By Daniel Politi, Slate Magazine
This is it. After so much buildup, voters will finally head to the polls and decide who will be moving into the White House. USA Today reminds readers that whatever happens, it will be a historic election as voters will either elect the first African-American president or the oldest first-term president. The Washington Post banners a two-story lead detailing how each candidate spent Election Day eve. Barack Obama campaigned in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia while dealing with news that his ailing maternal grandmother had died overnight. For his part, John McCain went on a seven-state sprint through Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona, desperately hoping to prove all the polls wrong.
The New York Times leads with a look at how much the Longest Presidential Campaign in History “fundamentally upended” the rules for running a presidential campaign. “I think we’ll be analyzing this election for years as a seminal, transformative race,” said Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to President Bush’s campaigns. Few people have patience for that now though, notes the Los Angeles Times in its lead spot that points out how anxiety is running rampant among supporters of both parties who just want it to be over so they can move on with their lives. Under a banner headline, the Wall Street Journal makes it clear that whoever wins tonight will have little time to rest as he will have to begin working on a number of economic issues long before settling in to the Oval Office.
If the polls are to be believed, there isn’t much mystery to who will be crowned as the victor tonight. But that doesn’t mean the broadcast and cable networks aren’t planning an appropriate sendoff to the Longest Presidential Campaign in History. The LAT fronts, and the NYT goes inside with, a look at how networks vowed not to call the race until someone actually reaches the required 270 electoral votes, but there is a (slim) chance that Obama might be declared the winner before polls close in California. And besides, executives made sure to emphasize that their on-air talent won’t be shy about using language to indicate which way the race is headed. They contend it would be silly for them to pretend they don’t have the same information that any of their viewers could easily find online. Slate‘s editor tells the NYT that he could foresee calling the race “sometime between 8 and 9” if Obama goes on a winning streak. “Our readers are not stupid, and we shouldn’t engage in a weird Kabuki drama that pretends McCain could win California and thus the presidency,” he said.
Everyone—including Slate‘s John Dickerson—publishes a guide to watching the returns tonight. The NYT handily, albeit cornily, divides its guide up into easy-to-follow quick bites that could serve as a cheat sheet for what to watch out for as the night progresses. Those looking for more detail would do well to check out USAT‘s guide that delves deep into a few key states and explains why, for one night at least, you should care about what happens in places like Boone County, Mo. For its part, the WSJ posts a handy PDF viewing guide, which includes a few key Senate races, that could make you a hit at your election-night party.