Posted: 10/28/08 07:01 PM [ET]
When polls begin to close in exactly one week, a group of new bellwether states could indicate if the election night will be short for those wanting to stay up until a new president has been determined.
Polls will close at 7 p.m. in some states that will provide a clear indication whether Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) will run away with the election or whether Republican rival Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) will be able to keep the country guessing.
The key states to watch at that hour are Virginia, Indiana and Georgia, none of which have been close in the past two elections. However, Obama appears poised to win Virginia, with its 13 electoral votes, and could also prevail in Indiana, where he has held a slim lead in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. There are also indications that the Democrat is within striking distance in Georgia. A close result in the Peach State could indicate that Obama is strong in the South, which could help him in North Carolina, where polls will remain open half an hour longer.
Polls also close at 7 p.m. in New Hampshire, one of only two states in which McCain is seen as taking electoral votes away from the Democrats. However, according to RealClearPolitics, Obama is currently enjoying a sizable advantage of more than 7 percent there.
If Obama prevails in Virginia, McCain will be backed into a bit of a corner early in the evening. If the Illinois senator wins one of the other two states in addition to the commonwealth, meaning that he would add at least 24 electoral votes to Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) total from 2004, the electoral landscape will begin to look hopeless for the Republican.
The best scenario for a McCain upset would be to sweep the three main battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. If he can manage victories there, while also holding onto Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia and only giving up New Hampshire and Virginia, the focus of the race would shift to the Western states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, and viewers would be in for a long night.
Even then, McCain would face an uphill climb to victory. Obama could still win by sweeping the three Rocky Mountain states. He appears to have solid leads in New Mexico and Colorado, while the race in Nevada is a toss-up.If the Democrat wins the Silver State and its five electoral votes, he would get the 270 needed to win. McCain would reach the goal by winning Nevada and either Montana or North Dakota.