Republicans captured control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Following is a live blog from Election Night.
4:55 A.M. Wrapping Up… For Now
It looks like we’re at the point in the evening that we’re not going to learn very much more that we don’t already know. Results in Alaska are fluctuating a bit, with “write-ins” now holding about a 5-point lead on Joe Miller. How many of those write-ins will eventually be deemed legal ballots for Lisa Murkowski is the question, of course. My hunch going into the election was that anything below a 5-point margin would probably trigger some kind of legal challenge, while anything above 5 points probably wouldn’t, and we’re right at that threshold.
Several races remain uncalled. County-by-county extrapolations suggest that Democrats are more likely than not to win the Senate races in both Colorado and Washington once all the votes are counted; Colorado might actually be the safer bet of the two, even though Michael Bennet trails slightly there based on the votes counted so far.
The Oregon gubernatorial race should wind up being extremely close. The Republican, Chris Dudley, leads by 2 points, but much of the outstanding vote is in Portland and its environs, where John Kitzhaber has performed strongly, as Democrats usually do.
Paul LePage, who leads the gubernatorial race in Maine by a single point, is a modest favorite to keep it, as the outstanding vote is fairly evenly distributed throughout the state.
I would hesitate to make any characterization of the gubernatorial race in Connecticut, which is also uncalled, and where there were ballot shortages in Bridgeport and the state has been unusually slow to report its vote.
Our current projection is that Republicans will finish with a total of 243 house seats: this would reflect a net gain of 65 from Democrats. The range of plausible outcomes is fairly small: our model thinks there is roughly a 90 percent chance that the G.O.P.’s total will eventually be somewhere between 64 seats and 66.
That’s an amazing result for Republicans — and far more remarkable from a historical perspective than the fact that Democrats were able to leg out a couple more wins than expected in the Senate. I’m not trying to be a media critic here, but Republicans have some legitimate gripe with portrayals of the night as having been a split decision.
Still, Democrats will finish with at least 52 of their Senators intact, unless they lose both Washington and Colorado, which is unlikely. That margin would be enough to prevent them from losing control of the Senate even if both Joseph I. Lieberman and Ben Nelson decided to caucus with Republicans.
The performance of polling firms was something we’ll take up in the coming days. While it was not wildly off-balance, it was somewhat more erratic than it might appear on the surface.
We appreciate your joining us tonight. Only 460 days until the Iowa caucuses!
4:15 A.M. Republicans Should Win House Popular Vote by 6-7 Points
Taking the results that have been reported so far on a Congressional district by Congressional district basis, and extrapolating out results for those that haven’t finished counting, we project that Republicans will receive about 42.7 million total votes for the U.S. House, and Democrats 37.2 million, out of about 82.5 million cast.
That would translate into 51.8 percent of the vote for Republicans, and 45.1 percent for Democrats, or a difference of about 6.7 points.
A few interesting notes:
– Turnout was fairly good, but will not be exceptionally high. Total votes cast in the House in 2006, for example, numbered about 81 million.
– The average of generic ballot polls did a very good job of predicting the Republican margin in the House popular vote. We had the average at 6.9 points heading into the election. The much-discussed Gallup poll — which showed Republicans winning the generic ballot by 15 points, was quite poor.
– Republicans, however, did somewhat better than you might expect based on having won the national house ballot by 6-7 points. There are various formulas that attempt to translate the generic ballot or the House popular vote into a seat count without worrying about how things work out at a district-by-district level. Those formulas would generally translate a 6-7 point popular vote win into something like a 50 or 55 seat gain for Republicans. Instead, it looks like Republicans will net something on the order of 65 seats. The Republican vote was evidently concentrated in a way that was quite efficient.
3:41 A.M. Rasmussen Reports Polls Were Biased
While waiting for the remaining results to trickle in from states like Colorado and Alaska, I did a quick check on the accuracy of polls from the firm Rasmussen Reports, which came under heavy criticism this year — including from FiveThirtyEight — because its polls showed a strong lean toward Republican candidates.
