First Posted: 1/15/2009
As you watch the election returns tonight, expect the map of the United States to begin looking like a football game between the University of North Carolina and N.C. State in the Wolfpack's Carter-Finley Stadium - red everywhere, with a little bit of blue in the cheap seats, the upper deck and the far-left end zone.
There is no question that this country is pretty evenly divided, but the states, while far from united, are less split. Expect Bush to win as many as 31 or 32 states, although doing so is no guarantee that he will be re-elected. Kerry has an 81-vote head start courtesy of New York and California, but needs a good showing in several key battleground states to win the Electoral College.
Bush appears to be a slight favorite - mainly because he has more margin for error in the battleground states - but nothing is for sure. It really depends on which party is better at getting its supporters to the polls.
The closeness of the popular vote suggests an all-nighter for those who won't rest until they know who wins this election, but there is at least one scenario that could drop the curtain early: If either Bush or Kerry wins both Pennsylvania and Florida, then that candidate is almost guaranteed the election.
Our guess is Kerry wins Pennsylvania and Bush wins Florida, which means the next key state will be Ohio. Complicating Kerry's task is that it's almost impossible for him to win the presidency without Ohio, but Bush could be re-elected without that state - if you believe the polls.
But the polls are less trustworthy this year than in the past. Millions of new voters have registered since 2000, and no one knows how many will actually cast votes. More people will cast ballots today that ever before in a presidential election, but turnout remains the wild card.
There is a high possibility, perhaps even a probability, that Americans will awake on Wednesday without knowing who won this election. This election campaign has been too long and too negative, so we hope it isn't extended. This nation doesn't need a repeat of 2000 - particularly while we are at war.
The lawyers, however, are ready to go on the clock.