As a public service to you, the crap-reading public, Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters, Electoral College Division, proudly presents these tips for watching Presidential election returns come in.
First, and above all, do not go through this process completely sober. McCain and Obama aren’t, why should you? Drink heavily – some of you are about to be very disappointed, and will need to drown your sorrows. Most of you will be ecstatically happy, and you’ll want to be in a celebratory mood. Either way, bust out the booze.
Now onto the meat of the issue.
The networks will call various states for one of the candidates as soon as they can. If exit polling plows a clear enough mathematical path, they’ll do so immediately after the last polls close in a state. Therefore, the poll closing schedule becomes crucial. (all the following times are in Central Time – local to most of Texas)
6 p.m. Central Time
Polls close in Georgia, Indiana, and Virginia. McCain should carry Georgia. If he doesn’t, it could be early indication of a very bad night for Republicans. Virginia is leaning Obama, barely. If Obama takes it by more than a point or two, watch out – it could indicate that Obama has also carried North Carolina. If Obama fails to carry Virginia, it could be an early indication that you’re staying up later than you thought – slow down on your drinking. If Obama is ahead in Indiana, which has been voting Republican in past Presidential elections, that’s an early and bad canary-in-the-mineshaft sign for McCain – pick up the pace on your drinking.
6:30 p.m. Central Time
Polls close in Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia. If Ohio and North Carolina split, it might be a longer night. If Obama carries both, down another drink quickly, you probably won’t be up very late. You might also glance at West Virginia, which McCain should carry. If he doesn’t, he’s in deep trouble.
7:00 p.m. Central Time
The last polls close in the Florida panhandle, and in New Hampshire, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. In the off-chance that McCain wins New Hampshire, and doesn’t lose Florida, Obama supporters are in for a long night, slow down on the drinking. On the other hand, if Obama carries Missouri, especially by more than a squeak, order your next round with a little less water and a little more scotch.
Also, please note that contrary to popular belief, the last polls in Texas do not close at 7 p.m., they close at 8 because El Paso is in the Mountain Time Zone. However, sometimes the networks jump the gun, so they may call Texas for McCain at 7 instead of 8. Because, sheesh, it’s just El Paso.
8 p.m. Central Time
By now most results from the East Coast and Midwest will be pouring in. If all the likely blue states in those regions, plus Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida can now be called for Obama, you can probably safely call the entire race for Obama. But if Obama loses Florida, he’ll need Ohio more urgently. If he loses that too, then you better drink heavily and pray for New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. New Mexico and Colorado’s polls also close now, but you might need to wait a while for either of those states to be called, especially New Mexico. Drink up. You might also glance at Arizona now, because their polls close as well. McCain should win it, but if he doesn’t, it will be a total embarrassment for him.
9 p.m. Central Time
Polls close in Nevada and Iowa. You’re trying to pay attention to Nevada, but you’re drunk. McCain is still holding out desperate hope that he might carry Iowa despite his poor showing in the polls, because he needs it. He won’t carry it, but pay attention to the point spread if by now the electoral vote count is still close – it might indicate something about left coast states. I frankly doubt it, but I’m trying to give you people something to do while you drink.
10 p.m. Central Time
Polls close in California, which Obama will carry, and if he hasn’t already won, that state’s mighty 55 electoral votes will officially carry him over the top, exceeding 270. You’re probably already passed out, and even if you’re not, you won’t remember it later. Also, try to keep the drunk text messages to a minimum.