Five Things To Look For While Watching The Returns Tonight

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Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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The first results from the presidential election will roll in at 7 p.m. EST. Here are five key things to look for.

1. Surprises In The Initial State Results

Virginia and Georgia are among the first states to have their polls close at 7 p.m. EST. Most polling shows Clinton ahead solidly in Virginia, and likewise for Trump in Georgia. Trump held a rally early Monday morning, originally scheduled for Sunday night, in Virginia and the state is traditionally considered a battleground state despite Clinton’s strong performance in polling there. At the same time, polling shows Clinton within five percent of Trump in the typically-Republican state of Georgia.

A win by Clinton in Georgia or Trump in Virginia would signal a victory overall for the respective candidate.

2. Trump Needs Wins In North Carolina And Ohio

The polls close in these two states at 7:30 p.m. EST, and Trump’s path to 270 becomes almost impossible if he doesn’t notch wins in these two states. A Clinton win in North Carolina would likely be due to a strong black-turnout, something she’s depending on to stop Trump from winning.

3. More must-wins come in at 8 p.m. EST

The polls in Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania close at 8 p.m. EST. Pennsylvania has been described as a “firewall” for Clinton and she spoke in Philadelphia Monday night with President Barack Obama. A win here is necessary for Clinton. A loss in Pennsylvania would signal a large turnout of working-class whites for Trump and suburban whites warming up to the Republican nominee.

Those two factors would bode well for Trump in New Hampshire and Maine, specifically the state’s second congressional district which gets its own electoral vote. A win in Maine’s second and in New Hampshire would give Trump five electoral votes, not the most, but would help keep avenues to 270 electoral votes open.

Florida of course is always an important state and the Clinton campaign is hoping a surge in Hispanic turnout will keep a Trump victory at bay. A Clinton win at here makes a Trump presidency a lot less likely.


Donald Trump’s last rally of his presidential campaign was spent Monday night in Grand Rapids, Mich. A Republican hasn’t won Michigan since 1988, but the Trump campaign is banking on a surge of white working-class voters. A win here would likely require diminished black turnout in Detroit.

5. Exit Poll Demographic Figures

In a volatile election there have been at least a few constants. These are women like Clinton, men like Trump, whites like Trump, and non-whites like Clinton. Now will these groups turn out for their favored candidates?

Clinton needs to reunite the Obama coalition, which requires strong black turnout without that she can expect a lose. Trump has eschewed the route of appealing to Hispanics, so without a historic white turnout for the Republican nominee he is without hope.