Indeed, Rasmussen polls quite consistently turned out to overstate the standing of Republicans tonight. Of the roughly 100 polls released by Rasmussen or its subsidiary Pulse Opinion Research in the final 21 days of the campaign, roughly 70 to 75 percent overestimated the performance of Republican candidates, and on average they were biased against Democrats by 3 to 4 points.
Every pollster is entitled to a bad cycle now and again — and Rasmussen has had some good cycles in the past. But their polling took a major downturn this year.
3:04 A.M. Congratulations, Democrats!
FiveThirtyEight can project with 99% confidence that the Democrats will not lose 70 seats. Between 62 and 68 appears to be the realistic range at this point.
3:00 A.M. How About Another Recount in Minnesota?
People seem to enjoy these extrapolation posts. I noted on Twitter that the Oregon gubernatorial race is going to take some time to resolve; the extrapolation method would have John Kitzhaber, the Democrat, eventually winning by a little less than 1 point — there is a fair amount of vote left to count in Portland — but the race could obviously go either way.
Even closer could be the Minnesota gubernatorial race, where the Democrat, Mark Dayton, led early, but has gradually seen his margins erode over the course of the evening. There isn’t much vote left to count in Minnesota — just 8 percent of precincts — but those look slightly redder than the state as a whole. The extrapolation would have Mr. Dayton winning by only 0.5 points, which could trigger another recount in the state.
2:50 A.M. Math Also Looks Good For Bennet
By the same method I just outlined for Patty Murray — extrapolating out current voting results on a county-by-county basis based on precincts that have yet to report — Michael Bennet, a Democratic, would eventually win the Senate race in Colorado by 3-4 points. He now trails by about half a point, but both Boulder and Denver counties, where Mr. Bennet leads by wide margins, have only reported a little more than half their vote.
2:38 A.M. Math Favors Murray in Washington
The Washington Senate race is a tricky one and we may not know the winner for several days — after more mail ballots have been counted. But Patty Murray, the Democrat, is favored to hold on to her seat. Seattle’s King County, which had been slightly overrepresented earlier in the night, is now somewhat underrepresented instead with 55 percent of its vote counted compared with about 70 percent elsewhere in the state. An extrapolation of county-by-county results would have Ms. Murray eventually winning by about 1.5 points; she leads by 1 point now.
2:29 A.M. Worst Poll Award
I haven’t checked this in detail yet, but it appears as though the worst poll of the political cycle will be the Rasmussen Reports survey of Hawaii, which had the incumbent Daniel Inoyue defeating Cam Cavasso by just 13 points. Mr. Inouye is ahead by 55 points right now. If Mr. Inouye’s margin holds, the 42-point error would be by far the worst general election poll in FiveThirtyEight’s database, which includes all polls since 1998; the previous record was 29 points.
2:08 A.M. An Orderly Wave
One oddity about the Republicans’ exceptional gains in the House tonight is that it behaved in a remarkably predictable fashion. Most of the Democrats who lost were expected to lose, and few of the others were more than nominal favorites.
There are 7 Democrats (so far) who our forecast model expected to win tonight but in fact lost. With just one exception, however, the model had these Democrats favored by 3 or fewer points. (The exception was Michael McMahon of Staten Island, whom the model had favored by 9.6).
But Barney Frank did not lose, nor did John Dingell, nor Dennis Kucinich, nor did any of several other Democrats — like Norm Dicks of Washington — that polls released by Republican campaigns (or by shoddy public polling firms) suggested could be vulnerable.
Raúl M. Grijalva now has a 10 point lead in Arizona, although the race hasn’t been called yet.
Jim Oberstar of Minnesota’s 8th Congressional district could lose — he trails by 1 point with about half the vote counted — although that would hardly qualify as a shock since a nonpartisan poll from SurveyUSA showed him in a dead just heat days ago.
So for the time being, the biggest Republican upset is … Michael McMahon of Staten Island? Who has only held his seat for two years in a district that voted for John McCain for President?
For a wave, this has been an incredibly orderly one.
1:33 A.M. Why Did Polls Miss on Harry Reid?
The New York Times has just called Nevada for Harry Reid.
Assuming the call was not premature, there is reason to ask why the public polls in the race consistently showed a small lead for Sharron Angle in the final few weeks of the race. Five organizations — Rasmussen Reports, Mason-Dixon, Public Policy Polling, YouGov, CNN — polled Nevada in the final three weeks of the campaign, and all showed Ms. Angle ahead among likely voters.
