What To Watch For While You’re Watching Election Returns

What to watch for tonight.

2016 Election Buttons

As we head into tonight’s election coverage, here’s a fairly good idea of what to watch for as the results pour in.

First of all, there’s the obvious lesson that the total number of votes matter far less than where those votes are coming from and concentrate on the states. If Hillary Clinton is mounting up a large percentage of votes from solid blue states, that matters far less than the smaller number of votes she might be getting from red states and toss-up states that will decide who wins this election. The national popular vote is helpful in determining what the national trend might be, but the most important factor isn’t Hillary Clinton getting large numbers of votes from states like New York, or California, or any of the other solid blue states that she’s virtually guaranteed to win, which are depicted on the map below:

Electoral College Map -- HRC Bankable and DJT Bankable

Second, keep in mind that Clinton essentially starts the night with a “lock” of 226 Electoral Votes and that Donald Trump starts the night with a “lock” of 148 Electoral Votes as the map above shows. If either candidate starts losing in the states where they are supposedly guaranteed they are going to win, then you can virtually guarantee that they will be in for a long night, and that the election itself could be over far quicker than we’re currently anticipating. The election will truly be in play when we start finding winners or losers in the states in gray and the trend for the night gets set. If one candidate or the other starts dominating there then, again, the election could be over far sooner than currently anticipated. After taking these “locked” states into account, there are a number of states where the candidates are leading that they must hold on to if they’re going to have a realistic shot at winning the election, those are depicted in the map below:

Electoral College Mao -- Step Two

Third, the map above includes all the states that the candidates should be considered a “lock” for each candidate, along with those that they should win based on current polling. If they fail to win those states, then they are unlikely to win the 270 Electoral Votes that they need to win the election. Additionally, if Hillary Clinton wins just one of the states in gray she will win the election although it may be several hours before she’s projected as the winner given the fact that polls don’t close on the West Coast until 11pm Eastern and the vote count in states such as Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio could end up being slow if turnout ends up being high or polls remain open late to accommodate people who are waiting in line at the time the polls close.

As things stand, I expect we  might actually be able to call the election rather early tonight, and that the outcome will likely be apparent well before the West Coast closes even if Clinton doesn’t officially go over the top until 11pm. You can watch coverage on all the broadcast and cable news networks, as well as at various places online. Additionally, I’ll be live tweeting the results until the bitter end and may there may be an update post or two here on Outside The Beltway if the newsflow allows. Otherwise, the wrap-up posts will come late tonight or early tomorrow.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    Apparently Trump’s lawyers have filed a lawsuit in Nevada claiming that people there were allowed to vote “improperly.”

    You think he’ll do this in every state except maybe New York, California, and Massachusetts?

  2. Blue Galangal says:

    @CSK: Wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Best tweet so far was “Shorter Nevada judge: “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

  3. C. Clavin says:

    So here are a coule things of dubious accuracy…and of absolutely zero value…but seem fun to follow while we wait for real results later tonight.

  4. pylon says:

    The early returns, especially from FLA will make the outcome virtually certain IMO. The bigger question (assuming they go the right way) is how big the win will be. I want a big one for several reasons – to try and shut down the legal battles Trump might try, to end any claim that there’s no real “mandate” and to just give Trump the beating he really deserves (and HRC the triumph I think she deserves after all the crap she’s put up with).

  5. Mu says:

    So if Hilary wins NH by your chart it’s all over? Might be getting to bed earlier than I thought.

  6. Joe says:

    @CSKThe telling part of the Nevada lawsuit was that the judge dismissed the case because the Trump campaign (or the Republican party) failed to follow the necessary basic procedures to contest the action. Specifically, they failed to object with the clerk who was keeping the poll open. I assume that’s election law 101 since its pretty standard administrative procedure.

    Don’t worry, though. Donald’s got the best people.

  7. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Guess you can’t count on EVERY republican vote:


    You may just be a loser if the last President of your party won’t bother to vote for ya !


    Lu hooo sa herrr

  8. CSK says:

    @Blue Galangal:


    Will getting shot down in Vegas stop him, though?

  9. Franklin says:

    Is there a good cable channel to watch for results? I refuse to watch CNN or Fox News.

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    The heartwarming Susan B. Anthony tombstone story…


    Somehow, the women placing their “I Voted” sticker on the tombstone… I don’t think are Trump voters.

