poll numbers asking voters who they would have picked in a Clinton-McCain race. Any thoughts on how that contest would have played out?

Robert G. Kaiser: That question was not asked. I think myself that Clinton would have won, Dodd would have won, Biden would have won -- any plausible Democrat would have won this year. Just my hunch.

I'll ask Chris Hopkins to link here to a story of mine from today's paper that helps explain why I think this.

Posted 10:21 p.m., 11.4.2008

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The Map: The red/blue divide on the map is looking very much like the Civil War. The only part that is that is blanketed red is the South. What conclusions can be drawn from this? Is the South just not ready for a black president yet? When you look at Virginia in particular, Warner took the state in a landslide, while Obama only may win because of Northern Virginia. This will make for fascinating analysis.

Robert G. Kaiser: Obama can win North Carolina. More important, I suspect, is how much closer many other Southern states will be this time.

Posted 10:21 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Laurel, Md.: Is Virginia ready to be called by looking at the counties remaining? What about Florida, where Obama still leads by about 200,000 votes? What is up in the District of Columbia ... no votes counted still? Thanks guys!

Robert G. Kaiser: Washington is painfully slow. Virginia and Florida both look good for Obama to me, but let's wait a while longer.

Posted 10:20 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: Any chance one of the moderate Republicans switches parties?

Robert G. Kaiser: I doubt it, but I don't know.

Posted 10:19 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: I am a former student of Obama's who took one of his classes while he was contemplating running for the Senate. It is almost surreal to think that, come morning, he will be the president-elect. Regardless how one might feel about his policies (I tend to agree with him), I cannot stress enough how kind, decent, thoughtful and intelligent Obama is. This is a good night for our country.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 10:19 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Bellingham, Wash.: Mr. Kaiser, are we possibly witnessing a generational, rather than racial (or gender if you count the primaries) shift in American politics tonight? I always have thought Obama's appeal was that he represented the end of Baby Boomer bickering, and that was why the Clintons, etc., reacted so negatively to his candidacy -- and why young people were so energized...

Robert G. Kaiser: Good question. I think we could go even further: This is the beginning of a new phase of American history, and an end to the era that began with Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Or so it seems to me.

Posted 10:19 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Obama/Biden Senate seats: Do the appointees get to stay for the whole term, or until there is some special election? Do Delaware and Illinois both have Democratic governors? I won't press you to suggest possible replacements -- I'll save that for Cillizza later this week (*smile*).

Robert G. Kaiser: Both governors are Democrats. They appoint a fill-in to serve until 2010 in both states, I believe -- I'm sure about Delaware, and am checking on Illinois.

Posted 10:18 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Chapel Hill, N.C.: Do the election results indicate that the United States no longer can be considered a "racist country"? Certainly the country still has many racists, but it seems quite capable for electing candidates regardless of their race. This seems like more than a milestone.

Robert G. Kaiser: You are right about that.

Posted 10:16 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Laurel, Md.: Assuming the rest of the night follows script, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the Democrats won the White House when Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 convention. He wasn't even a senator yet (he was the nominee for that position). Who decided that he should deliver that speech?

Robert G. Kaiser: John Kerry decided. But I disagree with you -- a bad economy, a gloomy public and a disastrously unpopular incumbent president were the most important factors, I think.

Posted 10:15 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Minneapolis: How much credit should Howard Dean be getting for the expansion of the map for the Democrats?

Robert G. Kaiser: A good deal, but less than Plouffe, Axelrod and Obama.

Posted 10:14 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Sun Prairie, Wis.: How are votes counted in Georgia? I understand there was a lot of early voting in that state -- are early votes tabulated first, or are votes reported by counties however they were cast?

Ryan Thornburg: I don't know specifically about Georgia, but in most states the early votes are released when polls close.

Posted 10:08 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Kansas City, Mo.: With Obama at 200 electoral votes and California with 55, Hawaii with 4, Oregon with 7 and Washington with 11, isn't this over? I called it at 9:30 p.m. central time.

Robert G. Kaiser: As I have said already, Ohio was the death knell for McCain.

Posted 9:59 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Salt Lake City: Mr. Kaiser, thanks to you (and your guests) as always for these wonderful evening chats. I am anxiously awaiting the polls out here in Utah -- I know the state will go to McCain, but would not be surprised to see Obama cut his support to less than 60 percent. The enthusiasm for Obama in Salt Lake County and Summit County (Park City) is huge, and we had a very cold rainy/snowy day that may have kept some lukewarm McCain supporters home. Anyhow, I'm hoping our state senator is defeated in part because of Obama turnout helping her challenger. (My husband will fess up to looking forward to having our yard uncluttered by signs!)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 9:59 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: Has opposition to the winner-takes-all rule died down in the midst of the Obama excitement? I can't wrap my mind around why this doesn't trouble more people -- it just doesn't seem fair.

Robert G. Kaiser: It never really has been an issue in the country, has it?

Posted 9:59 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Falls Church, Va.: Any news on your end about Maryland polls still being open (or at least still taking voters who were in line two-and-a-half hours ago)?

