Daniel Berrier of ElectoPundit also contributed to this Post.
Part 4: 9:00 to 10:00
All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST).
9:00 PM: Polls close in Arizona (10), Colorado (9), Kansas (6), Louisiana (9), Minnesota (10), Nebraska (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), Rhode Island (4), South Dakota (3), Wisconsin (10), Wyoming (3) and the far western part of Texas.
As these states results come in the real character of this election is likely to become known. Beyond the expected Obama states of New York and Rhode Island, should the votes in Minnesota and Wisconsin come in for Obama as pre-election polls are indicating, then these industrial heartland states along with 8:00 closing Michigan represent the area where McCain failed to expand his map beyond the states Bush won in his two elections.
McCain should do well in Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Louisiana and his home state of Arizona, but Obama has a real chance to register continued gains for Democrats in Western states with possible wins in Colorado and New Mexico and possibly even South Dakota. As the returns come in from the west one key question will be whether the Republican campaigns against illegal immigration have effectively driven away Hispanic voters and created more opportunities for Democrats.
If McCain is doing much better than predicted by the pre-election polls, and Obama has not taken command of the election in the states that close by 9:00 or even 10:00, the math is still problematic for McCain because the Pacific Time Zone states are likely to go strongly for Obama.
Some more simple math: Obama needs 270 electoral votes to win, and unless there is a major surprise the Pacific Time Zone states are going to yield Obama 77 and McCain just 7. This means between 9:00 and 11:00:
Obama's magic number will be 193 (193 = 270 - 77), and
McCain's magic number will be 263 (263 = 270 - 7).
The details: Looking to the 6 remaining 11:00 and 12:00 closing states Obama is way ahead in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii (totaling 77 electoral votes). McCain is way ahead in Idaho and Alaska (totaling 7 electoral votes). Even if McCain pulls a lot of surprises and is even with Obama, he may still be in real trouble. Of course, to get to this scenario, so many pre-election polls would have to have been proven wrong that anything might seem possible.
Senate: Colorado and New Mexico each have retiring Republican Senators and Democrats are likely to claim their seats. Colorado Democratic Congressional Representatives Mark Udall is polling well ahead of former Republican Congressional Representatives Bob Schaffer, and his cousin, Democratic Congressional Representatives Tom Udall has been even further ahead of Republican Congressional Representative Steve Pearce in New Mexico. Minnesota has been the scene of a close race between Republican Senator Norm Coleman and former Saturday Night Live star and author, Al Franken. Louisiana had looked like the one state where Republicans could defeat a Democratic Senator but recent polling has shown Senator Mary Landrieu substantially ahead of State Treasurer John Kennedy.
House of Representatives: The Democrats have another pickup opportunity if Republican Marilyn Musgrave, an icon of the religious right, loses in CO-4 to Democrat Betsy Markey.
Republican Michele Bachmann, also a favorite of the religious right, is facing a tough challenge from Elwyn Tinklenburg in MN-6 after Bachmann's interview with Chris Matthews on Hardball when she suggested the need for a McCarthy style investigation of other members of Congress.
New Mexico has a trio of open House races. Tom Udall's seat in NM-3 is probably a safe bet for Democrat Ben Lujan, but NM-1 is a close race between Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Darren White, while NM-2 may be even closer between Republican Ed Tinsley and Democrat Harry Teague.
The full Hour By Hour Guide to the Election Returns is available at CenteredPolitics.com.