Here's how the reporting will go on the election on November 4th, barring massive voting-machine meltdowns in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and other states.
9PM EST — We'll be told that with the close of polls on the East Coast:
Barack Obama has secured the electoral votes of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Virginia, for a total of 130 electoral votes.
John McCain will have captured West Virginia, North Carolina (in an “upset”), South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, for 60 electoral votes.
10PM EST — Polls close in the Central time zone, and the reports will try to stoke the sense of drama as they report the following outcomes:
Barack Obama has won in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois, bringing his total to 195 electoral votes.
John McCain, we'll be told, has narrowed the gap dramatically. He'll win in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri, bringing his total to 161 electoral votes — “within striking distance of Barack Obama's lead.”
11PM EST — The Mountain states close their polls. And then, we'll be told by some talking head on FOX News, “the race has shifted!”
Barack Obama, we'll be told, has won New Mexico, bringing him to 200 electoral votes.
John McCain, FOX News anchors in search of ratings will crow, “has taken the lead!” Winning in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, he now has a “commanding” 258 electoral votes. Whoopity-doo.
Midnight EST — The anchors will do their best to drag it out, and they'll fill their airtime talking about the genuinely important Senate races and other downticket contests, but sometime shortly after midnight it will be all over, and they'll have to call it before 1AM EST:
Barack Obama has won the West Coast: California, Oregon, and Washington. He now has 273 electoral votes, surpassing the 270 EV mark, and winning the presidency.
Nods will be made to Hawaii and Alaska, but it will be a purely academic interest, as it's all but a foregone conclusion that Alaska's three votes will tip into John McCain's column, and Barack Obama will handily claim Hawaii's four electoral votes.
My prediction of the final tally on Election 2008: Winner, Barack Obama, with 277 electoral votes, over John McCain, with 261 electoral votes.