Mr. Reid’s campaign was insistent that the public polls were telling the wrong story in Nevada; so was Jon Ralston of The Las Vegas Sun, the state’s intrepid political reporter, who boldly (and rightly) predicted that Mr. Reid would win. Private polls showed the race somewhere between a tie and a lead for Mr. Reid, I was told.
I tended to treat these comments a bit skeptically because I wasn’t hearing any particular reason why the public polls were wrong. Mr. Reid’s campaign talked about the “full ballot test,” in which all the candidate names were included — as well as the option to select “none of the above candidates.” But the public pollsters who tested that question showed it made little difference, and Mr. Reid and Ms. Angle collectively have more than 95 percent of the vote so far.
My guess is that the error instead might have been that the polls, in essence, overestimated the enthusiasm gap.
Mr. Reid is a candidate for whom one votes grudgingly — because his opponent is unacceptable to you, or because Nevada makes it easy to vote early on the way home from your shopping trip, or because his campaign had the money to microtarget you, or because you’re a Democrat, and you vote for Democrats. He’s not someone you’ll necessary be happy about voting for. He’s certainly not someone you’ll be excited to vote for.
Polls with low response rates will sometimes miss voters like these — their lack of enthusiasm may be mistaken for a lack of interest, or they may not pick up the phone in the first place. There’s a somewhat analogous phenomenon called the Shy Tory Factor in British elections — the Tories are not very fashionable, but a lot of people turn out and vote for them nevertheless, and polls there have tended to understate their support.
There could be other reasons as well. Most of Nevada’s population are transplants from elsewhere in the United States, and likely voter models sometimes penalize such voters, implicitly or explicitly (by asking a question, for instance, about whether they’ve voted in their polling place before). And polling in many Western states may miss Spanish-speaking voters.
Nevada polls also underestimated Barack Obama’s performance in 2008, so this is a pattern worth keeping in mind the next time there is a competitive race in the state.
12:45 A.M. G.O.P. Should Net 62 to 72 House Seats
There are now relatively few competitive House races yet to be called. Our model thinks that, by the time the night is over, Republican gains will be within the range of 62 to 72 seats.
12:28 A.M. Time for a Little Horn-Tooting
So far, the FiveThirtyEight House forecasting model has performed well. Of the 339 House races which have been called so far by The New York Times, our model picked the right winner in 332.
The misses: our model had Democrats favored in the New Hampshire Second District, the New York 24th, the Ohio Sixth, the Ohio 18th and the Virginia 16th, which Republicans won. It had Republicans favored in the Connecticut Fifth and the North Carolina Eighth, but Democrats held those.
12:16 A.M. New Magic Number in the Senate: 52
The New York Times and several other outlets have called the California Senate race for Barbara Boxer.
Unless Republicans were able to win the Senate race in Hawaii — and they have almost no chance of doing so — that means that they will not attain their 51st senator tonight. The question remains as to whether they could do so between now and January by coaxing either Joseph I. Lieberman or Ben Nelson to caucus with them.
To avoid that problem, Democrats would need to end the night with at least 52 senators, which would require their winning two or three of the following three states: Nevada, Washington, Colorado. The Democrat holds a lead in each right now, but all still have a ton of votes to count. (The Democrats also have a bit of a Plan B in Alaska were Scott McAdams to win, but we won’t get any returns there until 1 a.m.)
11:52 P.M. Polls Overestimate Tancredo in Colorado
As we anticipated ahead of time, Tom Tancredo of Colorado — the American Constitution Party’s candidate for governor — is the sort of candidate who can deceive polls that get poor response rates, since his support is intense (meaning, people who like him might be relatively likely to complete a survey) but not very broad. The race has been called for Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver, who leads by 17 points. That margin is relatively consistent with traditional, live-operator surveys, which are less prone to these sorts of problems, but automated polls like Rasmussen Reports had suggested that Mr. Tancredo might finish within 3-5 points.
Adding insult to injury for Republicans, their official nominee, Dan Maes, is tracking just under 10 percent of the vote, which means that Republicans could be demoted to minor-party status in 2012.
