Election Night Guide -- Riding the Wave (updated)

This is an update of my previous post, Riding the Wave – Poll Closing Times and Vulnerable Democratic Seats.

The purpose is to know which election results to watch for throughout the evening as the polls close in various districts, and the results begin to come in.


My source for poll-closing times is The Green Papers.  My sources for contested House races are Larry Sabato, Nate Silver, Charlie Cook, Stuart Rothenberg, Jim Geraghty, and the indispensable Real Clear Politics.    

My rankings aren’t that important.  Feel free to disagree with them, and to let me know.  The point of the rankings is so that, on the day, as a race is called, there is a general feel as to whether it is disappointing, expected, or unexpected good news.  Quite a few of these rankings have changed since I first posted last week, and most have moved in our favor. 

Tier 1 Targets – Done and Dusted

I currently rate 23 Democratic seats (and 2 Republican seats) as almost certain to switch.  These are likely to be declared by the networks within minutes of the polls closing. 

Tier 2 Targets – Likely Switch

My next set of targets, strongly favored, consists of 16 Democratic seats.  It will be a significant surprise if we lose even one of these.  These may be declared very early as well. 

Tier 3 Targets – Lean to Switch

These seats are somewhat favored to switch party.  There are 14 Democratic seats (and two Republicans).  In a national wave, we could win all 14 Democratic seats (I think we probably will) and possibly hold the Republican ones as well.  These are seats where the incumbent party still has a chance of turning it around.  For some, we may get results early, but some may take hours for a winner. 

Tier 4 Targets – Pure Tossups

These all could go either way.  In a wave, many could break our way.  I have 16 Democratic seats in this category.  If Tiers 1-3 go as expected and we split the tossups, we gain 57 seats. 

Tier 5 Targets – Lean to Hold

I have 20 Democrats and one Republican slightly favored to hold their seat.  In a real wave, some of these will fall.  If we are taking seats in this category, we may see a gain of between 65-85 seats. 

Tier 6 Targets – Competitive but Tough

Here is where I hope we have some real fun.  I rate 89 Democrats as highly endangered, Tiers 1-5 (vs. 5 Republicans).  In this tier, we have another 29 (vs. 2 Republicans) who can’t be feeling too comfortable.  If these aren’t immediately called for the Democrats upon poll closing, then it means we’ve come very close in some of the seats that make a difference between a gain of 85 and 115 seats.  Some of these are pretty unlikely, others could be quite close.  Any wins in these races will be very good news indeed.

I’ve also listed a few longshots that have caught my attention as a race where something unlikely could happen.

So, here’s a wave-watching guide.  All times are EDT. 


Polls close in parts of Indiana and Kentucky 

Races to watch:

IN-Sen.  Parts of IN will still be open, but the networks usually project, because the overwhelming majority of the state will have voted.  The first Senate seat flips. 

KY-Sen.  They probably won’t project for another hour, until the rest of the state closes. 

Tier-4 Tossup.  KY-3 Chandler.  This has moved in our direction. 

Tier-6 Competitive but Tough.  KY-3 Yarmuth.  This will cause D panic early if it flips, we’ll hear pundits start to talk about gains in excess of 70. 

Two seats might be declared, since most of the district closes, but polls will still be open for another hour in a couple counties:  Tier 3 Lean Switch, IN-9 Hill.  Tier-5 Lean Hold IN-2 Donnelly. 

7:00 (the fun really begins)

Polls close in Florida (except CD-1 & 2), Georgia, the rest of IN and KY, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia

 Races to watch:

KY-Sen.  Rand Paul, the first Tea Party senator. 

FL-Sen.  Rubio doesn’t get a declaration for another hour, until the Panhandle finishes voting. 

Tier-1.  IN-8 Ellsworth-open, FL-8 Grayson, FL-24 Kosmas, GA-8 Marshall, SC-5 Spratt.  Done and Dusted.  GA-8 and SC-5 have both moved significantly in the last week, and should be takeovers. 

Tier-2.  VA-2 Nye, VA-5 Perriello.  Likely Switch.  I now give Perriello an outside chance of surviving.  They’ve spent millions trying to save him. 

Tier-3, Lean Switch.  IN-9 Hill, FL-22 Klein. 

Toss-Ups.  GA-2 Bishop. 

Tier-5 Lean Hold.  IN-2 Donnelly, VA-9 Boucher, VA-11 Connolly.  The two Virginia seats are now seen as significantly more vulnerable than they were a week ago. 

Tier-6 Competitive but tough.  GA-12 Barrow.  This one is really an outsider. 

