The Note: Finish Line

Nov 2, 2010 9:15am


NUMBERS GAME. It’s been a long march to Nov. 2, and after what has been one wild roller-coaster of a midterm election season, it all comes down to the choices voters make today in the quiet of their own ballot booth. And don’t forget: more than 18 million Americans cast their ballot early this year — a tally that is likely to grow higher once we have full results from across the country. Although it's been a year of outsize personalities, once the polls close tonight it’s going to be all about whether parties can reach their magic numbers with control of the House and Senate at stake and dozens of governor’s races up for grabs. It's a critical test for leaders of both parties, but perhaps none more so than President Obama, who is spending Election Day mostly behind closed doors. Obama will make get-out-the-vote calls to radio stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Jacksonville and Las Vegas from the Oval Office in advance of what is likely to be a difficult night for Democrats.

ABC’s Jake Tapper has more on Democratic expectations for election night, and Sarah Netter and Huma Khan report on the last-minute campaigning across the country.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR. Here is ABC’s Political Director Amy Walter’s handy cheat sheet for election night: By 10 p.m. Eastern polls will have closed in 39 states and Washington, DC. There are 94 competitive Democratic-held seats in those states and 17 key Senate contests. For Republicans to win control of the Senate, they can’t afford to lose in more than two Dem-held seats. By the time we hit the 10 p.m. poll closings, Republicans need to have gained at least seven seats. The House math is a bit more complicated. There’s no “easy” metric to use. But, below is a guide to help you gauge whether we are looking at a long, long night before House control is called or whether we may know earlier in the evening. Listed next to each poll closing time is the “expected outcome” (those races we have leaning toward the Republican or Democrat) and those that could serve as “canaries in the coal mine” (races that signal a potential for huge Democratic losses, perhaps in the 50-plus range). Most important, no one race should ever be seen as the determinative one. And, of course, elections are not always linear. Just because a pattern holds in Pennsylvania for example, doesn't mean the same will be true in New York or Colorado.

7 p.m. Eastern: Polls close in GA, IN, KY, SC, VT and VA. Expected outcome: GA-08, IN08, VA-02, VA-05 Lean GOP. If, however, Tom Perriello (VA-05) pulls out a victory it’d be a huge win for President Obama who did last minute stumping for him in Charlottesville last week. Canaries In The Coal Mine: SC-05, IN-09, VA-09, IN-02, GA-02, KY-06. 

7:30 p.m. Eastern: Polls close in NC, OH, WV. Expected outcome: OH-01, OH-15 lean Republican. Canaries In The Coal Mine: OH-6, OH-18, WV-01, WV-03.  

8:00 p.m. Eastern: Polls close in AL, CT, DE, FL, IL, ME, MD, MA, MS, MO, NH, NJ, OK, PA, TN. Expected outcome: FL-8, FL-24, FL-2, IL-11, NH-01, PA-03, TN-06, TN-08, AR-02 all Lean Republican. DE-AL and IL-10 are two GOP-held seats that Lean Democratic. Canaries In The Coal Mine: Any of the CT seats flipping (CT-04 and CT-05 specifically), IL-17, MS-04, MO-04, FL-22, PA-12, PA-10, TN-04 

9p.m. Eastern: Polls close in CO, KS, LA, MI, NE, NM, NY, ND, RI, SD, TX, WI, WY. Expected Outcome: CO-04, KS-03, LA-03, NY-29, TX-17, WI-08 all lean R.  LA-02 is a likely Dem pick-up. Canaries In The Coal Mine: MI-09, MN-08, NM-01, NY-23, WI-07


More Election Day political insights and analysis from ABC’s John Berman, Amy Walter and George Stephanopoulos from “GMA” at 6:45’s politics pre-game show, including all the news you need to know in 60-seconds, Election Day weather, and a look at the best political swag of 2010.


VOTE 2010: ABC VOICES. ABC News has lined up an all-star panel of correspondents and political experts to weigh in on the results during our election night coverage, anchored by Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos (more on how to watch and when to tune in below). We’ve been bringing you insights from our panelists, and for our final installment Democratic strategist Donna Brazile offers her take.  