11:39 P.M. Tepid Democratic Performance in New England Governor Races
Although Deval Patrick won re-election in Massachusetts, things aren’t going as well for Democrats in the five other states that comprise New England, each of which also is holding gubernatorial elections. Peter Shumlin slightly trails the Republican, Brian Dubie, so far in Vermont, as does Dan Malloy to Tom Foley in Connecticut. Democratic candidates are in third place in the three-way races in Rhode Island and Maine meanwhile. In that Maine race, the independent Eliot Cutler still looks as though he could be the surprise of the night.
In New Hampshire, John Lynch looks as though he will probably be re-elected, but the race hasn’t been called yet, and his margin is in the single digits — worse than some polls had suggested.
New England can be relatively fertile territory for Republican (and independent) gubernatorial candidates even in good years for the Democratic Party — and, obviously, the same holds true in poor ones.
11:34 P.M. Reid Leads by 12 Points in Clark County
We’ve finally gotten some votes in from Nevada. They’re early ballots, it looks like, and they’re from Clark County, home to three-quarters of the state’s population, where Harry Reid has a roughly 12-point lead over Sharron Angle.
By contrast, Barack Obama won Clark County by 19 points in 2008, when he won Nevada by 12.5 points over all.
If you extrapolate those numbers — the Democrat performs 6-7 points worse in the whole of Nevada than he does in Clark County — it suggests that a 12-point margin in Clark County would be enough for Mr. Reid to carry Nevada by a couple of points.
But there are several caveats. First, we don’t know if the results of live ballots will match those of early ones. Second, rural turnout might be comparatively higher in this election than it was in 2008.
Still, that is not a bad number for Harry Reid, which is why trading markets now think the race slightly favors him.
11:22 P.M. G.O.P. Poised to Pick Up 54 to 75 House Seats
As the night progresses and more races are called, the confidence intervals on our House forecasts narrow. Although there are quite a few races left to be called, our model now thinks there is a 90 percent chance that, by the end of the night, Republicans will finish with control of 233 to 254 House seats, which would translate to a gain of 54 to 75 on the Democrats.
11:00 P.M. Sestak Loses Lead
We wrote earlier that Joe Sestak needed to perform strongly in Berks and Lehigh counties to maintain his advantage over Pat Toomey. Unfortunately for the Democrats, he hasn’t: both those counties have now flipped to Mr. Toomey, as has the state of Pennsylvania, although by an extremely small margin. The Times’s Matthew Ericson reports that if you extrapolate out the current vote in the remaining counties, Mr. Toomey would win by about 30,000 votes. That clearly makes the state too close to call, although the advantage is now Mr. Toomey’s.
10:47 P.M. The House-Senate Split
I’ve tended to argue against the notion that there was something fundamentally different about House and Senate races: Democrats, after all, are poised to lose a clear majority of Senate races on the ballot tonight, including by double-digit margins in states like Missouri, Ohio and New Hampshire in which elections are ordinarily highly competitive.
Still, it’s interesting that while Republicans are easily meeting expectations in the House and — in our view — probably somewhat exceeding them, the opposite is really true of Democrats in the Senate, with Joe Manchin III having won fairly easily, and Joe Sestak, Alexi Giannoulias, and Michael Bennet all holding leads in their races (although each of those leads is tenuous, and Democrats would be relatively fortunate to win two of the three).
Trading markets also seem to think Harry Reid’s chances are improved in Nevada.
It’s conceivable that Democrats could lose as few as four or five Senate seats but upward of 60 or 65 House seats.
10:30 P.M. Republicans Essentially Certain to Win House Majority
News organizations, including The Times, tend to be conservative about calling individual House races, for which there are no exit polls. Still, even though only about 16 Democratic-held seats have been called so far, the overall patterns suggest Republicans should at least meet — and probably somewhat exceed — consensus expectations that had them winning the House fairly easily; in fact, our model now projects a 64- to 65-seat gain for them. Even if Democrats perform strongly out West, they are almost certainly not going to be able to hold the House, and our model has Republican chances up to 99.6 percent.