  11. Bill says:

    Will history repeat itself again tonight and see one of the networks announce Florida for a candidate before 8 pm EST when there are polls in this state in Central Standard Time and they are still open? It is happened twice since 2000.

  12. Pch101 says:


    Trump is filing the cases in order to generate publicity. The substance of the legal argument isn’t relevant.

  13. rachel says:

    That sign you want is a case of inspired mis-spelling; the original Japanese means “Do not dump here.”

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:..I was born in Rochester, New York in 1948. Don’t recall if it was a grade school excursion or if my Parents took me but I know I visited the Susan B. Anthony House at a young age.
    Besides seeing Richard Nixon campaign for President USA at the Rochester-Monroe County Airport in the fall of 1960* my only other notable Rochester connection is that Strong-Memorial Hospital, where I was born, is the same place Rod Serling died in 1975 (cough-cough).
    (Just remembered that the guy who married me and my ex knew Rod Serling
    and spoke at his funeral.
    Is that one degree of separation or two? And does this “degree of separation” business apply to the dead as well as the living?)

    * Tuesday, November 8 1960
    John F. Kennedy 303 EV 34,220,984 (49.72%)
    Richard M. Nixon 219 EV 34,108,157 (49.55%)

  15. Paul Hooson says:

    Clinton must win in Virginia to barely win in the electoral college or Donald Trump is elected president tonight.

  16. MBunge says:

    But…but…but…EARLY VOTING!?!?!?


  17. MBunge says:

    Seriously, if I had a couple bucks I’d probably still put ’em on Hillary but it’s damn nice that a lot of arrogant douches are having to sweat it out a bit.


  18. Argon says:

    Right now, the only thing of which I’m certain is that soon after this election, a certain head of the FBI is going to have an early retirement.

  19. MBunge says:

    Putting it out there…

    Hillary should have run a campaign that focused more on issues and less on the awfulness of Trump.


  20. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: She tried, but the fact the media spent more time on the stupid irrelevancy of her e-mails than all her policy positions combined didn’t help.

    There will be entire doctoral dissertations written on how the major media failed America this election cycle regardless of which candidate ends up winning.

  21. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: That’s rich coming from the most self-important, self-righteous ass on OTB.

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    This is looking very bad for Clinton. Michigan is leaning Trump. NYT now projecting 80% chance of a Trump victory.

    It’s almost like nominating an unpopular damaged candidate was a bad idea.

  23. Tillman says:

    She was supposed to be a sure bet.

    Margins might still turn up in her favor at this point, but good God, you all sold such horseshit.

  24. Mikey says:

    @Hal_10000: You’d think even an unpopular, damaged candidate could win easily when pitted against a quasi-fascist, racist, xenophobic, sexist, moronic ignoramus, but I guess Mencken was right, nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

  25. dennis says:

    Looks like the stupid American public is voting in Donald Trump. We are the most ignorant rubes on the planet.

  26. Hal_10000 says:


    You’d think, wouldn’t you? I let my optimism get the better of me, not believing America would elect this piece of garbage.

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:


    but it’s damn nice that a lot of arrogant douches are having to sweat it out a bit.

    Yea, who cares if the country is f*cked 500 different ways from Sunday as long as Mike gets to enjoy his schadenfreude.

    You’re an asshole.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    She should have run a more forward-looking campaign. People want something to vote for, not just against.

    And Americans are worse people than I thought. I wish I didn’t have a kid in school, I’d be thinking strongly about bailing.

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’d be thinking strongly about bailing.

    The wife and I are already having that discussion. Maybe it’s because a good sized number of my relatives went up a chimney and that colors my view of the world, but for the first time in my life I don’t feel safe in this country any longer.

  30. JKB says:

    Will Clinton, and her supporters, accept the results of the election?

  31. Ben Wolf says:

    What will it take for you guys to realize you were the ones less-than-bright on this?

  32. dennis says:


    I’m feeling you on that sentiment, HL92. The future is looking rather ominous and uncertain. The upside to this may be that he razes the GOP to the ground, and something saner arises. Or not.

  33. dennis says:

    One thing has been proven, though: that majority minority thing has turned out to be a shyt premise …

  34. MikeSJ says:

    Yes, a serious recession and a stock market crash which are highly likely with a President Trump means my savings are decimated and I may see my employer go belly up.

