Daniel Berrier of ElectoPundit also contributed to this Post.
Part 2: 6:00 to 8:00
All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST).
6:00 PM: Some polls close in Indiana and Kentucky. In both states a majority of voters live in the Eastern Time Zone and returns will start to come in, but enough voters live in the Central Time Zone where polls will close at 7:00 PM EDT to make it unlikely that the major news networks, which have all announced their intention to be conservative in their projections, will call either state before all polls close at 7:00.
7:00 PM: Polls will be closed in all of Indiana (11), Kentucky (8), Georgia (15), South Carolina (8), Vermont (3), and Virginia (13) and most of Florida and New Hampshire. Virginia will provide an early indication of how the evening will go. The polls are fairly close but Obama has been holding on to a clear lead in a state that last voted for a Democrat for president in 1964. If Virginia falls for Obama then McCain is in trouble. If it goes for McCain then the Obama train has hit a bump.
Indiana is a close state that John McCain needs and Barack Obama does not. Should Obama win in Indiana, McCain's victory party could end early, but polls are close so the counting could go on for a while. Vermont is expected to go strongly for Obama. Anything other than a McCain win in South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia would be a major surprise, but the latest polling suggests a potential Georgia surprise.
Senate: The Kentucky and Georgia Senate races will tell us a lot about how the next Senate will shake out. If Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss is defeated by Jim Martin in Georgia then the Democrats will be headed for a good evening. If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is knocked off by Bruce Lunsford in Kentucky then the Democrats are probably headed for a very good night and their dream of a 60 seat supermajority are alive and kicking. One of those seats does not seem to be in doubt as former Governor Mark Warner is expected to gain a Senate seat for the Democrats (John Warner's) by beating former Governor Jim Gilmore in Virginia.
House of Representatives: The first indicator of a true House wave could come in Kentucky"s 2nd congressional district, where Republican Brett Guthrie is defending an open seat against Democrat David Boswell. If Boswell wins, it could be a good night for the Democrats. Major alarm bells will go off for House Democrats should any of Indiana's freshman congressmen lose, Joe Donnelly (IN-2), Brad Ellsworth (IN-8) and Baron Hill (IN-9).
In Virginia, Democrat Gerry Connolly is expected to win in VA-11 (Fairfax County). If Republican Thelma Drake loses in VA-2 (Hampton Roads area), that will be an indication things could get very rocky for the GOP. In Florida, keep an eye on the Republican Diaz-Balart brothers, both Lincoln Diaz-Balart in FL-21 and Mario Diaz-Balart in FL-25 could be at risk. If one or both of them loses, the Republican stranglehold on the Cuban-American vote will be considered broken. Democrat Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1) is fighting to hold onto the seat she took from Republican Jeb Bradley in 2006.
Most polls close in Florida and New Hampshire at 7:00 but Florida has a few counties in the Central Time Zone that will close at 8:00 EDT and New Hampshire polls in some of the cities will close at 8:00. The networks are likely to hold the data, or at least their call, for both states until 8:00.
7:30 PM: Polls close in Ohio (20) and West Virginia (5). Barack Obama can win the election without the Ohio but John McCain probably cannot -- especially if McCain does not get Virginia. Bush won Ohio twice and it essentially delivered the election to him in 2004. A West Virginia win for Obama would be a fairly big surprise.
House of Representatives: Republican Steve Chabot of OH-1 seems to always win close re-elections, so watch to see if he manages to hang on again. In OH-15, Rep. Deborah Pryce retired, and MaryJo Kilroy is back to try to win the seat for the Democrats, hoping to hold off Republican Steve Stivers. Should Republican Shelley Moore Capito lose to Democrat Anne Barth in WV-2 it could be an early indication of Democratic tidal wave sweeping through rural America.
The full Hour By Hour Guide to the Election Returns is available at CenteredPolitics.com.