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The Fix's Election Night Viewers Guide

For two years we have waited for this day.

Election Day 2006 is finally here and, as always at The Fix, we aim to provide our readers with the information they need to know to wow their friends and vanquish their enemies. Starting tonight, we'll be updating The Fix regularly (or as long as my two typing fingers hold out), but here's something to hold you over in the meantime.

This is a viewer's guide designed to highlight a race or two (or even three) that you should monitor tonight as the returns roll in hour by hour. It is not an attempt to present a comprehensive look at every race in the country -- you can navigate to all the returns on washingtonpost.com, or focus on scores of key races with the 50-state story that ran in The Post on Sunday or the Congressional Countdown as your guide.

The Fix's guide is designed to highlight the races that will tell us whether a Democratic wave is building and how large it looks to be.

To the guide!

6 p.m. ET

* Indiana's 9th: The race between Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) and former Rep. Baron Hill (D) for this southeastern Indiana seat has been close for months. Republicans expect to lose Indiana's 8th District and don't feel particularly positive about Rep. Chris Chocola (R) in the 2nd. But it is in the 9th where we will get our first indication of whether Democrats will sweep back into power tonight. If Hill wins, it will be a good night for Democrats. If not, Republicans will be rightly relieved.

* Kentucky's 3rd District: Rep. Anne Northup's (R) reelection race has drawn considerably less coverage than the 4th District battle to the north but could tell us more about how strong the national winds are blowing at Democrats' backs. Because of the Democratic-tilt of the Louisville-area seat, Northup has been targeted ever since she came to Congress in 1996. In the past she has defeated challengers far stronger than former alternative newsweekly executive editor John Yarmouth, the Democratic nominee this cycle, but has never had to cope with such a difficult national environment.

7 p.m. ET

* Georgia's 12th District: While this race is largely being fought on Republican turf, this seat represents one of their rare GOP pick-up opportunities this cycle. Former Rep. Max Burns (R) appears well-positioned to defeat Rep. John Barrow (D) -- assuming he can win between 15 and 20 percent of the black vote. A Burns win would provide Republicans with an early lift, a sign that the doom-saying within their party may have been over blown.

* Florida's 22nd District: It's rare that both parties say they feel good about their chances just 24 hours before the election. Rep. Clay Shaw (R) has been in tight races before (he won reelection in 2000 by 599 votes), but state Sen. Ron Klein (D) has run an outstanding campaign. Even the slightest national trend toward Democrats could hand this seat to the challenger.

* Virginia Senate: Democrats' chances of winning back control of the Senate hinge on a victory here by former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (D). While public polling has shown Sen. George Allen (R) ahead by a few points, many Republican insiders are not particularly confident about their chances of pulling this one out.

8 p.m. ET

* Connecticut's 4th District: No race in the country is more rightly read as a referendum on the war in Iraq than this one. Polling shows that voters still view Rep. Chris Shays (R) very favorably but his opponent -- Democrat Diane Farrell -- has blasted the incumbent for his support for the war, which is not particularly popular in the 4th. Republicans believe they can hold a majority by losing a single seat in Connecticut (the 5th is the most likely to go), but if they lost two or more they are in deep trouble.

* Illinois's 6th District: Public and private polling shows this open seat race between state Sen. Pete Roskam (R) and Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) tied. National Democrats have poured more than $3 million into this seat to aid Duckworth but continue to struggle against the Republican nature of the seat. Republicans expect to win here. A Duckworth victory likely means the House is gone for the GOP.

* Missouri Senate: Simply put, this is the most important Senate race of the cycle. Sen. Jim Talent (R) and state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) have both run strong races and polling for both sides gives them reason for optimism. In a neutral election year, Missouri should favor Republicans. But this is not a normal election year. McCaskill doesn't need a hurricane-force wind at her back to win but she does need a breeze. Let's see if she gets it.

