Politico has this article on how the election might be over fairly early this year. The central argument is that the election could be decided by the time the first polls close on the East coast and while polls may still be open in the rest of the country.
I’ll agree to that but have to expand it to two states that could decide the whole thing: Virginia and North Carolina. Both have been solidly in the GOP column for decades. If Barack Obama takes one or both of them (worth a combined 28 electoral votes, one more than Florida), that would make John McCain’s life very difficult as the night goes on unless he is able to pick off a Kerry state like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania to make up the difference. He might be able to afford losing one if he can get another big state or set of small states to keep it competitive. If he loses both, the night becomes more bleak and he may as well start practicing his concession speech.
Needless to say, if more Eastern states break for Obama early in the evening than originally expected (West Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky), then it’s going to be a 300-plus vote blowout in the Electoral Colllege.