Nate Silver at http://www.fivethirtyeight.com">Five Thirty Eight gives Obama a 91% chance of winning tonight; PPP, a left-leaning pollster, predicts over 300 electoral votes for Obama.
But others show the race closer, and the Electoral College race could be nail-biter, based on all sorts of factor such as weather, long lines, voter ID, GOTV efforts and some election officials in swing states who seem to be hell-bent on confusing folks on their way to the polls.
So here's a quick guide to watching the results tonight and getting a sense of how things are going for either side.
First, a summary: You've got to get 270 electoral votes to win the Electoral College; 269-269 is a tie (which would be decided in the U.S. House of Representatives, probably in Romney's favor).
The New York Times' http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/electoral-map">Electoral Map suggests that Obama has 243 electoral votes that are totally safe or lean toward him; Romney has 206. That means Obama needs to hold those states and get just 27 more electoral votes to win; Romney needs to hold his and win 64 more electoral votes.
The Swing States in this math are New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado. (Others that lean Obama that Romney might pick off are Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and New Mexico. States that Obama could pick up from leaning Romney are North Carolina and Arizona.)
Now, http://www.businessinsider.com/election-day-schedule-polls-close-2012-11">the timeline... all times are Central.
5:00 p.m. Some polls close in Indiana and Kentucky. Obama won Indiana in 2008, but it's polling strongly for Romney this cycle. Interesting to watch, though, is the race between Tea Party GOP favorite Richard Mourdock (rape pregnancy is a gift from God) and Congressman Joe Donnelly, the Democrat. Mourdock knocked off Richard Lugar in the primary, but may now lose the seat for the GOP thanks to his national renown -- and Tea Party-vs.-normal-people schisms in the Indiana state GOP.
6:00 p.m. Final polls in Indiana/Kentucky. Polls close in Virginia. (They also close in Georgia, South Carolina and Vermont.) It may not be called all that quickly but Virginia is the first toss-up state to watch closely. If Obama wins it, he's probably having a good night -- he would only need one other swing state (other than New Hampshire) to get to 270 if he holds his "leaners." If Romney wins Virginia, his path to victory could tack "Southern" and he could still win without Ohio.
6:30 p.m. Polls close in Ohio and North Carolina (and West Virginia). Ohio may still have long lines and provisional ballots to count, but it'll be one of the most important states to watch.
One particular House race to watch while the results are coming in, according to http://www.policymic.com/articles/18425/indiana-senate-race-and-5-other-races-you-should-pay-attention-to-on-election-day">PolicyMic, is Ohio District 16, which pits "business" against "labor" in an expensive House showdown between GOP Rep. Jim Renacci and Dem. Rep. Betty Sutton. If Sutton wins, that's one sign that Obama will, too; if Renacci wins, then Ohio may be trending more GOP than the polls predicted.
N.C. is expected to go for Romney; if it somehow tips to Obama, the race for the White House might be called as early as 7:00 p.m. central time.
7:00 p.m. Lots of poll closing: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, North Dakota, Florida and New Hampshire. (Also non-leaners Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas.)
If Pennsylvania and Michigan go for Obama, his firewall is holding, but watch New Hampshire, which holds one of two of Romney's "outs" and it's important to Obama is he's losing large swing states.
Maine has http://www.policymic.com/articles/18425/indiana-senate-race-and-5-other-races-you-should-pay-attention-to-on-election-day">an interesting vote to watch with Ballot Question #1 - it might become the first state ever to pass marriage equality by popular vote. Right now Yes on One has a strong lead in the polls, but Maine struck down same-sex marriage just 2 years ago.
Florida will, of course, probably be a mess; if somehow they can call it for Obama, and he's held Pennslyvania, then this things is pretty much over.
Note Here: If Romney has picked up Virginia, Florida and even Ohio, but Obama has New Hampshire, then Obama's chances at re-election are narrowed, but not gone. If he holds all his leaners and picks up Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado (with New Hampshire) he's got 272.
7:30 p.m. Arkansas. Still crazy, but no longer a swing state.
8:00 p.m. Polls close in swing states Colorado and Wisconsin, and in close-ish Arizona, Minnesota and New Mexico. (Plus: Louisiana, Nebraska, New York and Wyoming.)
Colorado is an interesting state for Obama -- if he's won Virginia and New Hampshire, then Colorado gets him to 269 -- and a potential tie if Romney holds his leaners and wins Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio. (Nate Silver, incidentally, says there's a 0.2 precent chance of this happening, at least based on polling data. Silver gives Obama a 97 percent change of winning Wisconsin, which would put Obama over the top with Virginia.)
9:00 p.m. Polls close in Iowa and Nevada. (Also Montana and Utah.)
Again, these are two swing states (Nevada less so) both leaning toward Obama. If Obama has won New Hampshire, Colorado and Wisconsin by now and has held in the leaners (Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada) then Iowa's swing votes (and Nevada's leaning votes) make him president of the United States. Again.
10:00 p.m. California, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington.
One of two things will happen here. Either (a.) the "Breaking News banners" will turn and Obama will be declared president, or the press will be agonizing over votes in Ohio and Florida; maybe Pennsylvania. But these closings don't add much to the math either way (except that they bring in the deciding votes if Obama is on the path the polls are predicting.)
Interesting to watch here, according to PolicyMic, is the Washington governor's race; there's a chance Washington elects a strong conservative GOP governor despite voting for Obama. If they do, he seems likely to try to turn back marriage equality and Obamacare and Medicaid expansion in the state.
midnight Alaska. You still up?