FL-25 Open.  This has become much more endangered, a rare opportunity for the Democrats to gain a seat.  Tier-5 Lean Hold for the Republicans. 

Longshot:  VA-8 Moran.  Will dissing veterans hurt him?  Probably not enough to matter, sadly. 

7:30 (more pain for Democrats)

North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia 

Races to watch:

OH-Sen.  They’ll call this one at 7:31. 

NC-Sen.  They’ll call this one at 7:32. 

WV-Sen.  This one could go late.  If we get a win declared early, it’s a great sign. 

Tier-1.  OH-1 Driehaus and OH-15 Kilroy are Done and Dusted. 

Tier-2 Likely Switch.  OH-16 Boccieri. 

Tier-3 Lean Switch.  OH-6 Wilson. 

Tier-4 Tossup.  NC-2 Etheridge, NC-8 Kissell, OH-16 Wilson, OH-18 Space, and WV-1 Mollohan.  Early declarations in these would mean we are winning the pure tossups easily, which means 60 seats, at least. 

Tier-5 Lean Hold.  NC-7 McIntyre. 

Tier-6 Competitive but Tough.  NC-4 Price, NC-11 Shuler, OH-9 Kaptur, OH-10 Kucinich, OH-13 Sutton, and WV-3 Rahall. 

8:00 (the results people hear when they get in their car as they leave work in California, which could impact West Coast turnout)

Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida 1 & 2, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (except MI-1), Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, part of South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas (except TX-16 and a small part of TX-23) 

Here is where the force of the wave will really start be seen.  Races to watch:

FL-Sen.  Rubio is announced as the second Tea Party senator. 

MO-Sen.  This will be declared early, too. 

CT-Sen, DE-Sen, IL-Sen, PA-Sen.  We need at least two of these, or the Senate stays blue.  If we get three of them, we almost certainly take the Senate, and the House gain is likely to be more than 80 seats. 

Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  FL-2 Boyd, IL-11 Halvorson, MD-1 Kratovil, MS-1 Childers, NH-1 Shea-Porter, PA-3 Dahlkemper, TN-6 Gordon-open, TN-8 Tanner-open, and TX-17 Edwards all change hands.  So will DE-AL, in the other direction, and Democrats will celebrate. 

Tier 2 Likely Switch.  PA-7 Sestak-open, PA-8 Murphy, PA-10 Carney, and TN-4 Davis. 

Tier 3 Lean Switch.  AL-2 Bright, IL-14 Foster, IL-17 Hare, MI-7 Schauer, MS-4 Taylor, NJ-3 Adler, and PA-11 Kanjorski.  IL-10 Kirk-open leans toward the Ds — if we hold that one, it’s a very good sign. 

Tossup.  MA-10 Delahunt-open, MO-4 Skelton, and NH-2 Hodes-open.

 Tier 5 Lean Hold.  CT-4 Himes, CT-5 Murphy, ME-1 Pingree, MA-4 Frank, MI-9 Peters, PA-12 Critz, TX-27 Ortiz. 

Tier 6 Competitive but Tough.  IL-8 Bean, IL-9 Schakowsky, ME-2 Michaud, MA-6 Tierney, MI-15 Dingell, MO-3 Carnahan, NJ-6 Pallone, NJ-12 Holt, PA-4 Altmire, TN-5 Cooper, TX-25 Doggett. 

Too Good to be True?  MD-5 Hoyer, MA-5 Tsongas, MI-5 Kildee, PA-17 Holden, TX-30 Johnson.  (several races that I listed here last week are now moved up to competitive status) 

Scorecard by 8:30:  Hopefully the Senate will be at least +4, though some races may not have been called yet.  If every race goes as favored, we’ll have already gained 30 seats, not counting any tossups.  Probably that many won’t have been declared yet, but there’s an outside chance that the House could even be called for the Republicans this early in the evening, if the tossups are going our way and we pick off some of the Lean Democrat seats.

 By 8:30, if the wave is on, it won’t be a question of winning the election, it will just be a case of watching to see how much of the rubble get swept out to sea. 


Polls close in Arkansas 

Races to watch:

AR-Sen.  Goodbye, Blanche.  Take the message, leave with class, and help block any lame-duck naughtiness.  Thanks for your service – I wish I could say I approve of the way you carried it out. 

Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  AR-1 Berry-open and AR-2 Snyder-open. 

AR-4 Ross is a longshot, I’m afraid.  We’ve got a chance, but it’s slim. 


