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Viewer's guide to election night

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Welcome to CNN election night 2000. I will be your guide. Here are the stories we'll be reporting, hour by hour, as the night goes on. All times are Eastern.

In this story:

6:00 p.m.

7:30 p.m.

8:00 p.m.

9:00 p.m.

10:00 p.m.

11:00 p.m.

12:00 a.m.

6:00 p.m.

The first polls close in Indiana and Kentucky with 20 electoral votes at stake. Keep an eye on Kentucky: It has voted for the winner in every election since 1964.

7 p.m.

Polls close in six more states -- Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia -- with a total of 66 electoral votes. The big prize is Florida, with 25 electoral votes.

Florida went for President George Bush in 1992, then switched to Bill Clinton in 1996, then elected Jeb Bush governor in 1998. It's this year's biggest battleground state.

We'll look at Jewish voters in Florida, to see if Gore gets a big payoff for naming a Jewish running mate. We'll look at Cuban-American voters, to see if there's any backlash against Al Gore over the Clinton Administration's handling of the Elian Gonzalez affair. We'll look at seniors to see if Bush's Social Security and prescription drug plans are helping him or hurting him in that crucial voting group.

Rep. Bill McCollum
Rep. Bill McCollum, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida  

Florida also has an important Senate race, where the GOP candidate, Rep. Bill McCollum, was one of the House impeachment managers. We'll see if there's any lingering residue of the impeachment controversy.

Another big Senate race is in Virginia, where Charles Robb is the most vulnerable Democrat running for re-election this year.

7:30 p.m.

Polls close in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia -- 40 more electoral votes.

Ohio is crucial for Bush. No Republican has ever been elected President without carrying Ohio, a state that went for Clinton twice.

We could have a big surprise in West Virginia, a state that's voted Democratic in eight out of the last 10 elections. Maybe two surprises: West Virginia's Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood is the most vulnerable incumbent governor running for re-election this year.

There's another bitter contest for governor in North Carolina between Democrat Mike Easley and Republican Richard Vinroot. Vinroot has been trying to tie Easley to Al Gore. If Gore loses North Carolina, will he bring Easley down too?

8:00 p.m.

This could be the deciding point in the election. Polls close in 16 states and the District of Columbia, with 202 electoral votes on the line. Three of the states in this class are crucial battlegrounds -- Michigan, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Gore is depending on unions to deliver Michigan for him. We'll see if Pennsylvania's conservative leanings on abortion and gun rights hurt Gore, and Missouri is a bellwether state that's voted for the winner in every election but one for the past 100 years.

Jean Carnahan
Jean Carnahan, the widow of Gov. Mel Carnahan  

Missouri has a bizarre Senate race in which the Democratic candidate, Gov. Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. The new governor says he'll appoint Carnahan's widow to the seat if the late governor actually wins. Can a dead Democrat defeat incumbent Republican Sen. John Ashcroft? And will the loss of the party's popular standard-bearer hurt Gore in Missouri?

In the 8 p.m. hour, we'll find out about two other GOP senators who seem to be in trouble -- Spencer Abraham in Michigan and Bill Roth in Delaware. If they fall, the Republican Senate majority is threatened.

New Jersey has the most expensive Senate race in history. Democrat Jon Corzine has spent over $50 million dollars to win it, but polls show underdog Republican Bob Franks catching up. We'll see if Corzine's big spending creates a backlash.

Then there's the Ralph Nader question: how much will he hurt Gore? The results in Maine will give us our first clue. And here's a ballot question to watch: Will Massachusetts pass a law mandating universal health care for all residents?

Texas and Tennessee also close at 8 p.m. Texas looks like a big win for Bush. But Tennessee is no sure thing for Gore. Gore could become the first candidate who fails to carry his home state since George McGovern in 1972.

At 8:30 p.m, polls close in Arkansas -- only six electoral votes, but it could be an embarrassment if President Clinton's home state goes for Bush.

9:00 p.m.

Twelve more states come in with another 102 electoral votes, including the battleground states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Will Nader take enough votes from Gore to put those two historically liberal states in the GOP column?

But the headline in the 9 p.m. hour will be New York. There's not much suspense over how New York will vote for president, but there's a lot of suspense over whether New York will send first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Senate. Will she become the first lady who overreached or the first lady who made it on her own? We'll look at how the carpetbagger issue plays, and how women respond to her candidacy.

Sen. Rod Grams
Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minnesota, is facing a tough challenge  

The results at that hour will also tell us whether the most vulnerable Republican senator running for re-election survives in Minnesota -- that's Rod Grams -- and whether Republican Lincoln Chafee gets to carry on the legacy of his late father, Sen. John Chafee, in Rhode Island.

We'll be looking for the results of an important referendum in Colorado that would require background checks for buyers at gun shows. It's an emotional issue in the state that experienced the Columbine tragedy.

10:00 p.m.

Results from Iowa and a number of western states start coming in. Iowa is a battleground state that gets a lot of attention because of its first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

Montana has a tight Senate race, where incumbent Republican Sen. Conrad Burns is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Brian Schweitzer. The key issue in that race is prescription drugs, and we'll be looking to see if that issue pays off for Democrats.

11:00 p.m.

The Big Enchilada comes in -- California, with 54 electoral votes. California is expected to go for Gore, but Bush showed the flag. Bush hopes to put Ronald Reagan's state back in the GOP column, where it was for almost 50 years before it became Clinton country.

California has six hotly-contested House races. By this time, we should begin to get an indication of whether either party has an edge in the race to control the House of Representatives. A solid Gore victory in California, with strong Gore coattails, could put the Democrats in power in the House and keep them there for the next decade.

California is also voting on an important school voucher initiative, which could make or break the voucher movement across the country.

And don't forget Oregon and Washington, two more West Coast battleground states where Nader voters will play a key role. West Coast Nader voters have the luxury of waiting to see how the vote is going in the rest of the country before they decide whether Al Gore really needs their vote.

Sen. Slade Gorton
Sen. Slate Gorton is fighting a challenge from Maria Cantwell  

One more big Senate race is in Washington state, where incumbent Republican Slade Gorton is facing a self-financed, multi-millionaire challenger -- who happens to be a woman, Internet executive Maria Cantwell.

We'll be looking to see if the gender gap plays a decisive role in that race, and all over the country. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then Election 2000 could end up being the latest installment of Star Wars.

12:00 a.m.

Only Alaska is left, with its three electoral votes. Kind of chilly up there in November, but not to worry: If this race is as close as it looks, at the midnight hour, we may still be counting ballots in Florida.



Monday, November 6, 2000


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