Although the presidential race has been tightening in the past week, the consensus among pollsters is that Hillary Clinton still has the advantage. She appears to be very close to the 270 electoral votes needed, while Donald Trump still has a ways to go. He would have to win all of the toss-up states where neither candidate has a clear lead.
That being the case, here’s what I’ll be looking for as the returns come in on Tuesday:
- Clinton could deliver a nearly fatal blow to Trump’s chances if she were to carry any one of his must-win states early in the evening. The most crucial swing states he needs are Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, all of which close their polls at or before 8:00 PM. We may know something about Florida earlier than usual because of the high rate of early voting. Even if Clinton wins New Hampshire’s four electoral votes, Trump’s path to 270 becomes much harder.
- If Trump does not get derailed early on, then it could be a long night. The ultimate outcome could depend on Nevada, when its returns come in after 10:00. That is also a tight race, but the early voting appears to favor Clinton because of heavy Hispanic turnout.
- A Trump victory will look a lot more likely should he win one of the states where Clinton has consistently led in the polls, especially Pennsylvania (8:00) or Michigan (9:00). Right now, that looks less likely than either of the first two scenarios.
Even if the presidential election is decided quickly, determining control of the Senate will probably take a lot longer, maybe even into Wednesday or beyond. Many of the decisive battles are very close, and neither party appears to have a clear lead at this point.