Election Day 2016: Ten Things To Watch

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NEW YORK (CBS News) — Almost 19 months after Hillary Clinton announced her presidential bid — and almost 17 since Donald Trump announced his — Election Day 2016 is finally here and voters are heading to the polls to pick the next president of the United States.

The first round of polls, in a handful of states across the East Coast, will close at 7 p.m. ET; the last state to close is Alaska, where polls are open until 1 a.m. ET.

With tight races in a handful of battleground states, the night has the potential to be a long one.

With that in mind, here’s a CBS News guide to things to keep an eye on Tuesday:

1. What time do we have a winner?

How late a night will political observers and campaigns have? In 2008 and 2012, major networks and news organizations projected a victory for President Obama on the early side — at around 11 p.m. or shortly thereafter, once polls had closed on the West Coast and blue states like California could be added to Mr. Obama’s electoral vote totals.

In 2012, for example, every state except Florida was called at some point Tuesday night — Florida was the sole state where vote-counting dragged into the Wednesday after Election Day.

Whether 2016 is an early night or a late night depends on how close the margins are in key battleground states, like Florida or Ohio.

2. What’s the winner’s electoral vote margin?

Then-Sen. Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential race with 365 electoral votes, well above the 270 necessary to be elected president.

He won by a slightly smaller but still decisive margin in 2012, taking 332 electoral votes to Republican Mitt Romney’s 206.

Setting aside the nightmare scenario in which there’s a 269-269 Electoral College tie — which is possible but not probable — what is the winner’s electoral vote margin on Tuesday night?

That answer could have a big impact in what happens in the days following Election Day.

Clinton’s team is hoping for a decisive victory, which could help put to rest Trump’s claims that the election is “rigged” against him.

If she wins by a narrower electoral vote margin, however, that could add more fuel to the fire for Trump supporters who believe the election has been stolen from their candidate.

3. Any trouble at the polls?

Speaking of claims that the election has been “rigged,” there’s been increased concern that there will be trouble or violence on Election Day.

While there are always some isolated reports of ballot problems or other polling place issues, will this year see problems that are more widespread than usual?

There’s some reason for concern: Trump has frequently told his rallies that there is widespread voter fraud in the country, calling on them to help ensure the integrity of the voting process especially in urban areas like Philadelphia and Detroit.

As a result, there there have been a number of court challenges to voter intimidation laws, including one provision that was struck down in Ohio just on Sunday.

Plus, there’s also the concern that Russia or another foreign entity will do something to disrupt voting on Election Day, given the hacking attempts on several state voting systems in the months leading up to Tuesday.

4. If Trump loses, does he concede?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the candidate who loses delivers a concession speech to his or her supporters—or at least, it has been in past elections.

But Trump’s suggestion at the final debate that he may not accept the results of the election has cast doubt on whether this accepted part of election practice will actually

“I will look at it at the time,” he said. “I’m not looking at anything now. I’ll look at it at the time.”

Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, worked to walk back Trump’s comments immediately after the debate, saying the GOP ticket will “certainly” respect the outcome of the election.

But it’s hard to imagine Trump getting on stage in New York Tuesday night and delivering the kind of gracious concession speech that, for example, John McCain gave in 2008.

5. Black turnout

President Obama turned out African American voters in record numbers in both 2008 and 2012, helping him win states like Virginia (in 2008 and 2012) and North Carolina (in 2008).

An open question for 2016 has always been whether someone other than the country’s first black president could reach that same level of turnout among the African American community.

Early voting numbers suggest that in key states like North Carolina, African American turnout is below 2012 levels — but that’s not always indicative of overall turnout.

What do the final numbers look like among this demographic, and how does that affect Clinton’s overall margin in African American-heavy states?

6. Latino turnout

One prediction for 2016 when Trump became the Republican nominee was that he would drive Latino turnout to new highs — for his opponent.

In 2012, exit polls found that Mitt Romney received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally, a fact that certainly helped doom him in Hispanic-heavy states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

Preliminary early voting numbers suggest that there’s a massive increase among Latino voters in 2016, including in the key battleground state of Florida.

Exactly how much is Latino turnout up compared with 2012, and what margin does Clinton win them by?

7. Does the Trump “silent majority” show up?

There’s been a lot of talk of the Trump “silent majority,” a reference to former President Richard Nixon’s term for the people who do not express their political preferences publicly but show up in great numbers on Election Day.

The Trump silent voters, the argument goes, are the reason public polling typically shows Clinton in the lead even if Trump is actually ahead in these key states.

Is there a “silent majority” in 2016 that’s supporting Trump but has been afraid to tell pollsters their preferences? And if there is, do they turn out in great numbers on Tuesday?

8. How do the candidates do in late-in-the-game “reach” states?


Though the candidates on both sides have largely spent the final days of the campaign where we’d expect them to — think Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania — there have been a few surprises.

Trump’s team, for example, is pitching reliably blue Michigan and Minnesota as late-breaking opportunities for them to expand the map; Clinton and Kaine, on the other hand, made week-before-Election-Day visits to typically red Arizona.

These late-breaking states often end up eluding candidates at the ballot box, despite claims that they have a real shot there: Mitt Romney tried that with Pennsylvania in 2012, holding a rally there the Sunday before Election Day and again on Election Day. (President Obama won Pennsylvania by about 5 points.)

9. Do Democrats take back the Senate?

Once Trump effectively secured the nomination back in May, many Republicans and GOP outside groups turned their attention to the battle for the U.S. Senate: if Trump was surely going to have a hard time winning the presidency in November, they reasoned, Republicans could put more resources into keeping him from dragging down incumbent GOP senators with him.

Democrats need four seats plus the presidency, or five seats without it, to take back the Senate.

They have plenty of opportunities to get there: most political observers would suggest it’s likely Democrats will pick up seats in Illinois and Wisconsin to start. GOP incumbents are facing close races in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri and Florida. There are also competitive open-seat races in Nevada and Indiana.

Can Democrats pull it off Tuesday night? Or will Republicans hold onto the Senate, only to pad their margins again in the 2018 midterms when they’re expected to have the advantage?

10. Can Evan McMullin pull off an upset in Utah?

Independent candidate Evan McMullin has focused his campaign largely on the state of Utah, a typically deep-red state with a large Mormon population that’s not particularly enamored of Trump.

Some polling in October suggested he has a legitimate chance there, prompting a round of speculation as to whether

A McMullin win in Utah still seems like a bit of a stretch: it’s incredibly rare for an independent candidate to win statewide.

But clearly the Trump campaign was at least somewhat worried about losing ground here: Pence visited the state for a campaign event in late October.

1 Comment

  • Never go full liberal

    What about the illegal turnout? Why isn’t that included in the top ten because I am pretty sure that is going to be a pretty big deal in this election.

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