Let me take the first crack at some discussion of what happened last night, although it is complicated by results that remain unknown in several races.
1. The evening was very short on presidential election drama. In my mind the election was over at about 7:30 EST. When John McCain was leading 51-49 in the early returns from Indiana (gathered from the most rural parts of the state) that was all we needed to see. A Republican who needs to struggle in order to hold Indiana is deeply fucked. After that data was released it simply became a matter of Obama's margin of victory in the Electoral College.
2. I will talk about this at length next week but, for all intents and purposes, polling was dead-on in this election. I rip on polls a lot and I listened to eight weeks of people dreaming up scenarios (fueled by either Democratic pessimism or GOP optimism) about how they were totally fabricated and unreliable. But it turns out that aggregated state polling was essentially 100% correct in the presidential race. Blue states went blue. Red states went red. Toss-up states had extremely tight margins of victory for one candidate or the other.
3. The uncompetitiveness of PA is the only state-level result that surprised me (although Obama's 200,000 vote win in Florida was a pleasant surprise too). Perhaps the GOP spin about how McCain was pouring every dollar into PA and pinning all of his hopes on it subconsciously affected my expectations. Given all the time, money, and talk that McCain poured into the state I expected a narrow Obama win similar to Kerry's razor-thin win in 2004. Turns out the state was a total blowout – with exactly the 10-12 point gap predicted by the polls.
4. In the Senate races, nothing shocked me except Ted Stevens. I am floored by that one. Not only did Begich lead before the indictments, but the few post-indictment polls showed double-digit margins. It's embarrassing to whiff on a race like this and I'd love to say that I have a convenient explanation for what happened. Unfortunately I'm speechless. Every result, even when I guessed wrong, made sense except for this one.
5. We're going to be waiting several days, possibly weeks, for Franken-Coleman results. Not until the last military and absentee ballots arrive in the mail will we know who squeaked out a win.
6. With overwhelmingly Democratic Lane County (Eugene) still only 25% reported, I like Jeff Merkley's chances to close a 14,000-vote gap with Gordon Smith. Merkley also leads big in Clatsop and Benton counties, both of which are only half-reported.
7. The combined races that will be decided by less than 0.5% of the vote – OR and MN Senate seats as well as presidential results in NC, IN, and MO – make clear that turnout matters. That a state like MO can have 4.3 million ballots cast with only 6,000 votes separating the candidates should remind us all that, in many instances, our vote does actually count. Of course, I suppose many more races support the argument that staying home is OK too. But let's be optimistic for the moment.
8. Excepting the Senators from Maine, the purge of New England Republicans from Congress is complete with the defeat of Christopher Shays.
9. Fox News may have hit a new low last night. I am convinced that their audience is 50% talk radio fanboys and 50% hipsters watching them ironically to mock them. Brit Hume's effort to lead a panel chat on "Will a President Obama raise our taxes or just jack up the deficit to pay for his trillions in new spending?" as the results rolled in was too amusing to be sincere. Extra credit for trotting out Juan Williams (the Clarence Page-style "inarticulate token black liberal" character) who couldn't name a single policy proposal Obama made during the campaign.
10. The right-wingers trying to take solace in how "close" McCain made the race should note that this is the most sizeable margin of victory since 1988. George W. Bush could only envy this kind of win. I think "mandates" are bullshit, but America went more solidly for Obama than it ever did for Our Leader.
More later. Add your observations and thoughts.