Robert G. Kaiser: I just checked with the Maryland desk; no polls are still open. The counting is slow.

Posted 9:54 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Albuquerque, N.M.: NBC just called New Mexico for Obama. How does this impact Gov. Richardson's chances for being a major player in an Obama administration?

Robert G. Kaiser: It's way too soon to say.

Posted 9:53 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: As a sleepyhead, I wonder how both McCain and Obama sleep, and how much they've slept in, say, the past week, and how much will they sleep in the next week. Do you think/know they'll just fall down in exhaustion tonight and stay in bed for a couple of days?

Robert G. Kaiser: I'm with you! I don't know how they do it. Nor do I know how many Zs they'll be getting now.

Posted 9:53 p.m., 11.4.2008

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To the London Commenter, Re: Palin: I think Gov. Palin really energized the people who already were going to vote Republican, and not enough independents.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 9:52 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Former Virginia Resident: Although the race looks better for Obama, I can create a plausible McCain win scenario: McCain would need to win Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and then take Minnesota. Until we know the Florida, Virginia or North Carolina numbers (not exit-poll-based predictions), I won't feel secure.

Robert G. Kaiser: Don't hold your breath.

Posted 9:52 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Falls Church, Va.: What happens to Biden's and Obama's Senate seats?

Robert G. Kaiser: I believe both are replaced by appointees of the governors of their states.

Posted 9:52 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: Mr. Kaiser, washingtonpost.com's homepage shows Sen. Obama with 175 electoral votes. That, plus the 55 he is sure to win in California, gives him 230 -- only 40 away. Then you have 27 in Florida and 15 in North Carolina -- both states he is leading by sizeable margins. This evening is, in some respects, turning out to be less than tantalizing. Don't get me wrong -- I'm supremely thankful for that.

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, with the fall of Ohio to Obama, McCain has run out of luck.

Posted 9:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: What are the odds that Bush/Cheney will become high-paid employees of Halliburton or another Defense contractor shortly after leaving office? Will they be able to directly profit from their wars?

Robert G. Kaiser: I doubt it.

Posted 9:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Falls Church, Va.: I am watching CNN, this chat, and listening to WJFK. I haven't seen anything about the House races -- how many seats are the Democrats picking up there?

Robert G. Kaiser: Let me see what I can find out...

Posted 9:50 p.m., 11.4.2008

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washingtonpost.com: Last of the Culture Warriors (Post, Nov. 3)

Posted 9:42 p.m., 11.4.2008

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London: If Sarah Palin drew such crowds during her campaign, why is she being written off already? She was perhaps the best colloquial presenter for a long time in this election -- no mean feat, given her experience. Do you think she is finished as a leader?

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's a link to a good column from The Post on Palin. What happened in this campaign was fascinating: When the country first met her in early September, she was widely liked and admired, the polls reported -- but since then her standing has plummeted. She became a real drag on the ticket.

Is she finished? Who knows? But I would not invest heavily in her future as a national leader.

Posted 9:42 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: Professor Thornburg, if you had to pick one defining moment of the Hagan vs. Dole campaign, which comes to your mind? Was it the "Godless" uproar?

Ryan Thornburg: I think the ad was a big part of it, although a recent Elon poll found that North Carolinians thought McCain's campaign was more negative than Dole's. Also, negative ads tend to work in North Carolina -- and elsewhere.

A big part of it might have been a Winston-Salem Journal story earlier in the campaign saying that Dole spent little time in North Carolina. The Dole campaign said the article was inaccurate, but I never saw their proof to the contrary. In any case, from anecdotal conversations, I think that article played in to a belief that many North Carolinians had about Dole not being as visible on constituent service as Helms had been.

Posted 9:37 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Tottori, Japan: I wonder what your opinion is on how much Sarah Palin has affected this election result?

Robert G. Kaiser: Polls show that Sarah Palin's standing with voters plummeted in the last two months, and a great many voters say they cannot imagine her a heartbeat away from the presidency. Nevertheless, in the end I don't think we will see her role as significant. In my view, the Republicans' problems in this race reflect fundamental facts and trends in this country that established the context for this election.

Posted 9:37 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Laurel, Md.: MSNBC has called Ohio for Obama and beat CNN on the Pennsylvania call. Can you clarify on why CNN is waiting on Ohio and missed the Pennsylvania call?

Robert G. Kaiser: CNN is being very, very cautious tonight. They just called Ohio for Obama.

Posted 9:36 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Gaithersburg, Md.: The Democrats seem headed for their projected 57-58 senators. With such a strong majority, how likely is it that they'll toss Lieberman from the caucus for supporting McCain?

Robert G. Kaiser: My hunch is that they will remove him as committee chairman (of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs), but perhaps not kick him out of the caucus. But he has burned bridges to his former friends and colleagues that won't be repaired easily.

Posted 9:33 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Asheville, N.C.: Okay, it won't last, but how strange is it to see Texas and Houston -- with almost 2,000,000 and 600,000 votes respectively -- colored blue?

Ryan Thornburg: I'd echo Bob's comments about Texas turning more blue at least at some level. Democrats there are hoping to pick up nine seats in the state House to take control of that body.

