At what stage will we know that Obama has won?

At what stage will we know that Obama has won?

    To help you plan your party – Harry Hayfield guides us hour by hour

A fortnight tonight the whole world will be watching the American nation and throughout the UK election night parties are being planned. But what about the timings and when we will know the result? To guide you Mike has suggested that I produce this run-down – hour-by-hour.

11.00pm GMT November 4th 2008 (IN, KY) Now, in any ordinary election, the states of Indiana and Kentucky would be yawnsville (both voting for President Bush by more than 20% in 2004), but in recent days there’s a suggestion that Indiana could be in play for Obama (suggesting a minimum 10.5% swing in his favour). In fact Indiana is currently described as a tossup and if it were to fall to Obama, it would be the first time the state has voted for a Democrat since 1964 (when Johnson won leading to a Dem landslide)

12.00am GMT November 5th 2008 (NH, VT, VA, SC, GA, FL) As well as the traditional battleground of Florida won in 2004 by Bush with a margin of 5%, the new battleground state of Virginia comes into the fore now. Like Indiana, it too has not voted Democratic since 1964, but recent polls suggest that Obama is making inroads and the 13 electoral college votes up for grab in the state would be very useful indeed to his effort. In the north, don’t discount New Hampshire from springing a surprise on people. The Democratic gain of the state in 2004 (against the national trend) broke it’s prefect record since 1964 for voting for the candidate who won.

12.30am GMT (OH, WV, NC) With the polls closing in Ohio the real battleground starts to make an appearance. Whenever a Republican wins the White House, Ohio has always appeared in their column. The last time that Ohio voted for a Democrat was back in 1996 (when it followed the Clinton crowd) but with a winning margin of less than 2.5% and an economy tanking, there’s no way the GOP can hold the state surely? Well, the same could have been said of West Virginia in 2000. When Clinton won the state in 1996 he raked up a very respectable 15% lead in a state that had only voted for the GOP in 1972 and 1984 people ignored the state as a potential changer, but in 2000 that’s precisely what happened when Bush won the state by 6% (representing a 10.5% swing). The sort of swing that would easily take out North Carolina as well.

1.00am GMT (ME, MA, CT, NY, PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC, TN, AL, MS, IL, MI, MO, SD, KS, OK, TX) To paraphrase the song “Here comes the votes”. In a single moment, the polls close in 18 states including the real prizes for any candidate. Texas (34 electoral college votes) last voted for the Dems in 1976 and if Obama were to win here, McCain would probably concede there and then. New York (31 electoral college votes) the home state of Hillary Clinton should be a Dem win. Pennsylvania (21 electoral college votes) which was won by Kerry in 2004 by less than 3%. A key McCain target and given that the state voted for Clinton in the primaries and that Palin seems to match the typical rural Pennsylvanian voter, could PA becomes the new WV? And there’s Michigan (18 electoral college votes), where McCain has wound down his campaigning effort to put more resources elsewhere.

1.30am GMT (AR) With all of the attention focused on the larger states that are by now declaring, and stories of successful House and Senate candidates coming in, the residents of Arkansas must feel as though they get forgotten about. After all they only have a lowly 6 electoral college votes to give away and seeing as Bush won the state in 2004 by 10%, most experts don’t see it changing hands. This is a state that in 1968 voted for the Independent candidate, so might Arkansas say “Oh, to heck with it?” and give Nader or Barr his first win of the night?

2.00am GMT (WI, MN, NE, WY, CO, NM, AZ) By now there is a good chance that a candidate will have established a lead in the electoral college and could be looking for that final state to take him over the 270 winning line and given the polls, these states could well provide it. Could Colorado and New Mexico tip into the Obama column or could Minnesota and Wisconsin tip into the McCain column? One thing we can say is that whatever happens Senator McCain will be in his home state thanking the electors for returning 10 GOP electoral college votes in the GOP column

3.00am GMT (IA, ND, MT, ID, UT, NV) A winner may have already been called by now, but that won’t stop people looking at Nevada and Iowa (both won by Bush in 2004 by 3% and 1% respectively) and wondering if they have fallen for the actual winner or chosen the loser out of spite. Since 1968, Nevada has only voted for the wrong candidate once (in 1976) so if Obama is the winner by now, this should be an easy addition

4.00am GMT (WA, OR, CA, HI) If you’re not yawning your head off by now then well done. Although usually a Dem wash (Washington last voted GOP in 1984, Oregon in 1984, California in 1988 and Hawaii in 1984) that’s not to say that this year it will be bereft of interest particularly in California where Prop 8 will be seen as a test of why the winner of the presidential election has won. If the YES camp win (prohibiting gay marriage) then it is clear that Christian Conservatives were able to bring liberal Conservatives with them, if the NO camp wins (supporting gay marriage) then this election will have seen the liberal elite come out in force.

5.00am GMT (AK) And finally, but by no means the least, the state of the GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska. Having voted GOP since 1968 without a break, it seems fair to assume that McCain will get at least three electoral college votes on his scoreboard by the time the polls close here. Meaning that all (well, at least half) of the American electorate will have had their say on who they wish to be the next president of the United States.

Live betting prices from all the main White House race markets.

Harry Hayfield is a long-standing PB regular and writer of guest slots

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