From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 32 - October 30, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Election-night guide

by Derek Farr

For hard-core political junkies, Tuesday’s election will be the long-awaited, dramatic cumulation of two intensely euphoric, politically-saturated years.

But for the politically adverse, Tuesday’s election will interrupt regular prime-time programming.

Election Day is being touted as historic and it most certainly is. But behind the history, the speeches, the wardrobes, the debates and Joe the Plumber there is a power struggle of epic proportions.

This election is about much more than change.

The presidency, the Democrats’ control of the Senate, the special use one-cent tax and the face of our local representatives will be decided.

The following is an approximate timeline of key political battles nationally, regionally and locally.

Four o’clock

At 4 p.m. Indiana and Kentucky’s Eastern-Time-Zone polls close. While the networks may wait to call the races in these states because polls close in their western halves at 5 p.m., the vote counts in these states are crucial for two different reasons.

In the presidential race, Indiana (11 electoral votes) is crucial to John McCain’s (R) chance at the presidency. In a state that has not gone Democratic since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the “reddest” of the Midwestern states must go to McCain if he wants to stay competitive. And with some polls showing Obama leading in the Hoosier State, the presidential race could be sealed before many Wyomingites get a chance to cast a ballot.

In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is fighting for his political life against Bruce Lunsford (D) a wealthy businessman who has twice lost in the state’s democratic gubernatorial primary.

This race has incredible implications for two reasons. First, the Senate is characteristically stable, especially for incumbents – Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., has kept his job since 1958. Second, McConnell’s position as Minority Leader gives him tremendous sway in the Senate. That usually equates to more “fiscal attention” for a senior Senator’s home state — in West Virginia more than 20 federally-funded projects are named after Byrd, including a highway system, a massive telescope and several institutes.

If Kentucky voters are willing to sacrifice McConnell’s seniority for a first-term senator (a’ la Tom Daschle 2004), it could signal a dark evening for the Republican Party.

McConnell has a single-digit lead in most polls.

In this year’s race, every Senate seat is crucial because congressional Democrats only need to capture nine seats to take commanding control of the upper house.

Right now the Senate is split evenly 49 to 49. With two independents, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman and Vermont’s Bernard Sanders caucusing with the Democrats, the Republicans are in the minority 51-49.

But procedurally the Senate requires a super majority of 60 votes for most decisions, and with nine more seats, the Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. will dictate the Senate’s course.

If that happens, it will be the first Senate supermajority since the Democrats held 61 seats in 1979.

Five o’clock

At 5 p.m. the polls close in Virginia.

Virginia is much like Indiana. Virginia (13 electoral votes) hasn’t gone Democratic since 1964, and while Obama could win without capturing the state, McCain must win Old Dominion to keep his presidential hopes alive.

Obama has a slight lead in Virginia.

In the Senate, the Democrats are all but guaranteed to gather John Warner’s (R) seat. Warner is retiring after 30 years in the Senate, and his unrelated heir apparent Mark Warner (D) has a 20-plus-point lead over his opponent.

At 5:30 p.m. Ohio (20 electoral votes) closes its polls, a half hour later Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) follows suit. By this time, the night’s storyline will come more into focus. If McCain can pull off an upset and win Pennsylvania, the Obama camp will start looking west for votes, but if Obama wins Ohio the race is over.

Six o’clock

At 6 p.m. Florida (27 electoral votes) and Missouri (11 electoral votes) close their polls. It might seem improbable, but Florida’s panhandle and Missouri are in the same time zone.

McCain must win both states to stay alive. If he doesn’t, he will need a miracle to win.

At 6 p.m. John Sununu’s (R) New Hampshire Senate seat will take center attention. Sununu, who at 44 years old is the youngest U.S. Senator, beat his opponent ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen (D) six years ago. This year, Shaheen has a slight lead over Sununu.

At 6:30 p.m. the polls close in North Carolina where Elizabeth Dole (R) has her fingers crossed for victory. Dole, the wife of 1996 Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole, is trailing five-time state Senator and attorney Kay Hagan.

Dole’s seat has been a Republican benchmark for 35 years, and the Democrats have sighted in on this seat as a necessary step toward a supermajority.

Seven o’clock

By 7 p.m. political junkies may start to feel a sense of emptiness when they realize that the midterm elections are an agonizing 24 months away. For everybody else, 7 p.m. may be the deciding moment.

