What to Expect and How to Watch Election Night 2018

What to Expect and How to Watch Election Night 2018

A line forms for early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Cincinnati.

SourceJohn Minchillo/AP

Why you should care

Because it’s too easy to get lost with so many races to watch.

You’re invited to spend election night with OZY! Join our exclusive conversation on Facebook alongside OZY’s reporters, editors, analysts and experts as well as participants from our hit town hall show, Take On America. Just click “+ Join Group” below the cover photo. We will break down the election results and discuss what they mean for immigration, guns and the potential impeachment of President Donald Trump. Also, keep an eye on OZY.com for live updates and analysis from our politics team as we track the midterm scene hour by hour.

At last, it’s time for the polls and projections to give way to real votes. But before we do, the final word from our exclusive election forecast is that once the dust settles, there will be a Democratic House — with room to spare — and a Republican Senate.

OZY’s exclusive election forecast, in partnership with data firm 0ptimus, finds Democrats with a 96.4 percent chance of retaking the House, while Republicans have an 89.1 percent chance of holding at least 50 Senate seats and securing their majority. Both races became slightly more competitive in the past week, as the national political dynamics improved somewhat for Republicans and individual race polling provided a mixed picture.

But the reality has been hardening for some time: Democrats surging in the suburbs as a backlash to Donald Trump should be enough to win the House, while the Republican base jolted to action by Trump’s hyping of the migrant caravan and Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation fight should keep enough red states red to secure the Senate.

In partnership with Washington-based Republican firm 0ptimus, we crunched more than 100 factors that helped predict past elections, along with extra weighting for unique aspects of this political year, to produce these forecasts. (For more background, read here.) Still, there’s enough uncertainty where partisans on either side shouldn’t feel comfortable in going to bed early. “There are always surprises on election night, and low chances do not mean no chances,” says Alex Alduncin, data scientist for 0ptimus.

So what’s the best way to follow along as the polls close across the country? Here are the races to watch for each hour of poll closures, along with what our data say about their odds.

6 pm ET: Indiana Senate (OZY/0ptimus Odds: 60.8 percent chance of Democratic hold)

The polls close early in eastern Kentucky and most of Indiana. Low-key Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly has held strong against businessman Mike Braun, but this is a red state. Indianapolis might take a bit to report, so keep an early eye on the South Bend area. If numbers are tracking closely to 2016 — a big win for Trump — that’s an early sign Democratic senators could lose not just here, but in Missouri, North Dakota and Montana.

7 pm: Virginia’s 7th Congressional District (OZY/0ptimus Odds: 49.2 percent chance of Republican hold)

Rep. Dave Brat is best known for shocking then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 Republican primary, and as an outspoken member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus. But in a district that’s heavy on Richmond suburbs, he’s got a fight on his hands from former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger. Watch the numbers in bellwether Chesterfield County.

8 pm: New Jersey’s 3rd District (OZY/0ptimus Odds: 44.8 percent chance of Republican hold)

Former Obama administration national security official and OZY Rising Star Andy Kim is relying on health care to try to knock off Rep. Tom MacArthur — a strong incumbent, but one who was heavily involved in the GOP’s Obamacare repeal efforts. If the message is sticking here in the Philadelphia suburbs, chances are it will topple Republicans outside Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere as the night goes on.

9 pm: Texas’ 23rd District (OZY/0ptimus Odds: 71.2 percent chance of Republican hold)

Both incumbent Rep. Will Hurd, a Black former CIA agent, and challenger Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Air Force veteran of Filipina descent, have gotten the OZY Rising Star treatment as they tangle in a vast territory along the Mexican border. The moderate Republican Hurd has built a strong independent brand, and if he falls, it’s a sign that even the strongest incumbents can’t handle the blue wave — and that perhaps star Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is helping Democrats down-ballot.

10 pm: Arizona’s Senate race (OZY/0ptimus Odds: 39.9 percent chance of Republican hold)

Arizona’s polls actually close at 9pm Eastern but won’t report results until an hour later — so we’ll get a rush of numbers at 10 for one of our Ground Game races we’ve been following all year. If Kyrsten Sinema can flip Phoenix’s Maricopa County, she could triumph against Republican Martha McSally and become the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Arizona in 30 years.

11 pm: California’s 50th District (67.1 percent chance of Republican hold)

All eyes will be on five House races in the Los Angeles area — where slow-counting California could keep us in suspense for days –- but if you’re looking for a sleeper out West, head down to San Diego County for perhaps the nastiest race for Congress this year. Incumbent Republican Duncan Hunter Jr. should be safe, but he was indicted for misusing campaign funds to pay his personal expenses. Hunter’s response has been to attack the Department of Justice in Trumpian style, while painting Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar (who worked in the Obama White House) as a terrorist sympathizer trying to “infiltrate Congress,” because his grandfather was involved in terrorist plots as intelligence chief for the Palestinian political party Fatah.

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