10:24 P.M. Sestak Needs to Maintain Lead in North Philly Suburbs
Although Joe Sestak still holds a lead over Pat Toomey in the Senate race in Pennsylvania, it is down to just 4.5 percentage points with 78 percent of precincts reporting. The issue is that most of Mr. Sestak’s strongest areas, particularly Philadelphia, where he gained a net of more than 250,000 votes on Mr. Toomey, have reported at a higher rate than the rest of the state. Mr. Sestak has performed reasonably well so far, however, in three counties to the north of Philadelphia: Berks, Lehigh and Montgomery — and they still have a fair amount of their votes outstanding. It is these counties that may determine whether Mr. Sestak holds onto his lead as Mr. Toomey racks up votes in the rural parts of the state.
10:20 P.M. Republicans Rout Democrats in Tennessee
Of the 14 Democratic-held seats that Republicans have won from Democrats so far, three are in Tennessee. Why might that be? Possibly because the Democrats were unable to nominate a compelling candidate in the gubernatorial race there, where the Republican Bill Halsam has a 35-point lead. These down-ballot effects, which were one of the reasons I thought Republicans could overperform expectations, may help to explain why Republicans are performing quite strongly in House races so far while having a somewhat disappointing night in the Senate.
9:48 P.M. G.O.P. Now Has 95% Chance to Control House
Although relatively few tossup races have been called in the House, Republicans hold leads in most of them, and our model now expects them to somewhat overperform its expectations going into the evening. It’s now forecasting a 60-seat gain for them, and has Democrats with just a 5 percent chance of holding the House. Frankly, this night is looking slightly anticlimactic, with both the House and the Senate having moved in relatively clear directions so far.
9:45 P.M. Strickland Tracking to Obama’s Numbers
Another Democrat whose results look reasonably robust early on is Ted Strickland, the incumbent governor of Ohio. Below is a side-by-side comparison of his performance this year and Barack Obama’s in 2008, when he won the state by 5 points. As you can see, Mr. Strickland is performing well in essentially all of the areas where Barack Obama did, save perhaps for a little bit of weakness in the Cleveland and Cincinnati suburbs, while doing considerably better than Mr. Obama in the southeastern portion of the state. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to win, since his turnout won’t be as heavy as Mr. Obama’s in places like Cleveland. Still, this is the sort of pattern you might expect to see from a Democrat who ekes out a narrow victory in Ohio.
9:33 P.M. Dems Win Their First Tossup House Race
Only two House races that The New York Times rated as a tossup have been called so far. The first, Indiana‘s Ninth District, went to Republicans early on, as Baron Hill was defeated by a wider-than-expected margin. But Democrats have held on in the Indiana Second, where Joe Donnelly came back after having trailed early on. Still, our model thinks that Republicans are doing just a pinch better than our benchmarks in the House over all, and now expects a gain closer to 60 seats than 50.
9:25 P.M. Sestak Has Serious Chance in Pennsylvania
In contrast to Mr. Giannoulias, Joe Sestak’s numbers in Pennsylvania look somewhat more robust. He’s holding his own in the western portion of the state, the Philadelphia suburbs, and performing well in the industrial areas in the eastern portion of the state. He has accumulated a 100,000-vote advantage so far in Philadelphia. This race ought to worry Republicans.
9:23 P.M. Giannoulias Lead Looks Specious
Although Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat, holds a roughly 20-point lead on Mark Kirk so far in the Illinois Senate race, the vast majority of the vote so far is from Chicago’s Cook County. Mr. Kirk, on the other hand, is performing strongly in suburban Lake and DuPage counties, which are the sort of places a Republican would need to do well to win in Illinois.
9:09 P.M. Night Is Going to Plan for Pollsters
So far, it’s been a fairly good night for the pollsters (and forecasters!), with little in the way of upsets. Our model has revised upward its expectation for Republican House gains to 57 seats — but so far, they aren’t winning too many of the types of races they would need in order to post something extraordinary like a 75-seat gain.
9:05 P.M. G.O.P. Senate Chances Down to 2%
An amendment to that previous update: Our model hadn’t actually processed the call in West Virginia when it said Republicans had a 4 percent chance to win the Senate. Now that it has, it thinks their chances are just 2 percent instead.
