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As states are called, their electoral votes are placed into one candidate's column. Also, look for each news organization to utilize a map of United States, which starts out with each state depicted as white. As a state is called for Bush, its color is changed to red; as a state is called for Kerry, its color is changed to blue; hence, red states and blue states. Look for Kentucky to be first state called. That state closes its polls at 6:00 Eastern Time and will almost certainly fall into Bush's column. Once a candidate reaches 270 or more electoral votes, he will be declared winner of election, regardless of total popular votes or how many red or blue states he has earned.
If Bush wins all states he won in 2000 and no more, he will win by a larger margin (277-261) in electoral college than he won by last time (271-267). Actually, he could lose one of his smaller states like New Hampshire, without picking up one that Gore won, and still win election. This is because, based on 2000 census, population has shifted a bit and six congressional seats (and therefore same amount of electoral votes) have shifted from "Gore" states to "Bush" states.
The key states to watch throughout evening will be so-called "battleground" states. The candidate who wins majority of those states will likely win election. By most estimates, these states include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, and New Mexico. Most of other states are considered to already be in column of one candidate or other. As a general rule, Bush is expected to be strong in south, southwest, and mountain and prairie west. Kerry looks to be strong in northeast, upper Midwest, and along Pacific coast. I don't see any state further west than New Mexico or Colorado being a major decisive factor. It is already assumed that California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii will all go for Kerry, while Alaska will go for Bush.
Colorado could prove to be most controversial this time, but only if everything falls right. There is an initiative on Colorado ballot to award its electoral votes proportionally, instead of awarding all nine of them to winner, as it does now. If passed, this would go into effect immediately with this election. Since race in Colorado is expected to be close, results of this measure would effectively take four electoral votes away from winner of state and give them to loser. Therefore, if measure passes and candidate who wins Colorado loses election by less than nine electoral votes, measure will have cost that candidate election. Obviously, a major legal battle would ensue if that happened.
One final item to watch for on election night is battle for control of House and Senate. The Republicans currently hold a slim margin in both houses. Several key wins, or "pick-ups," by Democrats could turn things around in their favor in one house or possibly both. Conversely, some pick-ups by Republicans could increase their margin in one or both house. Key races that could go either way will be monitored closely throughout evening.
Terry Mitchell is a software engineer from Hopewell, VA. He operates a website, http://www.commenterry.com, on which he posts commentaries on various subjects such as politics, technology, religion, health and well-being, personal finance, and sports. His commentaries offer a unique point of view that is not often found in mainstream media. Mr. Mitchell is also a trivia buff.