What I'm watching tonight
Posted November 6, 2018 7:17 p.m. EST
(CNN) — With 435 House races, 36 governor races and 35 Senate races -- not to mention all the ballot initiatives and referenda -- it's impossible to watch everything. Unless you are very, very, very good at multitasking. Like, very good.
For the rest of us, it's very tough to know where to look. (Unless you are looking between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. EST, in which case you need to watch me analyze the hell out of this election on CNN's airwaves.) To that end, I've put together a handy-dandy, hour-by-hour tipsheet of a small handful of races I will be watching to see which way the wind is blowing. (Remember, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.)
These are grouped by when polls close. And, yes, there are LOTS more races you can watch. (Here's a broader preview from CNN's expert political team.) But these are the races I'm watching:
Kentucky's 6th district: Donald Trump won this seat by 15 points in 2016. So if Amy McGrath (D) beats Rep. Andy Barr (R), it's an early but important sign that Democrats are very likely to have a very good night.
Indiana Senate: This is one of five states that Trump won by double digits in 2016 in which a Democratic senator -- in this case Joe Donnelly -- is trying to get re-elected. Trump stopped in Fort Wayne in his final day of campaigning on Monday, so you know how important he thinks this one is. If Donnelly loses, it's hard to see how Democrats' already narrow path to the Senate majority doesn't disappear.
Virginia's 7th district: Rep. Dave Brat's stunning primary upset of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) in 2014 heralded that takeover of the party that Trump brought to full fruition two years later. But Trump only won this seat with 50.5% in 2016, and Brat may simply be too conservative (and too Trump-y) for this electorate.
West Virginia Senate: The expectation is that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) will beat state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) despite the fact that Trump carried the state by 43 points. What's most telling here is margin: If this race gets called by the networks by 8:30 p.m. (or earlier), it's going to be a good night for Democrats. If it's close as the vote rolls in and at midnight it's still not called, it's a sign Republicans are doing better than we expected.
Florida governor: To my mind, the race between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is the single most important race in the country. It's not just because Gillum is running as a representative of the new left -- non-white, unapologetically liberal -- or that DeSantis has hugged Trump as closely as any candidate in the country. It's also because whoever wins will be the highest-ranked elected official in the swingiest state headed into 2020, and will play a major role in how the state's legislative and congressional lines are drawn in 2021.
Arizona Senate: If Democrats can re-elect Donnelly and Manchin, which means their hopes of taking the Senate majority still exist by the time polls close in Arizona, then the next domino they need to fall is Rep. Krysten Sinema (D) beating Rep. Martha McSally (R) in this open-seat race for Jeff Flake's seat. Sinema has led -- albeit narrowly -- for much of the race -- but Democrats have had very, very little success winning federal races in Arizona in recent years.
Iowa governor: There's no question that Democrats are going to pick up governorships tonight. But how many? And where? Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin may get more attention, but I am keeping a close eye on Iowa, where Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is trying to win a full term. Reynolds is a down-the-line establishment Republican. But will she be lumped into Trump's category? And if she loses, what does that say about the state of the electorate in this most crucial of early 2020 states?
California's 21st district: Want to know if it's a total and complete Democratic wave? Watch this seat, where Rep. David Valadao (R) has done everything right -- except represent a seat that Hillary Clinton won by 15.5 points in 2016. If this election is a negative referendum on Trump of significant proportions, Valadao loses.
The Point: This is a MASSIVE night in our modern American history. What happens tonight (and as we count all the votes and sift through the results tomorrow) could change the direction of our government and our country for the next two years. At least.