9:03 P.M. West Virginia Called for Manchin
Republican Senate chances are on the ropes. Indeed, The New York Times has called the West Virginia Senate race for Joe Manchin III, who looks like he could win by double digits. Republican chances now rely on winning both California and Washington, without being upset elsewhere. This prospect is, at best, tenuous, and Republican chances of gaining Senate control are now down to 4 percent.
9:01 P.M. Independent Upset in Maine?
Only 1 percent of the vote has been counted in the Maine gubernatorial race — which might have been the most exciting and overlooked contest of the cycle. And it’s the independent candidate, Eliot Cutler — who had surged in the polls in the last weeks of the campaign — with the lead so far, with 42 percent of the vote to 29 percent for the Republican, Paul LePage.
8:58 P.M. Democrats Holding Serve in Senate
Democrats appear on track to hold the Senate, with Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons having won their races in Connecticut and Delaware, respectively, and Joe Manchin III holding onto a lead of about 12 points so far with a quarter of the vote counted in West Virginia. Republican chances of taking over the Senate are now 6 percent, according to our model.
8:52 P.M. Baron Hill Loses Bellwether District
Indiana‘s Ninth District has been called for the Republican, Todd Young. He leads by 14 points so far with 71 percent of the vote counted. Our model had Mr. Young as a 3-point favorite, so the result isn’t a surprise — but the margin of victory may be marginally alarming for Democrats, and this result tracks with Republicans taking control of the House by the end of the evening. The good news for Democrats? Joe Donnelly, who had trailed early, has now pulled into a small lead in Indiana’s Second Congressional District.
8:45 P.M. G.O.P. Nets First Two Gains From Democrats
The races in Virginia‘s Ninth Congressional District, where Rick Boucher, the Democrat, had been thought to be a slight favorite, has instead been called for the Republican, Morgan Griffith. So has the race in Florida‘s 24th District, where Suzanne M. Kosmas was defeated, although her loss had been expected. While there haven’t been any huge surprises so far, this continues to look like a fairly good night over all for the Republicans.
8:35 P.M. Forecasts Now Updating Live
If you look at the top of the page, you should see an update of our model’s current estimate of how the Senate and House are likely to finish based on the results it has seen so far. We’re going to aim to update these numbers every 15 minutes or so.
So far, the model has the Republicans doing ever so slightly better than its initial House forecast, expecting a gain just over rather than just under 55 seats. There has been little meaningful change so far in the Senate forecast, where Democrats remain favored — although if Joe Manchin III’s early lead in West Virginia holds up, that could change in a hurry.
8:13 P.M. Florida Called for Rubio on Early Vote
Marco Rubio, the Republican Senate candidate in Florida, already holds a nearly 400,000-vote lead over Charlie Crist based on votes that were cast before Election Day, and the race has been called for him. The question is whether Mr. Rubio will take the G.O.P.’s gubernatorial nominee, Rick Scott, with him on his coattails. Mr. Scott’s lead so far is about 5 points over Alex Sink, which is not terribly impressive given how Republican-leaning the early vote was in Florida.
8:08 P.M. Forecast Continues Drifting Toward G.O.P.
Although the Democrats are holding their own in Kentucky and — in very early vote-counting, North Carolina — their poor results so far in Indiana, Virginia and Florida have our House forecast moving toward the G.O.P. It now sees a 57-seat gain for the Republicans and Democratic chances of holding onto the House are down to 12 percent from 16 percent.
7:51 P.M. Yarmuth Wins Kentucky 3rd District
O.K., here’s a sign that tonight might not be an apocalypse for Democrats: the Kentucky Third District, where John Yarmuth, a Democrat, had been favored but the polling had been erratic, has been called for him. The other vulnerable Democrat in Kentucky, Ben Chandler, is also leading so far in Kentucky’s Sixth District. Even though Rand Paul has won the Senate race in Kentucky, I’m not sure he didn’t hurt the G.O.P. at the margins down ballot.
7:40 P.M. Model Raises G.O.P. Projection by One Seat
We’re still waiting for a bit more data before we release our live forecast updates, but so far, our model has revised its projection to a G.O.P. gain of 55-56 seats rather than 54-55. Not a huge deal, obviously, but it likes what it’s seeing from Republicans so far in Indiana, even as most of the other House races so far are playing about to expectations.
