How to Follow Election Results 2012, a State-by-State Guide

Figure out whether Obama or Romney is winning.

In any good mystery novel, you can’t guess the ending. That’s what tonight’s election results will be: the end of a good mystery novel. Anyone who tells you they know what is going to happen is fooling themselves. I have heard fact-based prognostications from both sides with different results and all are plausible. That’s what makes tonight’s election so much fun to watch.

If it is a close race, which many are predicting, it favors Barack Obama. If it is a landslide, say 300-plus electoral votes, it will be Mitt Romney. We will know early in the night which scenario is more likely.

As the Eastern Standard Time states start to report, watch New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. New Hampshire has only four electoral votes, but is a weather vane for political wins. If Romney wins New Hampshire, watch out. Pennsylvania is even more crucial to watch and could hold the key to the election. Once part of President Obama’s firewall of states that would assure him re-election, the President has seen a 14-point lead dwindle into a tie. If Mitt Romney wins Pennsylvania, the race is over, and he will be the next President of the United States.

However, Pennsylvania has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since the ’80s. If President Obama takes both New Hampshire and Pennsylvania as expected, the next three states to watch are Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. Romney must take all three to have a chance of victory. If Romney loses one of those states, President Obama will win re-election.

If everything plays out the way it is supposed to, Obama wins New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and Romney wins Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, we move on to the central states. This is where the Obama campaign likes to talk about the firewall of Great Lakes states that will assure them victory. But just as in Pennsylvania, the Obama campaign has seen double-digit leads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota diminish to single digits. One recent poll showed Mitt Romney winning in Michigan. If Mitt Romney can pick off one of those states, he will have a big advantage. If he picks off two, he will be the next president.

If the firewall holds, all eyes will then be on Ohio and a long night.

Colorado and Nevada are expected to split, with the former going to Romney and the latter going to Obama. Depending on what happens in the East, they may not matter.

Pennsylvania is the key. Out of nowhere, Pennsylvania has become an important state in this election. It went from solid blue for Obama, to light blue, to an honest-to-god battleground state in the last week. That’s why Mitt Romney was in Bucks County on Sunday and why Bill Clinton was here yesterday. That’s why our favorite TV show are being pelted with political ads.

As Republican National Political Director Rick Wiley told me, “If Pennsylvania goes Republican, I am going to start the celebration early because we will have a new president.”