[Posted by Karl]
All sorts have posted hour-by-hour guides to election night. Nate Silver and Partick Ishmael are big on ranking races, but National Journal and the WaPo also have notes. A Hulked-up Jay Cost has the competitive seats broken down by region. Accordingly, I felt there really was little need for me to do that sort of post. I have a few observations about the very start of the night, as that’s when people will be the most edgy about the results.
First, at 6 p.m. Eastern, analysts are going to be looking for the results in IN-9. Silver’s take:
Baron Hill’s seat, the Indiana 9th, has long been one of the most competitive in the country. I don’t think you should get too swept up in the results of any one particular congressional district — not when there are 435 of them in every corner of the country. But Mr. Hill, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who ordinarily performs strongly in his fairly rural, somewhat Republican-leaning district, but who voted for the health care bill and the stimulus, is in a position that is fairly typical for Democratic incumbents around the country this year. Also, the district has a magic number of 41, which means that it’s right at the cusp of what Republicans would need to take over the House. If they fail to win it, that could be the first sign that they’re liable to do a hair worse than expected. If they win it by a margin in the high single digits or the double digits, however, it could suggest that a lot of Democratic incumbents, many of whom are less skilled than Mr. Hill at understanding how to run a strong campaign in their districts, are going to be in trouble.
Is that spin? Maybe not; Ishmael has IN-9 as the 22nd most likely seat to flip. On the other hand, the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza calls IN-9 “a jump ball” — and the last poll I saw had Hill up a couple of points. Maybe IN-9 is less revealing than its ranking suggests.
Jay Cost added this in an interview today at NRO:
Indiana comes in first tomorrow night, so my early race to watch (beyond the Indiana 2nd, 8th, and 9th districts) is IN-1. It’s a D+8 district that Pete Visclosky is not going to lose, but if it’s around 55 percent, that will be a sign that something is brewing.
Silver downplays a bit more for his NYT readership:
I’d be a little bit more cautious about reading too much into the two Kentucky districts on our chart, the 6th and the 3rd, just because Kentucky is a fairly idiosyncratic state to begin with, and both the polling and the Senate race have been strange there. Still, John Yarmuth’s 3rd district, which encompasses Louisville, reflects a strong potential upside case for the G.O.P. if they were to win it.
Silver doesn’t explain what he means by “idiosyncratic.” I suspect he means that there were plenty of folks registered Dem who vote GOP, even before this cycle — but that really should be accounted for in the polling itself. Silver calls the polling there “strange,” but again fails to elaborate. Both he and Ishmael have KY-6 (held by Ben Chandler) rated as seat No. 62 and the most recent poll seems to show Chandler +4, so a GOP win here would point in the direction of those 50-60 seat projections that seem to be prevalent (Cillizza seems to see a Chander loss as an even bigger deal). A GOP win in KY-3 would be a signal of a potential super-wave.
However, I would advise taking all of this with a grain of salt. District-level data sets are so small (and include partisan polling) that Silver is absolutely correct to stress — as he has throughout — that there is an enormous amount of uncertainty in these sorts of analyses. Treat those linked guides as guides — and rough guides at that. As no less than Kos notes, there were 68 districts in which a poll was released (either public or partisan) since October 1st showing one candidate or the other leading by three points or less. Historically, even the polls of likely voters have skewed ~2-3% Democratic in midterm elections. Libs will bitterly cling to hopes of cellphone bias until proven otherwise (maybe some will make it the core of their theory of how the GOP stole the House). Maybe they’ll cancel each other out and the conventional wisdom predictions will carry the day. We’ll know soon enough.