Some of the earliest returns in tomorrow's US Presidential Election could give us major knowledge about the final outcome. The race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain could become clear soon after the first polls begin to close at 6 pm in Indiana. Obama and McCain are locked in a surprisingly tight duel in Indiana, a Midwestern state that has voted Republican in every White House race since 1964. A breakthrough win for Obama, or even a neck and neck struggle, would be an encouraging sign of broad strength for the senator from neighboring Illinois.
But if McCain appears to be cruising to a relatively easy win in Indiana it could signal trouble for Obama, who is challenging McCain in about a dozen states won in 2004 by Republican President George W. Bush. The first public sign of Democrat John Kerry's loss in 2004 came from a worse than expected monster blowout in Indiana.
"If Obama wins Indiana, the election is over," Democratic consultant Doug Schoen said. "Even if it's close, within 2 or 3 points, it probably suggests a big Obama win nationally. If it's more than 4 points for McCain, it's going to be wait and see for a while."
The next round of tests is at 7 pm when voting ends in Georgia, parts of Florida and the battleground state of Virginia, another place where Democrats have not won a presidential vote since 1964 but have made gains in recent statewide races.
"If Obama wins Virginia by a decisive margin, it's a pretty strong suggestion he's going to win the election," Schoen said. "If McCain wins by more than a few points that could suggest movement toward him."
At 7:30pm, polls close in the states of Ohio and North Carolina and by 8pm , all polls in Florida will be closed. Florida's 27 electoral votes and Ohio's 20 electoral votes are two of the biggest prizes still up for grabs on Tuesday.
John McCain faces a perilous path to gaining the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. Essentially McCain has to carry all of those early battleground states to have a realistic chance. A loss in any would increase pressure on McCain to make up for the loss with an upset of Obama in Pennsylvania, which Democrats have taken in the past four presidential elections. Voting in Pennsylvania, which has 21 electoral votes, also ends at 8pm.