Posted 9:31 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Spartanburg, S.C.: Why the gap between Warner and Obama in early reporting in Virginia?

Ryan Thornburg: From what I see at a quick glance in exit polls, it's this: 39 percent of white voters in Virginia are going for Obama and 56 percent are going for Warner.

Posted 9:28 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: CBS has just called Ohio for Obama. We have seen this coming. I think it means that Obama will be our next president, but that's just me talking. The Post will make a more formal call later.

Posted 9:25 p.m., 11.4.2008

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To Professor Thornburg: One political strategy book this past cycle was called "Whistling Past Dixie," and described how the Democrats could, should and would become the majority by ignoring the South and running against its political values. The map is shaping up about that way. Is this election a firm repudiation by the rest of the country of the kind of politics represented by George W. Bush, Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell, Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey?

Ryan Thornburg: I'm not sure what kind of politics those are, other than Republican politics, but it is interesting to note that McCain appears to be winning the values voters in the South while Obama is winning the voters for whom the economy is the most important issue.

I also think that the lines between "South" and "not-South" are blurring. See another book, "Dixie Rising."

Posted 9:24 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Alphabet No Longer: I voted in Maryland today and the registration process was electronic -- no more standing in line by last name. I went in and they asked my name, I handed over my identification (my last name is not spelled phonetically), they printed a receipt much like a credit card receipt, and I signed it the chief election judge signed it. Easy and efficient. I remember voting in Northeast Washington, where the average poll worker in our precinct was 102 and it took them forever to find my name in their books.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 9:20 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Asheville, N.C.: How well does Obama have to do in the 1-85 corridor to make up for the Piedmont and mountains? He seems to be doing really well there, but how well is necessary? I'm a Tar Heel who would love nothing more than to see Jesse Helms's home state commit its delegates to an African American presidential candidate.

Ryan Thornburg: That's a good question. I'll certainly be looking at North Carolina's largest 15 counties -- many along the I-85 corridor from Durham down through Charlotte -- and comparing returns there to the other 85 counties. I'll also be looking to see how Obama does in the rural east compared to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue.

Posted 9:19 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Reston, Va.: Hi, and thanks for doing this chat. I just heard on the local NBC affiliate that 50 percent of eligible voters in Virginia had voted by 10 a.m. this morning. I think this is astonishing (in a great way!). I mean, when was the last time 50 percent of eligible voters turned out for anything, much less that early? I'm thrilled to be part of this.

Ryan Thornburg: The early turnout will be interesting to watch to see whether overall turnout is boosted. I believe that turnout in Virginia in 2004 was around 60 percent of the voting-age population. In North Carolina, about 40 percent of registered voters turned out early, but lines were short today -- perhaps an indication that the pool of voters hasn't changed much, they may have just changed when the voted. The head of the state Board of Elections here had made aggressive turnout predictions that now appear to be a bit shy.

Posted 9:17 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Ryan Thornburg: Thanks for having me today. I'm coming to you live from the basement of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Chapel Hill, where we've just watched Kay Hagan oust Elizabeth Dole -- who once was rated by Gallup as the third-most-admired woman in the world -- from the U.S. Senate after one term. Now we're turning our attention to other races around the South.

Posted 9:12 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Denver: Will Obama take Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Missouri and the possible surprise of Texas to obtain the 270 to be president of the united States?

Robert G. Kaiser: And who will win the World Series next year? A little patience please. We'll all know soon.

Posted 9:09 p.m., 11.4.2008

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San Francisco: Now that Obama appears to have won Pennsylvania, does McCain have any more avenues to victory?

Robert G. Kaiser: Theoretically yes. Bush lost Pennsylvania in 2004.

Posted 9:08 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Albany, N.Y.: What accounts for differences across networks in how much time it takes to "call" individual states? Are they all doing basically the same thing and looking at the same data, or are methods different enough to require more or less data to make a defensible call?

Robert G. Kaiser: Once they fought to be first; now they seem more concerned about being right. This is a positive change. They do all have their own methods, and of course their own people.

Posted 9:08 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Mark Blumenthal: Thanks everyone! That 30 minutes really flew by. Hope to see some of you at Pollster.com.

Posted 9:02 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Jericho, N.Y.: Always great to read your comments. Thanks for providing an interesting forum. It is helping me deal with the suspense!

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for checking in. Breathe deeply! Have a beer!

Posted 9:02 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Santa Fe, N.M.: What do you think was the most important factor in Obama's ability to poll so well in previously red states?

Mark Blumenthal: Short and sweet: It's all about both the economy and dissatisfaction with President Bush. Americans are ready for a change.

Posted 9:00 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: Is it just me, or do you also pay attention to the pictures chosen for the candidates? For example, your front page shows a smiling Obama and a slightly-sour McCain. CNN has a cautious Obama, a jubilant McCain. And that "other" paper? Wow, their pictures of both are just terrible.

Robert G. Kaiser: Photo editors choose pictures for their emotional content and artistic merit, they tell me. I can assure you there is no politics involved.