    Glad so many are happy at the thought of pissing off the liberals though.

  35. MBunge says:


    You can’t even wait until your side actually loses before you start crying?


  36. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be around to find out.

  37. MBunge says:


    You guys had ONE job. ONE.

    Pick a candidate who could beat Donald Freakin’ Trump…and you’re lashing out at other people?


  38. michael reynolds says:


    I’ve been telling my Lefty friends that for a long time. 13% African-American, 17% Latino, 5% Asians, gays, etc… That leaves 65% white. Even in 2044 or whenever the majority-minority moment comes, that leading edge will be 18 years away from voting.

  39. Stormy Dragon says:

    If Trump ends up winning on Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, does this signal the beginning of a GOP shift from a southern strategy to a rust belt strategy?

  40. MikeSJ says:


    I will do much better than the majority of Trump supporters if he does in fact win the Presidency and drives the economy into a ditch.

    I’m amazed at how self destructive people can be.

  41. Lit3Bolt says:


    Oh look, a quisling.

  42. Stormy Dragon says:

    I wonder what Biden is thinking right now…

  43. Ben Wolf says:

    @dennis: It’s the Democratic Party that was just torpedoed. It is now leaderless and helpless because it refused to accept that Trump could beat Clinton. That’s what happens when you spend all your money on crappy, clueless beltway consultants and permanently set your televisions to idiots like John Oliver telling you how smart you are and how dumb everyone else is. That’s what happens when a party lets itself be lulled into catatonia by dopey Vox pundits who don’t have the slightest understanding of what’s really going on.

  44. Hal_10000 says:

    Fox has called Wisconsin and Iowa for Trump. This is looking bad. So much for Clinton’s ground game.

  45. michael reynolds says:

    “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes going up.”

  46. Stormy Dragon says:


    I think Wisconsin is the state I’m most surprised by tonight.

  47. R.Dave says:

    I hate to say it, but the Bernie Bros were right.

  48. Hal_10000 says:


    Handed the 2000 NY senate seat on a platter, won it by 17 point less than Algore won the state.

    Handed the 2008 nomination on a platter, lost to a half-term senator.

    Handed the 2016 Presidency on a platter, lost to a fascist hamster.

    Good God.

  49. Terrye Cravens says:

    I had no idea there were so many idiots in the United States.

  50. Terrye Cravens says:

    I am not happy about this, but unlike Trump I will accept the results if they are not what I like. Now, he has to govern. I am not sure that is possible.

  51. Stormy Dragon says:

    “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” — Lou Holtz

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    It’s the Democratic Party that was just torpedoed.

    Yep. As of now Democrats are either an insurgency or an obstruction. We have one-party rule as of tonight.

  53. Senyordave says:

    It will be interesting because Trump’s supporters are actually going to expect something. Basically, they want everything they believe they’ve lost, like manufacturing and mining jobs, and that is something Trump can’t give them. But he will take away something from them, like access to health care. This will be a strange couple of years.

    One question: Will our press ask about the immigration status of Melania Trump? Because it is my understanding that she is here illegally. She had 10 modeling gigs before she got her work visa, and I have read that she was allowed to be in the country but not work. If they have deportation squads they should save the time of looking for undocumented workers, and start with ones they immediately know of.

  54. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Please, God. Please.

  55. Guarneri says:

    What to look for?

    Hillary doing the perp walk. The OTB staff eating crow. And the OTB commentariat calling people stupid.

    Carry on.

  56. michael reynolds says:

    No, the press will roll over and play dead. They’ll cast it as giving the new POTUS a grace period, but they’ll be busy hypocritically beating themselves up for their part in this catastrophe.

  57. michael reynolds says:

    Got your swastika armband yet?

  58. Guarneri says:

    Oh, and I predicted at Schulers place he wouldn’t win. Didn’t see a Clinton big win, but razor thin.

    The people spoke. Off with the elites heads.

  59. Kari Q says:

    I wish I had been cynical enough about my fellow countrymen to sell off.my investments and go to an all cash position yesterday.

  60. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Not for nothing, but the Dow is falling off of a cliff in premarket. Down 800 already and not much of a bottom in sight. Ditto for the Nasdaq, S&P, Nikkei, Hang Seng, etc. and the dollar is going with it.

