POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 2, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 7:33 a.m. HST, Nov 2, 2010
WASHINGTON » How early will America know if it's a Republican romp or if Democrats somehow minimized their damage? There should be plenty of clues this evening -- and long before bedtime.
Final results in some states might not be known for days. But trends could be evident from the Midwest and South -- especially from Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia -- even before most of the nation has finished dinner.
Six states have polls that close at 1 p.m. HST, and 16 more close by 2 p.m., featuring plenty of telling races in the East and Midwest. First up: Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Vermont, offering the first hard evidence of just how big a night it's going to be for Republicans.
Not even their mothers expect the Democrats to gain ground. It's just a question of whether they fall back or over a cliff.
If the GOP can unseat Democratic Rep. Baron Hill in Indiana's always hard-fought 9th congressional district, for example, that's a good sign for the expected Republican takeover of the House. And if it can capture all three seats it has an eye on in Indiana, that could well signal a GOP hurricane.
On the other hand, if Democrats hold their ground in Indiana, and if their Kentucky Senate candidate, Jack Conway, can beat back Republican Rand Paul, it could be an early indication that GOP gains won't challenge the record books and that the tea party is serving weak brew.
A few tips on what to watch as the returns roll in today:
Expectations are high that Republicans will pick up at least the 40 seats they need to retake control of the House after four years of Democratic rule. That should start in the Midwest.
In Ohio, where polls close at 1:30 p.m., six Democratic-held seats are in jeopardy. In Pennsylvania and Illinois, where polls close at 2 p.m., 10 more are at risk.
If Midwestern incumbents such Joe Donnelly in Indiana and John Boccieri in Ohio fall, Republicans are probably headed for huge gains nationwide. Measure Democratic resilience if the party manages to hold onto a pair of imperiled Georgia seats and if Rep. John Spratt can win a new term in South Carolina.
Even if Republicans demonstrate early strength, it will take time for them to lock in enough districts to ensure a GOP majority. That's because the West Coast states of California, Washington and Oregon are home to 67 House districts.
It would take a true blowout for Republicans to pick up the 10 Senate seats they need for control. The first should be an easy one, in Indiana. But if Paul can't keep Kentucky in the GOP column, it would be a sign of strength for Democrats and a symbolic setback for the tea party activists.
Republicans should have an easy time holding onto one of their own vacant seats in Ohio, where former Republican Rep. Rob Portman is favored. But keep an eye on West Virginia, another 1:30 p.m. poll-close state, where Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin and Republican millionaire industrialist John Raese are tussling over the seat long held by the late Democrat Robert Byrd. A Republican victory there could keep alive GOP hopes of a majority.
Three-term Sen. Blanche Lincoln could be the first Senate Democratic incumbent to fall, when polls close in Arkansas at 2:30 p.m.
Polls close at 4 p.m. in the most closely watched race of the night: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's battle in Nevada against tea party favorite Sharron Angle.
Even if Republicans show huge strength, most of the nation still could go to sleep tonight with unanswered questions about the makeup of the Senate: Polls don't close until 7 p.m. HST in Alaska, where it could take days or weeks to determine the winner of a three-way race for Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski's seat.
For all the focus on Congress, there will be plenty of suspense over how big a real-estate grab the Republicans can manage in governors' mansions around the country.
South Carolina will offer an early measure of tea party strength: Republican Nikki Haley is favored over Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
Over the next few hours, results will roll in for the blue-state Northeast, where Democrats are facing tough GOP challenges in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut. If Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick goes down in the liberal bastion of Massachusetts, it's a sign that the tea party fury over taxes and big government is spreading far and wide.
Close contests are expected in late poll-closing states Oregon and Hawaii. And polls don't close until 5 p.m. in California, where billionaire businesswoman Meg Whitman and former Gov. Jerry Brown are vying to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
STATE BY STATEWith a takeover of the House in sight, Republicans brimmed with confidence yesterday while Democrats braced for losses on the eve of recession-era elections for control of Congress and dozens of statehouses. Here are some races to watch around the country:
» ALABAMA: Republican Sen. Richard Shelby cruising to a fifth term in heavily Republican state. Republican Robert Bentley favored in gubernatorial race.
» ALASKA: Sen. Lisa Murkowski in unpredictable write-in campaign after losing GOP primary in tea party revolt. Republican Sean Parnell favored for governor.
» ARIZONA: Sen. John McCain coasting to fifth term after tough GOP primary. Gov. Jan Brewer also on track toward re-election. Four House Democrats in trouble.
» ARKANSAS: Two-term Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln likely loser to Rep. John Boozman. GOP aims to win two open Democratic House seats.
» CALIFORNIA: Former Gov. Jerry Brown leads Republican Meg Whitman in polls. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in close race with Carly Fiorina.
» COLORADO: Sen. Michael Bennet and tea party-backed Republican Ken Buck in close race. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper favored for governor. GOP targeting three House Democrats.
» CONNECTICUT: Competitive governor's race between Democrat Dan Malloy and Republican Tom Foley. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal favored over GOP candidate Linda McMahon for Senate.
» DELAWARE: GOP candidate Christine O'Donnell never got traction in Senate race versus Chris Coons. Rare pickup opportunity for House Democrats.