* New Hampshire's 2nd District: No race has fallen as far as fast as this one for Republicans. One month ago Rep. Charlie Bass (R) appeared headed to a relatively pedestrian reelection win over Paul Hodes (D). Now he is in a fight for his career -- a fight many Republicans expect him to lose. Anti-war sentiment has run strong in New Hampshire (witness Carol Shea Porter's upset victory in the 1st District Democratic primary) and Bass may wind up swallowed under by the struggles of his national party on the issue.

* Pennsylvania's 8th District: One of three hotly contested races in the Philadelphia area, national Republicans feel best about their chances of holding this seat. The 7th is marked as gone by Republicans and the 6th district is seen as the purest of tossups. Republican can probably afford to lose one of these three seats. Two (7th and 6th) would be bad news. All three would be a disaster.

9 p.m. ET

* Arizona's 5th District: Democrats are feeling more and more confident about their chances of knocking off Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R). Republicans have already conceded the open southern Arizona 8th District to Democrats and can't afford to lose another seat in the state. If Hayworth loses to former Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell (D), then watch Rep. Rick Renzi's returns (R) in the 1st District; Renzi has struggled through a burgeoning scandal of late.

* Minnesota's 1st District: When we met teacher Tim Walz (D) earlier this year we were impressed with his everyman pitch but saw him as a longshot to beat Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R). No longer. Walz and Gutknecht are tied in private polling and Republicans are worried that he may not come back to Congress next January. This was a seat on no one's radar screen at the start of the cycle and the type of seat Democrats will win if they are headed toward gains nationally of 25 or more.

* New York's 25th district: For months, we've wondered whether the expected strong showing of state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (D) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) at the top of the ticket would have a trickle down effect in Upstate New York. After tonight we won't have to wonder anymore. While Republicans acknowledge the open 24th District is likely gone, they still believe that Rep. Jim Walsh (R) will win in the 25th. Democrats are similarly confident about former congressional aide Dan Maffei's chances of an upset.

* Rhode Island Senate: This is another race on Senate Democrats' "must have" list if they hope to win the majority. Even Democrats concede that Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) has made comeback on former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). But Democrats are hoping a superior ground game will carry them over the finish line. A Chafee victory would show that he was able to separate himself from his party label and President Bush.

10 p.m. ET

* Montana Senate: Sen. Conrad Burns (R) was counted out months ago in his reelection race against state Sen. Jon Tester (D). But as he did in 2000, Burns is making something of a comeback with polls showing the two men tied. President Bush was in the state late last week to rally the Republican faithful; will it be enough to overcome Burns's connection to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and varied verbal gaffes?

* Nevada's 3rd District: By the numbers this district should be extremely competitive tonight. Al Gore won it in 2000 with 49 percent of the vote; four years later President Bush carried it 50 percent to 49 percent. But Rep. Jon Porter (R) won it convincingly in 2002 and 2004. This time he faces former congressional aide Tessa Hafen (D). In a normal political year Porter wins. Even in a year with a slight Democratic tilt to the playing field, Porter would be favored. But if a large wave has already built on the East Coast and Midwest, it could sweep the Republican incumbent away.

11 p.m. ET

* California's 11th District: Rep. Richard Pombo (R) has been under steady assault for much of the last year from environmental groups unhappy with his chairmanship of the House Agriculture Committee. Despite raising $4 million, Pombo as of late week had dedicated only a paltry amount of that total to a television campaign designed to answer his critics. Democrat Jerry McNerney was seen as too liberal to win this Republican-leaning seat by his national party but has run a stronger than expected campaign. If the news is bad for Republicans on the east coast, it could well have an impact on late-deciding voters in seats like this.

* Washington's 8th District: A classic wave race -- if there is a wave. Rep. Dave Reichert (R) is popular in this Seattle-area district but its underlying demographics favor Democrats. Ex-Microsoft executive Darcy Burner (D) has run a creditable race but will not win unless a national Democratic wind puffs up her sails.

See you online tonight!

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 7, 2006; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Fix Notes , Governors , House , Senate  
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