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With eight presidential swing states, a dozen competitive Senate seats and more than 60 House seats in play, itís impossible to follow them all as polls close and returns trickle in tonight. Here is a guide for when and where to focus your attention to accurately measure how things are going for each party on election night.
In just four years, the commonwealth has gone from Republican bastion to potential perennial battleground. With 13 electoral votes, Virginia isnít the largest swing state, but with a mixture of upper-class suburbs, exurbs and rural areas, as well as African-American and Hispanic communities, it is a microcosm of the country. If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) wins Virginia, the presidential contest could be very close, but if President Barack Obama wins, he is well on his way to a second term. The Senate race between former Govs. Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) is one of the most competitive in the country, and it could determine the Senate majority. On the House side, Virginia is a great example of Democratsí difficulty this cycle. Rep. Scott Rigell (R) in the 2nd district is the most vulnerable incumbent, but heís not at particular risk of losing. This is the type of district Democrats have to win to be in the majority, which isnít going to happen this cycle.
Itís no surprise the Sunshine State is one to watch on election night. Florida is the largest of the swing states and a must-win for Romney. If he doesnít, the presidential race is over. Based on the rest of the swing states, the GOP nominee canít afford to lose Floridaís 29 electoral votes. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) doesnít look to be in imminent danger of losing to Rep. Connie Mack IV (R), so if a Romney rout gets Mack close, Republicans could win a Senate majority after all because other states are more within range. Early in the cycle, Democrats expected a plethora of House opportunities but are left with less than a handful. Democratic challengers to GOP Reps. Allen West, Daniel Webster and Steve Southerland are all underdogs, and defeating any of them would be notable. If Democrats canít knock off embattled Rep. David Rivera (R), they might as well turn off the television for the evening. Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) is well-positioned to return to Congress, and it will make for entertaining delegation meetings with him and West in the same room.