Thousands of media outlets will be covering this election day. But here are the three big things I’ll be watching for:
1. Pennsylvania, Michigan and the 2015 British Dynamic
With 20 electoral college votes up for grabs, Pennsylvania polling stations will close at 8pm. Voting for Michigan’s 16 votes will finish one hour later at 9pm. But while pre-election polls show Clinton leading both states, her victory is far from certain.
First off, with their strong blue-collar voter demographics, if Trump does better than expected in Michigan and Pennsylvania, it may reflect a national trend. For example, if Trump loses Pennsylvania by 2 to 3 percentage points instead of 4+, it will suggest his pre-election numbers in other states were also undervalued. Don’t count out this possibility. In the summer of 2015 British general election, a similar dynamic occurred.
In the U.K., pre-election polls strongly suggested that the Conservatives might win a minority government. But when results started arriving, it quickly became clear that the Conservatives were exceeding expectations. By the next morning, they had secured a majority in Parliament.
Why were the pollsters wrong? Primarily, because many Britons were not honest about their voting preferences over the phone. Fearing they’d be judged as immoral for expressing conservative sympathies, these voters instead concealed their verdict until election day. Considering Trump’s divisive rhetoric and the overt media shaming of his supporters, a similar dynamic might be underway in this election.
2. So Go Ohio and Florida, So Goes Trump’s White House Springboard
Bellwether states for the nation, Trump must win Ohio’s 18 electoral college votes and Florida’s 29. Absent those states – where polls close at 7:30pm and 8pm respectively – Trump’s route to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is highly obstructed.
Losing either, Trump would then have to win Colorado and a significant Clinton-leaning state like Michigan or Pennsylvania. And even assuming the aforementioned ‘British dynamic’ applies, Trump’s alternative route is a tough ask.
Still, if Trump does win Florida and Ohio, holds his leaning states, and takes Arizona (where he leads) and Nevada (where he’s so far behind) he’s looking good. In that scenario, if Trump also holds North Carolina (where he’s within the margin of error with Clinton), he’ll be just five short of the 270 electoral college White House door code. If he could also take New Hampshire’s 4 votes, the electoral college would be tied at 269-269, and the GOP House of Representatives would likely vote him in as President.
3. Media Reactions and the VoteCastr Revolution
If the media is freaking out, it means that Trump is likely winning. Because of their embargoed approach to exit polls (major media outlets don’t publish results until state polls close), we won’t get exit poll data until shortly after 7pm. But watch for news reports in the early afternoon. If anchors seem concerned or uncomfortable, that probably means Trump is doing better in the exit polls than expected. After all, the media’s overwhelming preference is a Clinton victory.
There’s also potential for an electoral coverage revolution this year.
Enter the Slate.com and Vice News alliance with election analytics firm, VoteCastr. They’ll be using early turnout data to predict results. As others have explained, it’s traditionally a high risk endeavor. But this year, VoteCastr is employing a more refined strategy.
Its personnel will attend 100 polling stations in each swing state and measure attendance. Applying that data against traditional voting preferences in each polling area, the attendance metrics will contrast Democratic Party vs. Republican Party turnout. If it works as it’s supposed to, VoteCastr will give us an early indication on which candidate’s supporters are turning out in higher proportions.
At the end of the night, if VoteCastr turns out to be correct, it will have revolutionized the timing and manner in which U.S. election news is delivered. If nothing else, it will give us something to talk about well before the polls have closed!
Regardless of the outcome, should be a fun night. Although these two candidates are deeply flawed, there is enduring glory in how their fates are decided. Once again, the world’s most powerful nation will select its leader by clicking buttons instead of squeezing triggers.
The legacy of our history and global history demands we take pride in that.
Tom Rogan is a foreign policy columnist for National Review, a domestic policy columnist for Opportunity Lives, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a senior fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.