    The guy hasn’t even been elected yet and he’s already damaging the country …

  61. JKB says:


    Hillary’s not going to do the perp walk. Her and Bill will be moving to a non-extradiction country.

  62. Kari Q says:

    My husband is wiser than I. We are in an all cash position. I married him because he was sexy; I stayed married to him because he is smart.

  63. Stormy Dragon says:


    Realistically, this is a sign to buy off of the panic selling. The president really doesn’t have that much control over the short term economy, and the reality is the country isn’t materially better or worse off tomorrow than it was yesterday.

  64. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Clearly, I have overestimated the vision of the American People.

    I am deeply struck.

    All that comes to mind is this:

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

    Edmund Burke

  65. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds: @michael reynolds:

    Didn’t learn a thing tonight did you? You are full of shit. Your response. Nazi.

    Keep it up, loser.

  66. JKB says:


    Like with Brexit, all those crony deals built into the market are now less certain payoffs. It’ll sort out, just like after Brexit. Some cronies will lose some money if they can cover their shorts.

  67. Senyordave says:

    @JKB: The investigations will stop immediately. Even Trump isn’t stupid enough to go after Clinton now, what’s the point. And Chaffetz won’t get any mileage ut of more committee hearings, they accomplished their goal. Although the e-mails were the biggest thing out there, not some piddling thing starting a war under false pretenses or torturing people.

  68. Guarneri says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    You may be correct. But I suggest you consider that markets think the Fed is no longer going to prop up the equities market as they have for Obama and would attempt for Clinton.

  69. Guarneri says:

    Look at the bright side, folks. The sewer rats that are the Clinton’s now go into the scrap heap of history.

    Time to re-tool.

  70. Senyordave says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I agree with the impact of the POTUS in short term, but this is a pretty good excuse to move money, especially since its not like the market was underpriced to start with. Plus in my lifetime we’ve never had a POTUS who was this uninformed about all policy, and the president sill has an impact on th eeconomy.

  71. Stormy Dragon says:


    I think it’s more of a “long term the stock market measures value, short term it measures popularity” type of thing.

  72. Stormy Dragon says:

    If you own any stock in a polling company, though, you should dump that quick.

  73. JKB says:


    The Clinton Foundation was set up to accept pay for play with the expectation of Hillary entering the White House. The Clintons are now done and their enemies can now move for payback. That may take the form of immunity deals with the FBI investigations.

  74. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m not so sure. We’re going to have a Republican controlled House, Senate and White House. Who’s to stop them from playing out Kansas on a national scale?

  75. Stormy Dragon says:


    The federal government largely takes money from productive areas like California and New York and gives it to unproductive areas like Alabama and Mississippi.

    Kansas on a national scale will be terrible for Alabama and Mississippi, but it would probably be a plus for the stock market.

  76. Senyordave says:

    @JKB: The Clinton Foundation was set up to accept pay for play with the expectation of Hillary entering the White House. The Clintons are now done and their enemies can now move for payback. That may take the form of immunity deals with the FBI investigations.

    C’mon, get serious. You now have a POTUS-elect who doesn’t even deny that he stole from his own charity! That’s what self dealing is, and its documented.

  77. Slugger says:

    I was wrong abut the election. I have been wrong before. I first voted for POTUS in 1968 and have not voted for the winner in most of the elections. I should report my preferences to polling organizations as a negative indicator. I am the antiNostradamus.
    Now let’s see what Trump will do.

  78. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    It does that as long as it has the ability to fund it. Factor in Trump’s proposed tax cuts (which will explode borrowing if they propose to keep spending neutral), and I think it results in a market contraction. Assuming they can even move the requisite amount of Treasuries, doing so sucks capital out of the pool available for the purchase of equities. I’m not seeing a market positive outcome in all of this.

    Now, if they start slashing spending, it gets even more entertaining. AL and MS won’t fare very well.

  79. Aelio says:

    The market shock will be compared to what happened in the Brexit. They will say that it will come back after a while. That you can sit on it and wait for it to come back up. But there was reshuffling, though. A little before the Brexit, George Soros was seen buying a large share in a gold mine. It just goes to show that nothing beats being prepared for things like this. In the Brexit one of the hardest hit markets was that of local real estate companies. But since the Brexit hasn’t completed yet, the effects have gotten a little more diluted. As far as Trump goes, I’d think that folks need to take the Brexit as an example and also what was valued during the Bush years.