Posted 8:58 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Anonymous:: As you examine returns, try to give us the breakdown of urban, suburban and rural voting patterns. Thanks.

Mark Blumenthal: I'm going to cop out a little and point you to where you can find the answers yourself: MSNBC and S both are posting exit poll tabulations right now that you can use to check those breaks yourself.

Posted 8:58 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Alexandria, Va.: If Spartansburg is asking why Warner is doing so much better than Obama, it's because Mark Warner is so hugely popular throughout the state. No presidential candidate (other than Mark Warner, had he run) would have a chance to win anywhere near the votes Warner will. Whichever presidential candidate carries the state, Warner has the Senate seat by a landslide.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 8:57 p.m., 11.4.2008

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To Blumenthal: Same question Kaiser answered: Do the states mostly show a consistent, universal shift from last time (like Obama equals Kerry plus 3 percent), or are the changes very different in various states?

Mark Blumenthal: It is a little early to try to form judgments about that, as what we are seeing now are preliminary estimates. As we learned in 2004 and during the primaries this year, those early estimates can sometimes be off by more than a few points.

If we go off of the pre-election polls, we did see far bigger gains for Obama in the Western states and in the Midwestern states that border Illinois.

Posted 8:55 p.m., 11.4.2008

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washingtonpost.com: Joining the discussion shortly: Associate Professor Ryan Thornburg of the University of North Carolina's Project on Public Life. Send in any questions you have about Southern-state races now!

Posted 8:54 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Las Vegas, N.M.: I'd like to pick up on the point about America being an apolitical country. I know Mark is joining you and I am curious as his views on this topic of political engagement. In specific, I am curious as to whether people are apolitical because they feel powerless, or apolitical because -- despite problems -- they think they are A-okay. Has this ever been polled? If so, what were the results?

Mark Blumenthal: Wow, great question. Political scientists have spent many years studying political engagement in many forms, though I'm not sure I have a quick, snappy answer to your question. You certainly will see expressions of a sense of powerlessness among those who are not engaged in politics, although the causes of political alienation are debated very much by those who study it.

Posted 8:52 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Supreme Court Question: While not explicitly stated, abortion is a Supreme Court issue. I am 34 and never have lived in a time when abortion was illegal. I think this make the argument more theoretical to me than to older women. Today on the phone my mother said "we should be safe for years if Obama wins." She was talking about the Supreme Court. Many of her friends feel the same way. Living in the time before Roe, my mom saw the consequences of illegal abortions first-hand.

This is a critically important issue for her, so a former Republican committeewoman, Regan and Nixon and George H.W. Bush voter, took herself to the Democratic National Committee headquarters this year and phone-banked for Obama. She sports an "old white woman for Obama" button on her purse and is creating very real stress in my Republican father's life. It was bad enough that both his daughters ended up liberal; his wife turning is more than he can take.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for sharing this family drama.

Posted 8:52 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Falls Church, Va.: Can you update us on the abortion referendums in Colorado and California? Also, how is Elwyn Tinklenberg doing?

Robert G. Kaiser: Polls still are open in both states. Minnesota too, I think.

Posted 8:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Rochester, Minn.: Has anything gone wrong for Obama yet tonight? Are there any indicators of a possible McCain victory?

Robert G. Kaiser: No, and none -- which doesn't mean it's over, because it isn't, but it's a good way to think about what has happened so far.

Posted 8:51 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Cameron, N.C.: What is the definition of a first-time voter? I moved to North Carolina and registered early this year. Does this make me a first-time voter even though I've been voting for 40 years in other states?

Robert G. Kaiser: You want to be a first-time voter? You're a first-time voter! In North Carolina, anyhow.

Posted 8:50 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Bainbridge Island, Wash.: I live in a strongly Democratic area, but usually we have a loud Republican minority here. I have yet to see a McCain yard sign. There were plenty of Bush signs the past two elections, but the Republicans seem chastised and embarrassed here. I wonder how that is going to play out in local and state levels, to have only muted support for the national ticket.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Of course, polls have said Obama will win very easily in Washington state.

Posted 8:49 p.m., 11.4.2008

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California: Why is CNN giving South Carolina to McCain when the current data shows Obama polling ahead? How do they make these calls?

Mark Blumenthal: I'm not sure which numbers you are looking at. The t being posted here on washingtonpost.com shows McCain leading, as do the estimates reflected in the exit poll tabulations (which incidentally, you can see on our p at Pollster.com). But you will sometimes see a network make a call in one direction when the first scattered returns seem to point the other way.

The reason is that the networks conduct exit polls and then gather vote returns very quickly for a random sample of precincts in each state. Unlike the raw count, they know that their results are representative (within predictable ranges of error), and so they can make such calls.

Bottom line: They are not relying on the raw and often unrepresentative results we see crawling at the bottom of our TV screens.

Posted 8:47 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Arlington, Va.: Mr. Kaiser, thanks for taking my earlier question in Re: exit polls and Pennsylvania. As a follow-up, does The Post intend to release exit-poll data after the election? I'm curious to see where the exit polls stand next to actual results. Thanks!

