This coming Tuesday is election night, and a lot is at stake all over America. Republicans are hoping to take control of the House of Representatives, where they need to gain 39 seats to reach 218; and the Senate, where they must improve by 10 for the magic number of 51.
Wherever you turn for information that night — TV, the Web, Twitter — you'll be able to get a lot of blather and punditry. But without a guide to the evening, it might be hard to keep track of what matters to you as the night wears on.
With that in mind, we have compiled the following chart — a viewer's guide of sorts to the evening's schedule.
Networks and Web sites won't start calling races in a state until polls close — which begins with Indiana and Kentucky, at 6 pm Boston time, and continues through Hawaii and Alaska at midnight.
The chart below tells you what key contests to start looking for at each closing time, in the following categories.
MARQUEE RACES These are the big Senate and gubernatorial contests that have been making the national news — and where the results are considered in doubt.
KRAZY KONSERVATIVES You've been hearing about Republican candidates like Sharron Angle of Nevada, who wants to eliminate most of the federal government; one-time witchcraft-dabbler Christine O'Donnell of Delaware; and Kentucky's Rand Paul, who bad-mouths the Civil Rights Act. Tuesday's question is which of them become bizarre political footnotes, and which become powerful officeholders.
ENDANGERED PROGRESSIVES Some of the left's darlings whose careers are on the line Tuesday.
BALLOT MEASURES Tax rollbacks, tax increases, and, of course, legalizing pot — as usual, this year's elections put some interesting proposals to the vote of the people.
THEPHOENIX"BIG 20" These are the 20 US House races that the Phoenix believes will be the most important. How they go will determine the balance of power in Washington.
WOMEN CANDIDATES Some of the women trying to break through, including some of Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies."
THE "NEW ENGLAND SWEEP" It is possible that Democrats could win all six New England governorships for the very first time in the history of the party, which was founded as the Democratic-Republican Party in the 1790s.
To read the "Talking Politics" blog, go to thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics. David S. Bernstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.