Donna Brazile: Only your personal vote, placed in the ballot box, will decide this election. Not the pundits or the forecasters: you. This election remains in your hands.  How do I know?  Let me share a few facts:  There is no statistical certainty about how many of the “likely voters” are actually going to the polls.  Pollsters are guessing more Republicans than Democrats will vote. Let me repeat that: guessing. Guessing based on statistics, but guessing nonetheless. That’s why we talk about 95% confidence intervals and margins of error.

Speaking of margins of error: many, many races across the country remain within the margin of error.  As a statistician once chided me—if the difference between two candidates is within the margin of error (usually 3-4 percentage points for any reasonable poll), it should be considered a statistical dead-heat. No one is ahead when he or she is within the margin of error. Third fact:  There are an unprecedented number of undecided voters this late in an election,.  Here too, the pollsters are guessing which way they will vote.  Yet, voters are still making up their minds.  No solid polling data here either.

The pollsters, who hate uncertainty, confess that this year’s polling is more volatile than any election they’ve ever witnessed.  When you factor in last-minute decisions, and the voters who actually do show up to vote, this election becomes a photo-finish horse race in state after state. Voters are so unpredictable this year, their mood so mercurial, that foretelling how they will vote is impossible.  

It is possible we have another 1948 in the making. That was the election when everyone predicted the Republicans would win, and Harry Truman pulled off an upset. I’m not saying it is probable. I am saying that, until you, the Independent voters decide, and until you, the Democrats who faithfully votes Tuesday as you did in 2008, that this election is an unknown. The outcome is exclusively in each of your individual hands.


EXIT POLLS, EXPLAINED. ABC’s Washington Bureau Chief Robin Sproul provides a primer for exit poll results, which ABC will begin reporting at 5:30 p.m.: “These early results will mostly show demographic trends in voter turnout. As polls start to close, actual vote count will begin to supplement insight provided by exit poll results. Some races will be projected at poll closing based on a careful analysis of exit poll results alone. Others will not be projected until there is further analysis of actual vote count. The data gathered in exit polls provide the best source of information about who voted, for whom they voted, and why. … Exit polls are surveys conducted as voters leave their polling places on Election Day. Reaching voters at that moment is important because it overcomes the problem pollsters have conducting election polls by telephone: People sometimes misreport whether they voted. The ‘who won and why did they win’ reporting on election night is gleaned mainly from exit poll results. … Exit polls, like any other survey, are subject to sampling errors. Before news organizations report any exit poll results or make projections, therefore, they compare results to pre-election polls, past precinct voting history, and have statisticians and political experts carefully review the data.” Read more:


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”:  ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter co-anchor today’s edition from Election central in New York City. They welcome FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe, followed by a conversation about what to look forward to on election night with ABC News’ John Berman. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

Keep your eye on ABC’s updated House, Senate and governor’s race maps right here:


ABC iPAD APP FOR ELECTION NIGHT:  The new ABC News iPad app has everything you need for election night, including an interactive map that will show real-time results and the "What If?" game that lets you select the races you think could tip the balance of power in the House and Senate. You can start the game with ABC news race ratings and then predict your own winners and losers. Continue to play along tonight and watch the returns come in. Download the app free from the iTunes store.



IT’S THE ECONOMY, AGAIN. What goes down, must come up, right? In today’s New York Times Matt Bai notes that the candidates who win on Tuesday could be the beneficiaries of “the kind of economic recovery that the White House had hoped would take hold in time for this year’s elections.” Here’s what Bai means: [It’s] the politicians who catch the political wave at such fortunate economic moments — particularly governors who get themselves elected during hard times and then preside over the upswing — who tend to establish themselves as folk heroes and turnaround experts, rising to national prominence not just because of their policies but also because of their timing. … It isn’t just governors, of course, who can benefit from good timing. Should Republicans take control of one or both chambers of Congress, an improving economy in the next several years could bolster the profiles and credibility of some of the party’s younger leaders and their more innovative ideas.”

