Liveblog: Early election night results

The polls are closing on the East Coast with results, prognostications and wild-ass guesses streaming in. Coloradans have two hours remaining to cast their ballots. Need help finding your polling place or figuring how to vote? Check out our handy guide.

5:01 p.m. – They’re already counting the votes in battleground state Indiana, one of two states with the earliest closing times for polling places (the other is Kentucky, which is expected to tilt heavily toward Republican John McCain).

With 2 percent of the precincts counted, Barack Obama holds the slimmest of leads in the Hoosier State, according to figures retrieved from CNN’s election tracker at 4:45 p.m.

Obama 31,580 50%
McCain 31,138 49%

Don’t be hasty drawing conclusions from such a small sliver of the returns, but pay close attention to Indiana. The state hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1964, and Obama has been contesting its 11 electoral votes ferociously.

Pollster.com’s Brian Schaffner pegs the usually Red state as one of the keys to understanding how the night’s election returns will play out:

Indiana is a state where Obama should presumably have benefited from the protracted nomination campaign and the massive organization he has build in that state. Thus, if turnout among young adults is going to increase markedly, it should be obvious here first. According to exit polls, in 2004, 14% of the Indiana electorate was between the ages of 18-29. We have to be careful with early exit poll figures since young voters may be more enthusiastic (and, thus, more likely to show up in early exit poll results), but if that figure goes up significantly in this election, then that is probably the first evidence we will have that young voters are turning out at higher rates in this election.

Another state to watch is Virginia. The commonwealth’s polls close at 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, and could provide a clue to how other swing states might fall:

Virginia may tell us more about this election than any other state. Not only does the map look very difficult for McCain if he loses Virginia (particularly if the networks can call it relatively quickly), but the demographics in Virginia can provide us with some useful insight into what may happen in other states. In 2004, exit polls indicated that African Americans made up 21% of the Virginia electorate. Will that figure improve in 2008 and, if so, by how much? What will the party id figures look like? In 2004, 39% of voters said they were Republicans compared to 35% who were Democrats. Democrats would like (and probably expect) to see those numbers flip in Virginia just as they are looking for party id gains in other high growth states like North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada.

Ernest Luning

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5:26 p.m. – With polls predicting an Obama victory, House Democrats have become increasingly convinced that the man who helmed their 2006 takeover, former top Clinton advisor Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill), will leave Congress to serve as Chief of Staff to a President Obama.

From Roll Call:

The move would mean House Democrats are losing one of their pre-eminent political strategists — and a figure many regarded as the Speaker-in-waiting — just as they gear up to unleash an ambitious agenda with what they expect will be expanded majorities in both chambers and one of their own in the White House.

“I think it’s a big loss for the House, and it would better if he stayed,” said Steve Elmendorf, a top Democratic lobbyist. “But being Speaker is theoretical, and this is something that’s right in front of him that he can have right now.”

Should the rumor prove true, Democratic sources said Obama would do well to have a hard-nosed politician with an insider’s grasp of Washington power like Emanuel at his side as he takes the reins at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

“If it’s true, it makes sense,” one said. “Rahm is very smart, knows how the White House and Congress work and would be a good link between the two.

Emanuel’s still a relatively young guy, so I wouldn’t rule out a return to Congress should he get a gig in an Obama White House.

Jeff Bridges

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5:42 p.m. – Voting in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Lincoln Park in Denver appears to be going smoothly, with a steady stream of more than two dozen voters trickling in the polling place at La Alama recreational center at 5 p.m.

The biggest rush was in the morning, according to Abbey J, a poll worker at the center who said that there had been no major problems reported. The Colorado Independent was able to confirm that there was in fact a bilingual poll worker there and that the ballots were available in Spanish, unlike problems that were alleged in Weld County earlier in the day.

Two poll watchers outside the polling place — one with the AFL-CIO and another with Just Vote Colorado— also said the day had passed by without major incident.

Erin Rosa

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6:01 p.m. – MSNBC projects Obama has won Pennsylvania as are many of the mid-Atlantic and New England states.

Projected electoral vote tally: Obama = 103 McCain= 34.

Chris Matthews says the McCain victory strategy has “crashed.” Well, I guess that’s that. Everybody in line to vote should go home since the Eastern Time Zone evidentially only matters. Dumbbell.

Wendy Norris

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6:42 p.m. – National Review Online is all atwitter about Amendment 59:

Colorado’s Amendment 59 is the latest in a long series of efforts by the Left to undermine TABOR — and it represents the most serious threat that TABOR has ever faced.

I think the most serious threat is having Douglas Bruce publicly advocating for it. How many cities have de-Bruced?

Wendy Norris

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6:48 p.m. – Two Colorado counties make Politico’s top 10 among key counties that “could help determine the winner of this year’s race” for president. Solidly Republican El Paso County and suburban Jefferson County, turning a bluer shade of purple, vault ahead of more than 3,000 counties nationwide onto the political news site’s ranking — one because it’s a bellwether for shifting winds and the the other because it’s a must-win that might not deliver.

Here’s how Politico’s Charles Mahtesian described the pair, which fell just below a couple Missouri counties and edged out a handful of Ohio counties:

7) Jefferson County, Colo.: There are still more registered Republicans than Democrats in this Denver suburb, but it may not be that way for long. Once a GOP bastion, Jeffco has moved to the center in recent years; Bush carried it in 2004 but so did Democrat Ken Salazar in his Senate race. One measure of the county’s importance — GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was dispatched here to hold one of her first solo events after the Republican National Convention.

8) El Paso County, Colo.: This conservative stronghold, home to Colorado Springs, produces GOP margins that are almost enough to offset the Democratic vote advantage in Denver. McCain will need to take at least two-thirds of the vote here in Colorado’s second-most populous county to have any shot at winning the state.

Both counties have seen numerous visits from presidential candidates this season — most recently an election-eve rally with Sarah Palin in Colorado Springs — and will bear watching all night as returns trickle in.

h/t PolitickerCO’s Jeremy Pelzer.

Ernest Luning

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6:42 p.m. – Just heard Gov. Bill Ritter riffing on Obama and Colorado in a Washington Post/Newsweek live video feed.

Ritter spent a chunk of time talking up the work that Barack Obama’s campaign has done in Colorado — including in the conservative counties of El Paso and Douglas. In Douglas County south of Denver, Obama had three campaign offices. “That’s unheard of,” Ritter said. “I’ve never seen a presidential campaign this well organized on the ground in Colorado. We had 40 [offices] to McCain’s 12 or 13.”

In addition, Ritter pumped up the “great job” that Obama did talking to Coloradans about the issues foremost on their minds — education, health care, the economy, jobs. And he had great surrogates in Colorado, Ritter said, specifically Sen. Ken Salazar and Rep. Mark Udall.

As one pundit pointed out, a Democrat hasn’t won Colorado’s race to the White House since 1992, when Ross Perot chipped in to give Bill Clinton a victory in the Centennial State.

Cara DeGette

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Wendy Norris

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