» FLORIDA: Marco Rubio coasting to Senate win for GOP. GOP targets four House seats, while Democrats hope to pick up an open seat.
» GEORGIA: Republicans favored for governor (former Rep. Nathan Deal) and especially Senate (Johnny Isakson seeking another term). Two House Democrats at risk.
» HAWAII: Neil Abercrombie tries to regain governorship for Democrats. GOP Rep. Charles Djou tries to hang on.
» IDAHO: Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter headed for new term as governor. Democrat Walt Minnick wins tea party backing in re-election race.
» ILLINOIS: Republicans make play for governor, Senate seat and three House seats in Obama's home state. Real race is 2011 Chicago mayoral election.
» INDIANA: Former GOP Sen. Dan Coats on his way back to Senate. Republicans poised to win one Democratic-held House seat and challenge for two others.
» IOWA: Former Gov. Terry Branstad favored to defeat Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley coasting to new term.
» KANSAS: Republican Sen. Sam Brownback awaiting election as governor. GOP Rep. Jerry Moran easing into Senate seat. Republicans likely to win an open House Democratic seat.
» KENTUCKY: Tea party favorite Rand Paul builds modest lead in late polls in Senate race.
» LOUISIANA: Republican David Vitter on track to win new Senate term. GOP Rep. Joseph Cao likely loser, but Republicans likely to capture open Democratic House seat.
» MAINE: Tea party favorite Paul LePage in competitive four-way governor's race.
» MARYLAND: Gov. Martin O'Malley mild favorite for re-election after stiff challenge from ex-Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil fighting to hang on.
» MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Deval Patrick tries to fend off GOP challenger in Democratic-leaning state. Republicans target an open Democratic House seat.
» MICHIGAN: Rick Snyder poised to return governor's office to GOP hands. Three Democratic House seats in play.
» MINNESOTA: Former Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer in competitive race for governor.
» MISSISSIPPI: Republicans target Democratic Reps. Travis Childers and Gene Taylor in GOP-leaning state.
» MISSOURI: GOP Rep. Roy Blunt coasting to Senate victory. Veteran Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton battling for new term.
» MONTANA: GOP Rep. Dennis Rehberg coasting to new term in possible tune-up for 2012 Senate race.
» NEBRASKA: GOP Gov. Dave Heineman en route to new term in heavily Republican state.
» NEVADA: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in extremely close race with Republican Sharron Angle.
» NEW HAMPSHIRE: Republican Kelly Ayotte headed for the Senate in first run for office. Democrats fighting to hang onto two House seats.
» NEW JERSEY: GOP challenging Rep. John Adler in state where Democrats lost governor's office a year ago in early sign of voter anger.
» NEW MEXICO: GOP prosecutor Susana Martinez slight favorite for governor in race against Diane Denish. GOP aims for two Democratic House seats.
» NEW YORK: Democrat Andrew Cuomo comfortably ahead in polls for governor. GOP likely to claim vacant upstate House seat and makes a serious play for six more now held by Democrats.
» NORTH CAROLINA: GOP Sen. Richard Burr cruising to re-election. Republicans target four House Democrats.
» NORTH DAKOTA: Gov. John Hoeven gives GOP a solid shot at Senate pickup. Veteran Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy is in trouble.
» OHIO: Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and former Rep. John Kasich in tight race; Rob Portman a likely Senate seat win for GOP. Republicans likely to defeat at least two House Democrats and targeting four more.
» OKLAHOMA: GOP Rep. Mary Fallin favored for governor while Tom Coburn coasts to re-election to Senate.
» OREGON: Ex-Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber and ex-pro basketballer Chris Dudley in close gubernatorial race.
» PENNSYLVANIA: Competitive races for governor and Senate in classic swing state. Republicans eye House pickups.
» RHODE ISLAND: Republican-turned-independent Lincoln Chafee tries for governorship his father once held.
» SOUTH CAROLINA: Tea party favorite Nikki Haley favored in gubernatorial race. Veteran Democratic Rep. John Spratt in peril.
» SOUTH DAKOTA: GOP Sen. John Thune cruising to re-election. Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin struggling.
» TENNESSEE: Bill Haslem favored for governor in Republican pickup opportunity. Two Democratic retirements give House GOP big targets.
» TEXAS: GOP Gov. Rick Perry favored over Bill White for new term. Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards tries to hang on.
» UTAH: Republican Mike Lee coasting to Senate after tea party jettisoned GOP Sen. Bob Bennett last spring.
» VERMONT: Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy poised to get six more years in seat he first won in 1974. Competitive race for governor.
» VIRGINIA: Republicans take aim at three Democratic House freshmen.
» WASHINGTON: Three-term Democratic Sen. Patty Murray has struggled in Democratic-leaning state against Republican Dino Rossi. GOP targets open House Democratic seat.
» WEST VIRGINIA: Gov. Joe Manchin in close race with Republican John Raese to fill out the term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd.
» WISCONSIN: Three-term Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold is the underdog to Republican challenger Ron Johnson. Governor's race competitive. Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen at risk and GOP looks to claim another open Democratic seat.
» WYOMING: Governor's office looks headed back to Republicans with two-term Democrat retiring.