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Presidential election: How soon will someone win so we can go to sleep? (+video)

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North Carolina polls close at 7:30, too. That’s a state that Mr. Romney should win, perhaps easily.

Eight o'clock is when things will really start to happen. If Dan Rather were still a network anchor, this is the time when he’d produce a colorful saying, such as “hang on to your armadillo and don’t forget the cheese dip, the hat’s really at the cleaners now!” Fifteen states ending voting at 8 EST, including Florida, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.

Again, it’s unlikely these states produce clear winners right off. But Romney has to have Florida and its 29 electoral votes. If Obama wins there, it’s time for some bedtime reading. Conversely, Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes is, or was, supposed to be safe Democratic territory. Romney is now contesting that, and he had a big closing rally in Pittsburgh. If this doesn’t fall fairly quickly into the Democratic category, they’ll start to sweat at Obama headquarters in Chicago.

For Romney, a win in Pennsylvania could counteract a loss in Ohio, keeping him in the game as the closing times sweep west across the US.

Oh, you want to know about New Hampshire? It has only four electoral votes, but it’s a true swing state, in the sense that it’s full of voters who are actually persuadable. It’s the only state that George W. Bush won in 2000 but lost in 2004. In 2012, both candidates have spent precious time there in the waning days of the campaign. There’s little early voting here, so New Hampshire could show which way the late momentum has been trending.

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