What to expect when you’re expecting

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING…. We are, oddly enough, just a few hours away from some states wrapping up voting for the day. It’s probably a good time to talk a little about tonight’s schedule.

At 6 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in Indiana and Kentucky.

For the past couple of election cycles, these two are called by the networks almost immediately, and are considered reliably Republican states. Tonight, Indiana may prove to be more interesting, with polls showing a close contest. Obama wouldn’t necessarily need Indiana to get to 270, but if he wins the state’s 11 electoral votes, it will reinforce the notion that McCain is in for a long night. (Also note, there are parts of Indiana, most notably Gary, where the polls won’t close until 7 p.m. eastern.)

At 7 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in most of Florida, most of New Hampshire, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont.

Obviously, there are some key electoral prizes here. If McCain loses Virginia, his paths to 270 shrink considerably. If McCain loses Florida, his chances all but disappear. Also, keep an eye on Georgia, where turnout has been amazing.

At 7:30 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

While West Virginia is not in play, both Ohio and North Carolina are home to an intense GOTV effort from the Obama campaign. Polls show Obama with a slight edge in Ohio, and McCain with an edge in N.C.

At 8 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in most of the eastern half of the country, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Missouri.

Pennsylvania is obviously McCain’s most sought-after “blue” state, while the polls show Missouri as one of the most competitive, if not the most competitive, state in the country.

At 8:30 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in Arkansas.

Even by the standards of the deep South, Arkansas isn’t close to being competitive.

At 9 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in Louisiana, parts of the Southwest, Plains, and Midwest, including Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

If Obama comes up short in Florida or Ohio, Colorado and New Mexico are key to Obama’s chances of getting to 270.

At 10 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in Nevada, Iowa, Montana, Utah, and parts of Idaho.

Iowa appears to be Obama’s single best pick-up opportunity, while Nevada is right up there. The McCain campaign has insisted repeatedly of late that McCain is practically tied with Obama in Iowa, while independent polls show otherwise. We’ll see who’s right fairly soon. Also, keep an eye on Montana, where Obama aides believe they have a real shot.

At 11 p.m. eastern, the polls will close in California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.

The Pacific coast doesn’t appear competitive this year, but Obama’s showing in California will almost certainly have a significant impact in his popular-vote totals. As for Hawaii, if I were to bet on which states gave the respective candidates their biggest wins, I’d say McCain in Utah and Obama in Hawaii.

At 1 a.m. eastern, the polls will close in Alaska.

There was a point at which the Obama campaign thought Alaska would be in play. That was before its governor joined the Republican ticket.

So, how’s all of this going to play out? Your guess is as good as mine, but here’s hoping that a) there’s no 269-269 tie, and b) there’s no month-long electoral crisis that relies on the Supreme Court for a resolution.