With the aforementioned presidential battle ground states tallying their vote totals, there is a chance the Mountain Time Zone will fill a familiar, inconsequential role.

But if McCain can win Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and Missouri, our next president could be decided by Colorado (9 electoral votes) and New Mexico’s (5 electoral votes).

Either way, two critical Senate seats are up for grabs in those states, and in both cases, the Udalls appear to be easy winners. In Colorado, Mark Udall has a 10-point lead on his opponent, and in New Mexico, Tom Udall holds a commanding 20-point lead in his race. If the two cousins win, Democrats will be looking to Oregon for their next victory.

Wyoming’s polls close at 7 p.m. as well. While both Senate seats are securely in Republican hands, Wyomings House seat (a Republican institution since 1979) is up for grabs. Cynthia Lummis (R) and Gary Trauner (D) are in a statistical dead heat. Trauner lost the 2006 election to incumbent Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) by a mere 1,012 votes. It could be late evening before the victor is decided in this race.

Locally, Jim Roscoe (D) and Charles Stough (R) will be anxiously waiting vote totals in State House District 22, which includes the majority of Sublette County’s land mass minus the Marbleton and Big Piney area.

The county’s one-percent excise tax will be decided as well. The tax would raise $60 million in approximately three and a half years for a recreation center in Big Piney and a Civic Center in Pinedale. Using 2007 census numbers, if the same tax revenues were returned to Sublette residents, each man, woman and child would receive a check for approximately $7,500.

Two local media outlets will be awaiting vote totals at the County Courthouse.

Real-time election results will be broadcast on KPIN 101.1 starting at 7 p.m.

For the computer-savvy, will be posting up-to-date local results and links to statewide races.

Nationally, 7 p.m. will close the polls in Minnesota. No matter how many Senate seats become Democratic by 7 p.m., the GOP will be focused on the Minnesota Senate Race. Saturday Night Live cast member, writer, and outspoken Republican antagonist Al Franken (D) holds a narrow lead against his Republican incumbent opponent in a state that elected ex-professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Governor. Politically, anything’s possible in the North Star State, which is known for its eclectic political tastes. It was the only state to cast electoral votes for Mondale/Ferraro in 1984 in Ronald Regan’s (R) landslide.

Eight o’clock

If the presidential election hasn’t been called by 8 p.m., when Nevada (5 electoral votes) closes its polls, expect a long night. Nevada’s votes would only matter if McCain was victorious in Colorado, and that doesn’t look likely. Nevada has been a virtual dead heat throughout the campaign.

Nine o’clock

Oregon’s polls close at 9 p.m. and at this point, the Democrats hope to be within supermajority striking distance. But a victory in Oregon’s Senate race won’t be their last chance.

Eleven o’clock

At 11 p.m. hard-core political addicts will begin experiencing severe withdrawal. But alas, 2008 isn’t a regular election year and there will be one more huge political race to be decided. Alaska’s Senate seat may be the key to the Democratic supermajority. Monday, the seven-term Sen. Ted Stevens (R) was convicted on seven felony counts in connection with falsification of Senate financial disclosure forms. The convictions do not preclude him from the Senate, but they do jeopardize his fragile lead in the polls. For Stevens, who has maintained his innocence throughout the trial, the timing couldn’t have been worse. It’s hard to imagine that Washington, D.C.; insiders will be glued to the television at 1 a.m. over the results of a Senate race in Alaska, but it is very possible. In a perfect storm, the Democrats will savor payback for the 1994 midterm elections where Republicans gained 54 house seats and nine Senate seats to gain control of Congress. The Democrats’ revenge would be control of the Executive Branch, a majority in the House, and a supermajority in the Senate.

When it is all said and done, this year’s election could have a dramatic impact on issues such as healthcare, tax policy, the war in Iraq and even gas exploration in Sublette County.

There were certainly be celebration, dejection, adulation and superlatives on election night, but for political junkies it’s the end of an electoral era.

By Wednesday morning, political junkies might feel a little depressed. It will be a hard adjustment. They will require patience and compassion. After living in a potent political atmosphere for two years, they’ll struggle to face a campaign-free future. Reassure them that every day is one day closer to the next election. Whatever you do, don’t tell them that it’s highly unlikely another election season will compare to 2008.

See The Archives for past articles.

Copyright © 2002-2008 Sublette Examiner
All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
Sublette Examiner, PO Box 1539, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3203