7:27 P.M. Early Indiana Returns Worrisome for Democrats
We mentioned earlier that Joe Donnelly, the Democrat in Indiana‘s Second Congressional District, had fallen into a deficit early against Jackie Walorski. Not only does he still trail, but also Baron Hill — whose 9th District is right at the tipping point of what Republicans would need to control the House — is also down by 12 points so far with 11 percent of the vote counted.
7:08 P.M. Chandler Leads Early
Again, nothing to really hang your hat on, but Ben Chandler, a Democrat, leads by about 10 points so far with 4 percent of the vote counted in Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District. We had Mr. Chandler favored by 2 points, and he’s the sort of Democrat who will have to win if the party is going to avoid getting completely slaughtered.
6:49 P.M. Three Races Already Called
The Associated Press reports that three Republicans — Hal Rogers of Kentucky and Mike Pence and Dan Burton of Indiana — will win a trip to Washington to serve in the 112th Congress. All were overwhelming favorites, but Republicans are up 3-0 so far.
6:40 P.M. Few Clues From Early Voting
As I warned you, it’s going to be some time before we get any sort of meaningful results from Indiana and Kentucky. The biggest potential surprise so far is in Indiana’s Second District, where Jackie Walorski, the Republican, has a 1,500-vote lead so far on Joe Donnelly, but only 3 percent of precincts have reported. If Mr. Donnelly lost, especially by a significant margin, that would be a bad sign for the Democrats.
6:04 P.M. Polls Close in Indiana and Kentucky
Most precincts are now closed in Indiana and Kentucky, and we may begin to see a few results trickle in from individual counties there. But it will probably be at least 7 p.m. Eastern — when polls close in the Central time portion of those states — before we’re able to come to any meaningful conclusions.
6:01 P.M. Preview of Coming Attractions
As I’ve alluded to on a couple of occasions, we’re hoping to have a seat count and takeover projection for both the House and the Senate that updates in real time once a meaningful number of results are in (probably at some point in the 7 p.m. hour).
Basically, the program will look at the races that have been called, or where enough of the vote is in to come to meaningful conclusions, and adjust our initial projections accordingly. It will also look at whether our projections are consistently missing to one side or another and adjust its expectations if it looks like our initial projections were biased (although it will do so very conservatively, tending to give deference to our initial projections).
It should be pretty cool, but I’ve got about 15-20 minutes of programming left to do, which would be easy at any other point but is a bit of a pain when you’re as busy as I am on a night like this one.
5:36 P.M. Head vs. Heart
Over the past 48 hours, we’ve posted a pair of companion pieces: a set of arguments for why Republicans could beat their polls and do even better than expected in the House, and a similar piece articulating a similar set of arguments for Democrats. A number of people, of course, have asked me which set of arguments I’m most inclined to believe. The fact is that intellectually, I think the arguments on the Democratic side are a little bit more compelling — particularly the issues surrounding the failure to poll voters who use only cellphones, about which there’s a fair amount of tangible evidence. Also, in terms of the Gallup likely voter poll — which has shown outstanding results for Republicans and has contributed to very lofty expectations, but which differs by several points from the consensus view — I think the most prudent stance is to treat the poll as an outlier until proven otherwise. Guilty until proven innocent, if you will. In my gut, though, I’m not sure I could bring myself to bet the under on the seat count line we’ve established, which is a Republican pickup of about 55 seats. Certainly, the signs of Democratic distress seem much more manifest: compare and contrast the responses, for instance, between Democratic and Republican voters on The Times’ Word Train. With that said, we’ve done pretty well trusting our heads over the years. We probably won’t know who has won each house of Congress until fairly late in the evening, but we should know relatively early on whether the polls were grossly mistaken toward one side or another.
5:08 P.M. 10 Reasons to Ignore Exit Polls
So, in just a few minutes, somebody like Matt Drudge is going to leak details from the first wave of exit polling.
Whatever these polls say, you should mostly ignore them; early exit polls are not intended to be taken at face value and can even be rather misleading. Here are 10 other reasons to ignore them.