  80. Kari Q says:

    Have you forgotten that Trump discussed defaulting on our debt? Oh, he didn’t realize that’s what he was saying, but it’s what it amounted. The status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency? Yeah, forget that. Low interest rates because Treasury Bonds are the safest investment around? Forget that too.

    There will be consequences beyond tax rates for the wealthy.

  81. JKB says:

    We should just acknowledge that if you keep predicting that there is a hidden vote the polls aren’t seeing, sooner or later you’ll be correct.

  82. Paul Hooson says:

    Based on what I’ve seen so far, Trump has won this election here. I’m not seeing where Clinton has the electoral votes left anywhere on the map to win. Nevada was some surprise good news for Clinton, but her loss in the industrial Midwest has cost her this election.

  83. MBunge says:


    What about the Supreme Court? Everybody just sat back and twiddled their thumbs when the GOP staged an assault on our Constitutional order because they all thought it would be easier to let President Hillary fix it. And remember a couple years ago when the idea of getting Ginsberg to step down so Obama could replace her? And liberals couldn’t bear to part with their beloved internet meme, the Notorious RBG?


  84. HarvardLaw92 says:


    What about it? Republicans controlled the Senate. They’ve made it clear that they see themselves as entitled to rule, not govern.

  85. Grewgills says:

    A broken clock is right twice a day.

  86. Grewgills says:

    Who do they put on the Supreme Court if the senate goes nuclear?
    Do we get to have Christie as AG and Giulani replace Comey?
    Abandon the Balkans and the Ukraine to Putin?
    I’m sure everything will turn out fine.
    On the bright side, I don’t live in the South, Appalachia, or the Rust Belt, so I probably won’t feel the worst of the Kansas economic experiment writ large.

  87. @Stormy Dragon: It won´t be good for the stock market. Trump in some sense has similar instincts to George Walker Bush: both of them like tax cuts, but they don´t like paying for it. And in some sense, the people that elected both of them don´t like it either.

    That did not end well for the stock market when it was last tried.

  88. bill says:

    @Terrye Cravens: where were you the past 2 elections?

    so there’s crow pie, crow gumbo, crow ettoufe, crow jambalaya, crow etc……

  89. Ben Wolf says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yes, this was a panic reaction by dummies and you always, always fade sentimental moves in capital markets.

  90. Ben Wolf says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: Trump’s economic plan (what little we know of it) is stimulative. A massive tax cut and trillion dollar spending program will ensure a multi-year bull run as that flows into corporate profits.

  91. Ben Wolf says:


    Oh look, a quisling.

    Of course! Calling people names during the campaign might not have worked, but calling them names now can surely turn the tide!

  92. @Ben Wolf: I don´t know. That stimulative was tried with Bush. It did not work. The markets fared much better with Obama and Clinton, that raised some taxes.

  93. rodney dill says:

    I watched Patriot Games.

  94. wr says:

    @JKB: “Hillary’s not going to do the perp walk. Her and Bill will be moving to a non-extradiction country.”

    Wow. There is no end to your gullibility. Do you really think Trump gives a damn about Hillary’s “crimes” anymore? That was red meat to stir up yahoos like yourself. If he can make a buck going after Hillary, he will. Otherwise it will be time for reconciliation.

  95. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Everybody just sat back and twiddled their thumbs when the GOP staged an assault on our Constitutional order because they all thought it would be easier to let President Hillary fix it. And remember a couple years ago when the idea of getting Ginsberg to step down so Obama could replace her? And liberals couldn’t bear to part with their beloved internet meme, the Notorious RBG”

    What sort of moron garbage are you peddling today? What exactly were the Democrats supposed to do when the Republicans refused to hold hearings? They had no power. And how is it liberals’ fault that RBG had no interests in retiring?

    I know, I know — everyone is at fault except you, the purest man on the internet. Except that you voted for Trump. So you may do as much self-righteous crowing as you want, but anything that happens now — you own it.

  96. Ben Wolf says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa: But look at the deficit spending during the Obama administration. It was a massive flow of net financial wealth and that’s good for corporate earnings.

  97. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: Look, dude, I’m sorry I even posted that. It was an inappropriate attack on you. I apologize.