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, we and others will publish the exit polls when they are complete.

Posted 8:41 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Boston: Shouldn't the networks always report (for context) the partial precinct numbers with a comparison to how those precincts/counties voted in the previous election? They have the data, as some of them periodically have picked specific counties to show that comparison.

Robert G. Kaiser: It's hard and boring to read so many numbers, I think. As I said earlier, CNN is doing this well.

Posted 8:41 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Spartanburg, S.C.: Why the gap between Warner and Obama in early reporting in Virginia?

Robert G. Kaiser: We never know why such gaps occur; we depend on the Associated Press for our election results.

Posted 8:40 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: Jeanne Shaheen has won a big victory in New Hampshire over incumbent Sen. Sununu, and Obama carried the state too.

Posted 8:39 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Albany, N.Y.: For Mark Blumenthal: You folks on Pollster repeatedly have noted that the key to Obama doing well in the South is an extremely high black turnout, which reduces the share of the white electorate Obama needs to win. From what you can tell so far, is the black turnout high enough (or, conversely, the white vote low enough) to make any of the Southern states reachable for Obama?

Mark Blumenthal: At the moment, the national exit poll is showing a 13 percent African American composition, which -- if it holds -- would represent a two-percentage-point increase since 2004. However, I think it is a little premature to be making too much of these early exit poll numbers. The racial composition likely will change as the vote estimates used to weight the exit polls gradually improve in the course of the evening.

Big blue: If Barack Obama pulls out a win in North Carolina (the initial tabulations show him with a slight lead) it certainly is a sign that black turnout was high enough.

Posted 8:39 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: Hey Mark, just wanted to thank you for giving us such a great product with pollster.com. It is so easy to read and interpret, and I have been obsessing over the data since the summer. Truly a fantastic Web site that has caused my work productivity to plummet!

Mark Blumenthal: Well, first, hello to everyone, and thanks for the kind words. We've worked hard on it (and are, of course, still working hard tonight). Now, on to your questions.

Posted 8:35 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: I was disappointed upon entering the booth this morning that there was so little choice. A couple races were completely uncontested. There were too, too few third-party candidates. Massive turnout we should all be proud of -- but little choice? We can do better.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 8:34 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Gaithersburg, Md.: After all the votes are counted, will most states just show a consistent shift from last time (like Obama equals Kerry plus 3 percent), or have some states truly gone in a different direction?

Robert G. Kaiser: Good question. Though I cannot answer it yet based on today's votes, I think it is already safe to say that yes, the country has changed a lot since 2004. I expect tonight's final map to look considerably different than the 2004 version.

Posted 8:33 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: ABC has just called the North Carolina Senate race for Kay Hagan, the Democrat. She appears to have beaten Liddy Dole quite decisively. This is a good sign for Obama's chances there as well, I think.

Posted 8:32 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Cleveland: According to Ohio media, Sen. Obama has a commanding lead in this state right now. It looks like election machines here are working as designed. What will be the tightest U.S. state tonight?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. Ohio looks pretty good for Obama right now, you are right. I have no idea which state will turn out to be the closest.

Posted 8:31 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Asheville, N.C.: Okay, it won't last, but how strange is it to see Texas and Houston -- with almost 2,000,000 and 600,000 votes in. respectively -- colored blue?

Robert G. Kaiser: You know, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican senator, has been telling her colleagues for some time that Texas was becoming a Democratic state. This is a result of demographics, especially the growing Latino population there. So maybe we should get used to a really competitive Texas. Not that I expect Obama to win it this year, but the state is in flux.

Posted 8:30 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Harrisonburg, Va.: As a "first-time voter" I voted for Obama because it's true that the Republicans do not deserve any sympathy. As you stated earlier, we are heading into a new political era and I believe Obama's pragmatism and clear leadership abilities will bring us the change we desire.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 8:27 p.m., 11.4.2008

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The Young Vote: The Republicans' next challenge will be coming up with a nominee under 70 who isn't the son of an ex-president.

Robert G. Kaiser: You think?

Posted 8:25 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Arlington, Va.: NBC called Pennsylvania for Obama shortly after polls closed. I thought all major networks had concluded exit polls were unreliable? How can they then call this state so early?

Robert G. Kaiser: I can't speak for NBC. I can say that the exit poll offers reassurance that NBC had a basis for its decision, but it isn't enough for The Post yet.

Posted 8:24 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Asheville, N.C.: How well does Obama have to do in the 1-85 corridor to make up for the Piedmont and mountains? He seems to be doing really well there, but how well is necessary? I'm a Tar Heel who would love nothing more than to see Jesse Helms's home state commit its delegates to an African American presidential candidate.

Robert G. Kaiser: How well? Well. Stay tuned -- you'll have a result soon I suspect.

Posted 8:21 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Almost over...: I'm glad Election Day is here and that we are on our way to a new era! The election season cannot end without acknowledging the stamina of the candidates and the press pool! I saw the same reporters on television at all hours of the day .(Please, Andrea Mitchell, take a couple of hours off!) The ability of the candidates and surrogates to get to any and all points around the country -- amazing! I'm tired thinking about it, and hope that all involved get some well-deserved rest

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks.