Polls close in Colorado, Kansas (except for KS-1), Louisiana, Michigan 1, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, TX-16 & 23, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

Races to watch:

WI-Sen.  So long, Russ.  Go exercise your free speech somewhere else, instead of trying to restrict ours. 

CO-Sen.  Buck is going to get this one.  Hope he’s a better senator than campaigner. 

LA-Sen.  Vitter doesn’t deserve it, but he’ll win easily. 

NY-Sen.  The networks will be crowing about these two seats.  Everyone else will shrug. 

Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  CO-4 Markey, KS-3 Moore-open, LA-3 Melancon-open, NY-29 Massa-open will all flip.  So will LA-2 Cao going the other direction. 

Tier 2 Likely Switch.  CO-3 Salazar, MI-1 Stupak-open, NM-2 Teague, NY-20 Murphy, WI-7 Obey-open, and WI-8 Kagen. 

Tier 3 Lean Switch.  NY-19 Hall, NY-23 Owens, and SD-AL Herseth Sandlin. 

Tossups.  NY-24 Arcuri, RI-1 Kennedy (open), and TX-23 Rodriguez. 

Tier 5 Lean Hold.  MN-Walz, MN-8 Oberstar, NM-1 Heinrich, and NY-1 Bishop.  Here’s hoping the wave is big enough to sweep out at least Oberstar in this group. 

Tier 6 Competitive but Tough.  CO-7 Perlmutter, NY-13 McMahon, NY-22 Hinchey, NY-25 Maffei, and WI-3 Kind.  I can’t decide which I want most, CO-7 or NY-22.  Perhaps we should just win both of them. 

In the “I Have a Dream” category are the MacLadies, MN-4 McCollum and NY-4 McCarthy. 

The House will probably be declared as having switched sometime between 9 and 10 EDT.  There’s a chance it goes earlier.  There’s also a chance it is won, but enough votes haven’t been counted to confirm it yet.  But I expect to see it by 9:30 – and the polls will still be open in California for another hour and a half. 


Polls close in Arizona, Idaho 2, Iowa, KS-1, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Utah.  (One corner of ND won’t close until later, but since the races may be blowouts, the networks may call them early). 

Races to watch:

NV-Sen.  One of the biggest of the day.  Expect there to be recounts and lawsuits unless we win it by at least 2%.  I think we will win by more. 

ND-Sen.  Hoeven in a cakewalk. 

Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  AZ-1 Kirkpatrick. 

Tier 2 Likely Switch.  AZ-5 Mitchell and ND-AL Pomeroy. 

Tier 3 Lean Switch.  NV-3 Titus. 

Tier 5 Lean Hold.  AZ-7 Grijalva and AZ-8 Giffords. 

Tier 6 Competitive but Tough.  IA-1 Braley, IA-2 Loebsack, IA-3 Boswell, and UT-2 Matheson. 

AZ-3 Shadegg-open for Republicans is a Tier-6 target for the Ds — likely Republican hold, but competitive. 


The wave breaks on the West Coast.  Polls close in California, ID-1, Oregon, and Washington. 

Races to watch:

CA-Sen.  Retire Boxer? 

WA-Sen.  Retire Murray? 

Tier 2 Likely Switch.  WA-3 Baird-open. 

Tier 3 Lean Switch.  CA-11 McNerney. 

Tossups.  CA-20 Costa, ID-1 Minnick, OR-5 Schrader. 

Tier 5 Lean Hold.  CA-47 Sanchez, WA-2 Larsen, and WA-9 Smith. 

Tier 6 Competitive but Tough.  OR-1 Wu and OR-4 DeFazio.  For the Republicans, CA-3 Lungren and WA-8 Reichert are likely holds, but competitive. 

In the “I can dream if I want to, whatever anyone else says” category are Capps and Filner in California, Norm Dicks in Washington, and a whole lot of either people that it really is just a dream. 


Polls close in Hawaii and Alaska. 

Races to watch:

AK-Sen.  Miller or Murkowski?  No point in staying up for it, it is probably going to take a good long while to count those write-ins. 

Tier 3 Lean Switch.  HI-1 Djou for the Republicans.  This has moved against us just marginally in recent polls, but is still close enough that we’ve got a pretty good shot at holding it. 

Bizarre and insane longshot:  A massive wave depresses Democrats in Hawaii enough that they don’t turn out, and we take their Senate seat. 

I hope everyone enjoys the results as they come in.  Look for wins in Tier 5 to point towards the biggest wave since 1938.  Wins in Tier 6 may mean the biggest wave since 1894, approaching or even exceeding a gain of 100 seats.