If the election turns out to be as close as predicted in the battleground states, many states will not be called for one candidate or the other for hours. In the case of one of the most critical swing states… Virginia, although polls close there at 7 pm EST, if exit polls from throughout the day and actual returns are very close, we may not know who won till maybe 10:30 pm … some 3 and a half hours after polls have closed.
But signs of who may ultimately win the presidential election can still be found by looking at the returns of several key counties in a handful of early states. Here are some of the counties in the earliest state closings of the evening which typically act as electoral bellwethers, and what to look for to get an idea as to how things are shaping up for Romney and the President.
7 p.m. Eastern – VIRGINIA:
Prince William County
2004: Bush 53–47 2008: Obama 58-42
Obama 93,386 to McCain 67,589
If Prince William County shows Mitt Romney trailing Barack Obama, Romney is in trouble. If he trails the President by more than 2% here, he probably will have no chance of winning Virginia and he will probably be underperforming in many other battleground states.
Obama 74,607 to McCain 63,328
Romney needs to reverse these numbers if he is going to win Virginia. If he can not trounce President Obama in Loudoun County, he can not win the presidential election.
7:30 p.m. Eastern – OHIO
These counties will help tell us if President Obama is underperforming. In order for President Obama to be on track to win Ohio, he must produce pluralities that are large enough to discount the pluralities that Mitt Romney will receive on other counties. If the President is not beating Romney in these counties by 30% or more in Cuyahoga, 25% or more in Franklin and Lucas counties, and 5% or more in Hamilton County, than he is in trouble.
2004: Kerry 448,503 vs. Bush 221,600 (+226,903);
2008: Obama 458,422 vs. McCain 199,880 (+258,542) (69-30)
2004: Kerry 285,801 vs. Bush 237,253 (+48,548);
2008: Obama 334,709 vs. McCain 218,486 (+116,223) (59-40)
2004: Bush 222,616 vs. Kerry 199,679 (+22,937); Bush 52.5 – 47
2008: Obama 225,213 vs. McCain 195,530 (+29,683) Obama 52-47
2004 Kerry 132,715 vs. Bush 87,160 (+45,555);
2008: Obama 142,852 vs. McCain 73,706 (+69,146) (65-34)
8 p.m. Eastern : FLORIDA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, PENNSYLVANIA
2004: Bush 49.6 – 49.5 2008: Obama 54 – 45
If Obama is to have any chance in Florida, he must come within at least 5 percentage points of Mitt Romney. The President will not need to be ahead of Romney here, but if he can limit Romney’s lead in Pinellas County, the President will be underperforming and is not likely to see him defeat Romney in the final numbers.
2004: Bush 53 – 46 2008: Obama 53 – 46
If he is to be competitive in The Sunshine State, Romney needs to produce at least a 5% plurality over the President in Hillsborough and that is cutting is close. To really feel confident about which way Florida will go, Romney should optimally lead Obama by as much as 8%.
2004: Bush 51 – 48 2008: Obama 51 – 48
If we get news that Romney or Obama are leading the other by 3% or more here, it may not be an accurate measure of national trends and the final popular vote but it will certainly be a sign of which way New Hampshire will go.
2004: Bush 52 – 47.5 2008: Obama 54 – 45
Romney needs to take Chester County by 7% or more if he is to win Pennsylvania. Anything less than that will make the race too close to call and likely a win for President Obama.
Bucks County (Philly Suburbs, north)
178,345 to 149,860
If Romney has any chance to win Pennsylvania, he needs to win Bucks County or hold President Obama to a 4% lead or less.
Delaware County (immediately southwest of Philly city)
170,949 to 109,766
President Obama will be in trouble if he does not win Delaware County by at least 55%.
Montgomery County (northwest of Philly)
249,493 to 163,030
If President Obama does not see at least a 10% lead over Mitt Romney here, than the race in Pa will be too close for comfort for him.
Westmoreland County (Pittsburgh suburbs)
96,786 to 69,004
Romney needs to win this County by 15% or more to be in the running for Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.
For a detailed look at signs to look for on election night and poll closing times, visit White House 2012’s Election Night Guide
Below the poll closing times you will find a White House 2012 timeline which includes when each state will probably be projected for Governor Romney or President Obama and it also provides an estimated running total of the Electoral College that each candidate probably will have at the top and bottom of each hour.
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