Posted 8:21 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Columbia, Md: Hi there. I always enjoy the chats. I am wondering about all the early voting and absentee ballots sent in days and weeks ago. Can't they be revealed after the polls close? Shouldn't the actual numbers be presented sooner? Thanks.

Robert G. Kaiser: I already replied to a similar question: in most cases, absentee and early votes will be counted and reported today.

Posted 8:15 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: If you were Star Trek's Mr. Spock, what would you put the probability at for an Obama win at?

Robert G. Kaiser: A Trekkie I am not. A predictor I am not either. Sorry.

Posted 8:15 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: Do we know where the tallies are in in Virginia? I know McCain is leading right now. Are the results from Northern Virginia in yet? Thanks for taking my question!

washingtonpost.com: Map: Virginia Presidential and U.S. Senate Race Results

Robert G. Kaiser: Here's a link to help you keep up. The exit poll suggests that Obama is doing well in Virginia. We will wait for more details before stating it any more strongly.

Posted 8:14 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: Another intriguing tidbit: "First-time voters," those casting their first presidential ballot this year, are even stronger for Obama than young voters.

Posted 8:13 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: A lull in the questions allows me to spend some time with the exit polls that we have. One fascinating number: So far in the national exit poll, young voters under 30 are going for Obama by more than two to one. Of course, the key may turn out to be how many such young people cast ballots, but this is compelling evidence of the Republican Party's big new problem. Young Americans just aren't sympathetic to Republicans.

Posted 8:12 p.m., 11.4.2008

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washingtonpost.com: Quick note: We'll be joined by Mark Blumenthal of e at about 8:30 p.m., so send in any questions you might have about exit polls or other polling.

Posted 8:08 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Iowa: My son is serving in the Peace Corps in Panama and he just called from the one and only phone in his remote mountain village to find out the latest election results. Alas, not much to report, as the projections seem to be coming in very slowly. (He voted absentee for Obama -- the Peace Corps volunteers were very happy to hear Obama say in the most recent debate that he would like to expand the program.)

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. How's his Internet connection, I wonder? Just kidding!

Posted 8:05 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Re: Edison Mitofsky: So is 2004 why the networks aren't calling Pennsylvania? What do they need to do -- confirm that the precinct results basically are matching the exit polling? Help us novices!

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes, that is right. Everyone is gun-shy because of the 2004 experience, as they/we should be. It's 8 p.m.; we don't have to rush, do we?

Posted 8:04 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Reston, Va.: Hi, and thanks for doing this chat. I just heard on the local NBC affiliate that 50 percent of eligible voters in Virginia had voted by 10 a.m. this morning. I think this is astonishing (in a great way!). I mean, when was the last time 50 percent of eligible voters turned out for anything, much less that early? I'm thrilled to be part of this.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks. Of course, a lot of them voted early, which was possible in Virginia for a number of days.

Posted 8:04 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Stockholm, Sweden: Hi Robert. I always love these chats, but now I live six hours ahead of Eastern Time. What can you do to help speed things up a bit? Of course, I'm only joking -- I plan to stay with this as long as it takes, even if I fall asleep standing up at work tomorrow, er today. By the way, I cast my vote by mail three weeks ago. Thanks.

Robert G. Kaiser: Sorry, my time machine is in the shop. I too hope for something speedier than 2000 and 2004.

Posted 7:55 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: Where is Palin tonight? Is she still in Alaska? What if McCain wins? Shouldn't she be in Arizona?

Robert G. Kaiser: She is in Arizona with McCain.

Posted 7:55 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Laurel, Md.: "Robert G. Kaiser: News flash: Pennsylvania is going to Obama, according to Edison/Mitofsky, proprietors of the exit poll, which just called the race. New Hampshire also goes for Obama, Edison/Mitofsky says." This is the outfit that called the election for Kerry in the middle of the day in 2004, and sent the stock market down 100 points, right?

Robert G. Kaiser: Yes. They of course were more embarrassed by what happened in 2004 than anyone. They have worked hard to do better this time; we'll see if they have.

Posted 7:54 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: While we're waiting for more concrete results to come in, believe it or not, what moved me today (my first time voting as a D.C. resident), was less the historic presidential vote and more the number of races on the ballot that essentially were uncontested races for impotent offices. I had given his very little thought before (embarrassingly), but it is frankly galling, in my view, that full-fledged, taxpaying United States citizens simply, 100 percent, are shut out of the legislative branch of our government, that every other citizen is entitled to participate in. Does The Post have a position on D.C. statehood? How is this not a truly fundamental civil rights issue?

Robert G. Kaiser: Wow, you are a newcomer. Yes, The Post has crusaded on its editorial page for years in favor of both statehood and congressional representation. As a native Washingtonian myself, I don't mind saying that I agree with you entirely. I am not sure statehood is practical, but we surely could have voting representation in Congress.

Posted 7:53 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Robert G. Kaiser: News flash: Pennsylvania is going to Obama, according to Edison/Mitofsky, proprietors of the exit poll, which just called the race. New Hampshire also goes for Obama, Edison/Mitofsky says.

