Wondering when you need to be at that big election-watching party tonight and not miss the national networks calling the election for Obama? Here’s what you need to know:

First, let’s assume that there are 12 battleground states — and that is being rather generous to Mitt Romney. Let’s say the others go as expected (e.g. Idaho for Romney and California for Obama). That gives Obama and Romney a baseline of 191 electoral votes each. Here’s the states and the number of electoral votes at stake throughout the evening tonight:

7 p.m. (all times Eastern)

  • Virginia – 13 electoral votes – 2008 margin: Obama 52.7% – McCain 46.4%

7:30 p.m. 

  • Ohio – 18 EVs – 2008: Obama 51.2% – McCain 47.2%
  • North Carolina – 15 EV – 2008: Obama 49.9% – McCain 49.5%

8:00 p.m.

  • New Hampshire – 4 EVs – 2008: Obama 54.3% – McCain 44.8%
  • Pennsylvania – 20 EVs – 2008: Obama 54.7% – McCain 44.3%
  • Michigan – 16 EVs – 2008: Obama 57.4% – McCain 40.9%
  • Minnesota – 10 EVs – 2008: Obama 54.2% – McCain 44.0%
  • Florida – 29 EVs – 2008: Obama 50.9% – McCain 48.4%

9:00 p.m.

  • Wisconsin – 10 EVs – 2008: Obama 56.3% – McCain 42.4%
  • Colorado – 9 EVs – 2008: Obama 53.5% – McCain 44.9%

10:00 p.m.

  • Iowa – 6 EVs – 2008: Obama 54.0% – McCain 44.7%
  • Nevada – 6 EVs – 2008: Obama 55.1% – McCain 42.7%

The earliest it’s mathematically possible for either candidate to clinch the nomination is after 8pm, when five swing states close the polls. Among the first 8 states, Obama (or Romney) could win everything but Florida and North Carolina an have it all wrapped up with 272 electoral votes. If Obama loses Virginia, it sends us into overtime, awaiting Wisconsin and Colorado, and in that scenario, he’d have to win them both to put this thing to bed before Iowa and Nevada report.

The highest possible electoral vote total either candidate can hope to achieve given the states currently in play is 347. According to most state polling averages, the most likely scenario is for Obama to reach 303 – winning all the battlegrounds save for North Carolina and Florida.

Given that, if you’re the type to arrive fashionably late, make sure you don’t set foot into your election watching party any earlier or 8pm, because that’s when it will start to get interesting.

Have fun everyone!

Sources: Poll Closing Times, Politico; Electoral Vote Counts & interactive prediction tool, 270towin.com; Current poll averages, RealClearPolitics

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  • metalhed

    As I type, it’s two minutes to “midnight,” or rather, 7 p.m.

    Hope all of you got to vote and that your votes are counted.

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