The day has finally come. After what seems like several thousand years of campaigning, it is Election Day at last, which means that digital campaign strategists for both the Republicans and the Democrats will be hunkering down in data war-rooms to figure out which of many competing analytic models have correctly forecast the election. Those early returns wont just hold clues for how the night will end, theyll foreshadow how American politics will change. We asked nine of these strategiststhe most prominent political data nerds in the businesswhat theyll be watching for as the numbers come in. Heres what they said:
Matt Lackey, vice president of research and development at Civis Analytics
“Indianas polls close at 6 pm ET, so this will be the first indicator. If Evan Bayh is close when the polls close in the eastern part of the state, hell win, because the parts of the state that are on Central time are overwhelmingly Democratic. If Evan Bayh wins his race, its likely that Democrats will retake the senate.
Floridas polls close at 7 pm ET. If Clinton winds up at 49 percent in two-way support in Florida, she is very likely to win the election. Additionally, if Clintons vote share among early voters there is +6 or greater (early vote results will be released all at once when polls close), then she is very likely to win the election.
Virginias polls will close at 7 pm ET. All projections have shown Clinton as a heavy favorite in Virginia. If returns show her winning by 5 or more there, she is likely to win the election.
Polls will close in Pennsylvania at 8 pm. Pennsylvania is most likely to be the state that brings Clinton over 270. If the state is called for Clinton, we can expect that the presidential election is over. If not, we’ll have to see how it all plays out.”
Patrick Ruffini, founder of Echelon Insights and GOP strategist
“Early results from Kentucky and Indiana will tell us whether the white working-class really delivered for Trump or not.”
David Shor, senior data scientist at Civis Analytics, worked for Obama for America
“At a high level, Florida and Texas are key states to watch—early voting in both states among Hispanics was at an all-time high over the weekend, with more Hispanics voting early in Florida than the total number of Hispanics in Florida that voted in 2012. From what we see, a pretty large share of those early voters previously weren’t registered, so they wouldn’t have shown up on either campaign’s polling ahead of time. It will be interesting to see what that translates to on election day.”
Jim Messina, Obama for America 2012 campaign manager
“Virginia will be the earliest numbers and among the most important. Tough to see how she loses if she carries Virginia.”
Dan Porter, chief analytics officer at BlueLabs, former director of statistical modeling, Obama for America 2012
“Early vote numbers have traditionally been released in batches. This cycle, we already know who has voted at an individual level for the most part, and we have modeled how they are voting. Once early vote results are released in states like Florida and Ohio, we will know if the models were right or not. In 2012, it was this data that gave us the best insight into Obamas win.”
Liz Mair, GOP strategist, worked for the Republican National Committee and Governor Rick Perrys campaign
“Looking farther ahead: If we find out that Trump loses basically because Hispanic voters are now much more highly engaged, that means the GOP is going to have to (a) dramatically shift its outreach away from whats easy and well-understood and traditional and (b) change its policy stances on a few matters. I would argue emphasizing immigration and education reform a lot more, among other things.
If Trump really turns out those mysterious missing white working class voters, that is going to push both parties towards more restrictionist policies in terms of trade, which obviously has huge economic consequences. Thats a good reason to watch those numbers. It also has big implications in terms of future outreach, and the profile of the candidates that both parties seek to promote going forward.”
Vincent Harris, GOP strategist, founder/CEO of Harris Media, worked for Sen. Rand Pauls campaign
“On registration numbers alone, Hillary should have a good night, but theres discussion that Trump is winning a significant percent of traditional Dem voters via unions or working-class people who are tired of status quo and ready for a change. The best place to look for this trend will be in Nevadais Trump winning union voters there?
Theres a good chance with turnout efforts that this could be the highest turnout in Presidential politics. That would be something we should all be proud of.”
Scott Goodstein, founder of Revolution Messaging, worked for the Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama campaigns
“Im looking to Colorado to see how overall millennial vote is doing for the night. Colorado has a larger millennial population than most states and their overall median age is around 33. Additionally, Colorado allows for same-day registration, making it easy for young people to vote. Colorado will be a great indicator of overall millennial enthusiasm for the night.”
Joe Rospars, founder of Blue State Digital, former internet director for Obama for America
The most important thing to be looking at on Election Night isnt whether Donald Trump will lose (he will), but how? Specifically, what communications are going to supporters from his campaign and outside actors, both groups and right-wing media outlets, and what are they asking people to do? For the sake of our democracy, when this thing is over, it really needs to be over. We should be vigilantly on the lookout for signals of whether the inevitable sour-grapes conspiracy theorists amount to just a few scattered crackpots or an organized effort to delegitimize the election.”