Posted 7:48 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Washington: Hi Robert. How can Vermont be called for Obama if 0 percent of the precincts have reported? Now, I am not naive and figure Obama will win Vermont along with other New England states -- you can say the same with McCain and Texas and some Southern states. What's stopping the networks from calling states that are almost certain to go to either one of the candidates? Thank you.

Robert G. Kaiser: I suspect it's because the Vermont exit poll is just overwhelming, but I don't know. The Post did not buy the Vermont poll. (These things cost us a lot of money.)

Posted 7:45 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Boston: How many of the polling sites in Virginia actually are closed? Everyone in line at 7 p.m. gets to vote, right?

Robert G. Kaiser: Correct -- we have no way of knowing how many are not yet closed.

Posted 7:44 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Re: Supreme Court: There was much less emphasis on wedge issue of all kinds. The problems are too obvious for anyone who spent their whole time arguing about gay marriage or the Pledge of Allegiance to look like a non-serious candidate in a serious time.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. (Confused readers: see an earlier question below on the role of the Supreme Court in the election.)

Posted 7:44 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Palo Alto, Calif.: I know its illogical, but I'm extremely nervous. I really want to see Obama win. I don't want to be disappointed again. How many seats do you expect Democrats to wind up in the Senate?

Robert G. Kaiser: There are books to be written about your anxiety -- and that of likeminded Democratic voters. I expect 57 or 58 Democrats in the next Senate. This is a guess.

Posted 7:43 p.m., 11.4.2008

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St. Petersburg, Fla.: I think it might be a good idea to issue a reminder every 10 minutes or so that these numbers being reported on the news are not final or necessarily accurate results. Precincts report at different rates; sometimes 1 percent reporting can tell you a lot, and sometimes 50 percent reporting can leave a lot to be told. Everyone needs to remember to breathe for the next few hours.

Robert G. Kaiser: You are right -- this is just a basic fact that everyone should keep in mind for the next couple of hours.

Posted 7:43 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Seattle: Is it true that the main question tonight will be whether the Senate goes gets to 60 Democratic votes, or is stuck on 59?

Robert G. Kaiser: No, I think this is overrated. Sixty Democratic senators would be huge of course, but not all Democratic senators think alike, and indeed, not all Republican senators do either. In actual cloture votes (as they are called) where 60 votes are needed to end a Senate debate and bring the pending matter up for a vote, I would expect the next Senate to reveal interesting intraparty differences. In other words, I don't expect either Republicans or Democrats to impose ironclad discipline.

Posted 7:39 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Rockville, Md.: With all the computer technology available (and I'm sure, in use) it wouldn't be too hard to put some context behind the totals with "7 percent of precincts reporting," by comparing the totals with four years ago from the same precincts. If it's 50 percent to 50 percent today but those same precincts were 40 percent to 60 percent four years ago, that's pretty good info to know. I do things like that at work all the time, in a different field.

Robert G. Kaiser: You're right; the problem is bandwidth, so to speak. There is no easy way to convey such information systematically. I note that CNN is telling viewers how tonight's early results differ from 2004's. That's useful.

Posted 7:37 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Cannon Falls, Minn.: Mr. Kaiser, thanks for doing this. I was with you in 2006 too. I love these chats! I read The Washington Post now everyday because of these interactions with reporters. Thanks for being here tonight. I'm so excited about this election, and hoping that my guy Obama meets the high expectations.

Robert G. Kaiser: Nice to hear from you. Thanks. Your excitement will be resolved before too long, I think.

Posted 7:36 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Yonkers, N.Y.: So if the polls are right, does Howard Dean become the new genius, the successor to Rove in the high esteem of political junkies?

Robert G. Kaiser: I don't know, of course, but it occurred to me, looking at the final polls yesterday that Dean's "50-State Strategy" was looking a lot better than its critics thought it could a year ago.

Posted 7:29 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Laurel, Md.: In 2004, CNN started the evening by listing the nine battleground states: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Mexico, West Virginia, New Hampshire and a couple of others. At 11 p.m., when the polls had closed across the continental U.S., they had called the other 39 states, and none of the contentious ones. Will it be midnight before a battleground state gets called?

Robert G. Kaiser: I strongly doubt it.

Posted 7:14 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Pittsburgh Transplant: McCain's closing forays into Western Pennsylvania scared me. Having lived in the area, I know race is a strong underlying issue. I question the will of many (not all) to vote for a black man in that area. How do you analyze for that impact? Or, what type of voter was McCain targeting?

Robert G. Kaiser: You know, all the best polls have had Pennsylvania clearly in Obama's corner for weeks. Personally I have quite a lot of confidence in these findings. We'll know soon enough if that confidence was warranted.

