Choose Your Own Adventure! (Election Night Edition)

WARNING: Supergeeky content ahead.

Despite all my-blabbering and bloviating about "the latest polls,"the only polls that matter are still the ones that close on ElectionNight.

Just not all of them. 

Why? Because some polls close earlier than others. Thanks to themagic of time zones, there will be a period of seven hours on theevening of Nov. 4 when we'll know some (but not all) of the results.And depending on what happens, "some" might be enough to know who's won.

Tohelp guide you through Election Night, we here at Stumper headquartershave created a handy hour-by-hour "Choose Your Own Adventure" game. (Orquasi-"Choose Your Adventure" game.) NB: We're opearting under theassumption that states where one candidate leads by more than a dozenor so points aren't really up for grabs--Vermont, New York, RhodeIsland, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey,Connecticut, California, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Maine and Hawaiifor Obama; Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, SouthDakota, Wyoming, Utah, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas,Nebraska, Alaska and Idaho for McCain. The result: Obama starts with207 electoral votes and McCain starts with 127.

Let's play.

(All Times Eastern)

6:00: Most polls close in Indiana. If McCain wins Indiana, wait until 7:00; If Obama wins Indiana, he's probably won the election. That's because Obama's current lead in Ohio (5.8 percent on average) is much larger than his current lead in Indiana (1.4 percent on average).Given their demographic similarities, it's unlikely that Obama would win the latter and lose the former--and without Ohio and Indiana, a McCain comeback is implausible. (OBAMA WIN SCENARIO #1)

Assuming that McCain has already won Indiana... 

7:00: Most polls close in Florida, Virginia and Georgia. If McCain wins all three,wait until 7:30. No one will be surprised if Florida (a true toss-up)and Georgia (a McCain leaner) go red, but the evaporation of Obama's 7.4 percent lead in Virginia would be a sign of trouble to come. If Obama wins only Virginia,he's on the road to victory; McCain would need to retain Iowa, ColoradoAND New Mexico--or pick up a blue state--to compensate for the loss. IfObama wins Florida, the cake is probably baked; for McCain,there's no plausible road back to 270 that doesn't involve winningPennsylvania and another mid-size blue state. And if Obama wins Florida and Virginia, go to bed. It's over. (OBAMA WIN SCENARIO #2)

7:30:  Polls close in Ohio.

Assuming that McCain has already won Florida and Virginia...

If McCain wins Ohio,he has a fighting chance to win the election. At this point, thesenator would've overcome sizable Obama leads in both the the BuckeyeState and the Old Dominion--an accomplishment that would cast doubt onObama's similarly sizable leads in Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado andPennsylvania. Winning all four of those states would be Obama's only(plausible) remaining  path to victory. If Obama wins Ohio, waituntil 8:00. The only way McCain could compensate for the loss of 20electoral votes is with a victory in either Pennsylvania or NewHampshire (or, less plausibly, Minnesota or Wisconsin).

Assuming that Obama has already won either Florida OR Virginia...

If Obama wins Ohio, it's game, set, match. There's no saving McCain. (OBAMA WIN SCENARIO #3). If McCain wins Ohio,onthe other hand, he stays alive--but just barely. In thewin-Florida-win-Ohio-lose-Virginia scenario, McCain would have to win[Iowa, New Mexico AND Colorado] or [either Pennsylvania, Minnesota,Wisconsin or New Hampshire]to survive; all six of those states show Obama ahead by more than eightpoints. In the win-Virginia-win-Ohio-lose-Florida scenario, McCainwould have to pick up 11 Kerry electoral votes--even if he held everyremaining Bush state (i.e.,Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada AND Colorado).

8:00: Polls close in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Missouri.

Assuming Obama has already won either Florida, Virginia OR Ohio...

If Obama wins Pennsylvania, McCain is skating on very thin ice. Atthis point, an Obama one-two punch in [either Florida or Ohio plusPennsylvania] would effectively knock McCain out. (OBAMA WIN SCENARIO #4).Theonly survivable blow would be Virginia plusPennsylvania. To claw his way back, the Republican would have to winIowa, New Mexico AND Colorado--or either Minnesota or Wisconsin. If McCain wins Pennsylvania, who the heck knows. Simply put, it won't happen. An Obama victory in either Florida, Virginia or Ohiowould be a sure sign that the Keystone State won't be flipping.

Assuming McCain has won Florida, Virginia AND Ohio...

If Obama wins Pennsylvania,he could still eke out a victory--provided he scores a straight flushin Iowa, New Mexico AND Colorado. Lose one of the three, however, andhe's probably toast. If McCain wins Pennsylvania, he's the next president of the United States. (MCCAIN WIN SCENARIO #1)

Post-8:30: At this point, we'll probably have a pretty clear idea who'sinheriting the White House from George W. Bush. If Obama keeps the JohnKerry states and adds either Ohio, Florida or Virginia to theDemocratic column, chances are he'll seal the deal at either 8:30(when the polls close in North Carolina) or 9:00 (when the pollsclose in New Mexico and Colorado). Granted, McCain could still struggleback from a Virginia loss--but not if he loses [Minnesota and Wisconsin]OR [either New Mexico or Colorado] at 9:00. (Or, for that matter, NorthCarolina at 8:30.) That said, if McCain has already won Virginia--along withOhio, Florida and Indiana--Obama's only (plausible) remaining path tovictory runs through Iowa, New Mexico AND Colorado. If he loses one ofthe latter two at 9:00, it's curtains. If he wins both, the electionwill be decided 10:00 p.m.--in Iowa.

And we'd be back where we began.


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