WHO’S NOT VOTING? ABC’s Devin Dwyer takes a closer look at those Americans who won’t be casting ballots today: “Texas native Darrell Worthy has loyally cast ballots for Democrats in every election since he reached the legal voting age in 2000. But the self-described "progressive voter" said he's not going to vote today. ‘It's a protest toward the inefficacy of what Democrats have done with their power," the 28-year-old college psychology professor told ABC News. ‘They've controlled both houses [of Congress] and the presidency, and I thought they could have done a lot more.’ Never mind health care reform, financial regulatory reform, or an economic recovery package many economists say eased the recession. Worthy and voters like him, who were swept up by Democrats' message of "change" in 2008, have apparently been frustrated by Washington's slow progress and are now among the ranks of voters choosing to stay home.”

WINNING ON GOOGLE. Which 2010 candidates were searched for the most on Google News over the last month? The big winner happens to know a thing or two about Silicon Valley herself: Meg Whitman. Here’s the full list: 1. Meg Whitman, 2. Harry Reid, 3. Rand Paul, 4. Jerry Brown, 5. Sharron Angle, 6. Carl Paladino, 7. Linda McMahon, 8. Nancy Pelosi, 9. Patty Murray, 10. Charlie Crist.



@markknoller: Though his name is not on any ballot this year, Pres. Obama did 17 rallies & 69 fundraisers generating over $75-million.

@charliepolitico: DCCC Chair Van Hollen kicked in another 200K to DCCC over wknd for total of 1.8M; makes him #1 giver (via @jonallenDC)

@KevinMaddenDC: Only one (1) touch screen voting machine at my polling station. Not even crowded, but there was a long line as a result.

@brandihoffine: RT @ohioaflcio: Ohio Labor 2010 has made over 670,000 calls and knocked 75,000 doors since Saturday. Another big day expected.

@TonyFratto: Voted.


Bonus Tweets:

@SpeakerPelosi: Go #sfgiants! Looking forward to my pecan pie from @RepJoeBarton #worldseries #themachine#FearTheBeard

@Schwarzenegger: Congrats, Giants! CA beat Texas today and CA will beat Texas oil companies' ploy to undo our clean energy laws tmrw by rejecting Prop23.


VIEWERS GUIDE. Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will anchor live coverage of election results from across the country on Tuesday starting with a special edition of “World News with Diane Sawyer” at 6:30pm ET and continuing with full election coverage from 8:00pm ET until at least 4:00 am ET. The network will carry special reports at the top and bottom of each hour from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. followed by a live 90-minute special at 9:30 pm ET. ABC News will live-stream a special pre-game program, anchored by Sawyer and Stephanopoulos, from 8:00–9:30 pm ET on, Facebook, and on the ABC News iPad application. Beginning at 9:30 pm Facebook and will live-stream the network’s election coverage.

Sawyer and Stephanopoulos will be joined by a team of ABC news anchors, correspondents and analysts including: Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl; Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper; “This Week” Anchor Christiane Amanpour reporting from Connecticut; Sharyn Alfonsi, Ron Claiborne, and John Quinones reporting live from states with crucial elections in determining the balance of power; David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg moderating an On Campus town hall meeting at Arizona State University; Providing analysis and historical context will be ABC News contributors George Will, Cokie Roberts, Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd. They will be joined by Ron Brownstein, Editorial Director for the National Journal Group and conservative commentator Dana Loesch.

ABC News NOW will produce continuous political news programming throughout Election Night, which will be live-streamed on Yahoo!, Hulu, and a variety of additional mobile and broadband platforms beginning at 7:00 pm ET. This coverage, anchored by John Berman and Claire Shipman, will include the latest news and analysis. As the results begin to come in ABC’s David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg will have live reaction from the campus community at Arizona State University.

On Election Night, Terry Moran will also anchor a special edition of “Nightline” at 11:35 pm ET and 11:35 pm PT from Washington, D.C. “Nightline” co-anchors Cynthia McFadden and Bill Weir will contribute reporting from Chicago and Los Angeles respectively. The following morning, George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts will have a complete wrap-up of the election results on “Good Morning America.” 

ABC News Radio will provide extensive coverage of election results. Aaron Katersky will anchor live with Sam Donaldson from 7:00p.m. until at least 1:00 a.m. ET. will provide up to the minute results and ABC News projections for winners in the Senate, House, and gubernatorial races as the polls close. 

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