Posted 7:14 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Southern Maryland: I'm a registered Republican woman, and today I cast my first vote ever for a Democrat. I simply could not vote for the "politics of fear" -- whether the messenger is John McCain (a man I respect) or Sarah Palin. (Can she focus on the issues vs. telling us what's wrong with everything?) I am proud of my vote, especially having just viewed the new Republican Party ad featuring the Rev. Wright. To my party leaders: We are done with the Rove-scare-tactics approach to politics. Real life is scary enough. You lost my vote because you focused on hate and fear instead of the real world. President Obama will lead us, not scare us.

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this.

Posted 7:12 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Temecula, Calif.: I am very nervous. I can't watch, but I have to watch. When can Obama supporters feel encouraged? What states, what times? How will we know when we'll have a long night?

Robert G. Kaiser: Soon, soon.

Posted 7:11 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Helena, Mont.: I know that anecdote is not data, but I'm working in Indiana and it's just astounding -- early voting in Franklin, Ind., (Johnson County) is off the chart. There were four-hour waits all last week (Monday through Saturday) and today. I never ask anyone who they are voting for because I never reveal that to anyone (not even close family) but this seems like such a good thing to me -- people wanting to vote and willing to stand in line for it.

Robert G. Kaiser: Many such anecdotes are reaching us today. But don't trust anecdotes! Before the night is done we will be able to evaluate the turnout -- not definitively, but with quite a lot of confidence.

Posted 7:11 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Stanford, Calif.: I'm puzzled by how little I'm hearing about the possibility (or likelihood?) that with 20 percent to 30 percent of the electorate voting early, a huge number of votes won't be looked at till tomorrow, or maybe later. My understanding -- which could be way wrong -- is that typically, the mail-in votes aren't counted on Election Day.

I'm even less sure about how and when the early voting votes get counted (the voting usually doesn't take place at the normal precinct place). And then there are the vote-by-mail folks who bring their ballots to their precinct and drop them into a special box -- who knows when they get counted? I also wonder if this is a topic that doesn't get much publicity because people like to think their votes are part of the "deciding" votes when winners are declared on Election Night. Any thoughts from you or your experts on this?

washingtonpost.com: Discussion Transcript: Early Voting and Exit Polling (washingtonpost.com, Nov. 3)

Robert G. Kaiser: You are wrong; most absentee and early votes will be counted today. Chris Hopkins, my distinguished producer, has given you a link here to a helpful discussion.

Posted 7:09 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Brisbane, Australia: What do you think of Obama's chances in North Carolina and Indiana? The way I see it, if Obama can secure those two states the race is over.

Robert G. Kaiser: Hello Australia! You have asked the right question, and we don't have to guess about it -- we can have the actual numbers in the next half-hour, I think. We decided to start this chat at 7 p.m. because of the importance of these two states. So stay tuned, or come back soon.

Posted 7:08 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Weston, Fla.: Thanks for doing this. Why wasn't control of the Supreme Court more of an issue is this campaign?

Robert G. Kaiser: I wish I knew. It seems to be a fact that most voters don't think of the court as one of the stakes in a presidential campaign. I don't think we ever have seen a year in which it was a real factor.

Partly this reflects a fact about America that the political class doesn't often acknowledge: This is an apolitical culture. As political scientists keep telling us, a great many American voters are ignorant about many basic details of our government and how it works.

Posted 7:07 p.m., 11.4.2008

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New York: How scared are the pollsters tonight?

Robert G. Kaiser: Our pollster, Jon Cohen, seems remarkably calm. The best pollsters have (with reason) a strong sense that their numbers will be borne out -- as they have been for many years, really. Yes, I'm sticking my neck out a little, but let's see what happens...

Posted 7:05 p.m., 11.4.2008

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: Regardless of the outcome of the results today, I am very, very glad to say goodbye to the era of Bush, Cheney, Rove and DeLay, and their abusive politics. What a disservice they did to our country. It really can't get worse than the past eight years, can it?

Robert G. Kaiser: Thanks for this. Regardless of whether others share your conclusions, there's no doubt about your larger historical judgment: We are ending an era in the United States. What comes next is going to be very different.

By the way, I was intrigued by the news that Rove himself predicted a big Obama victory over the weekend.

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Chicago: Will exit polling play a large role in tonight's reporting after the screw-ups in 2000?

Robert G. Kaiser: Good first question. Exit polling is enormously helpful, eventually. Through the night we will get more and more numbers, which will give us useful demographic information. But we have to be careful -- which means slow -- for a while.

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Robert G. Kaiser: Good evening. We've done this often, but I think tonight is going to be special, and memorable. We have many hours of discussion ahead of us. I will do as much of it myself as I can, but there is a splendid supporting cast on hand to help me out and give me some breaks.

The Washington Post newsroom is buzzing in a way it only does once every four years. Dozens of journalists are deployed, and I can walk around and ask questions, so don't be shy about asking. Washingtonpost.com gives you a zillion ways to follow what's going on -- take advantage!

Yes, we do have some exit polls, but we are not yet confident enough in what we have to write about them. I can say now only this: At this hour, we have not been amazed by anything we have seen. I will tell you a lot more as the evening proceeds, and as my colleague Jon Cohen, our director of polling, allows me to report actual numbers.

Please feel free to offer your own commentary as the night goes on. I will post readers' comments, often without any additional comment from me.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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