Essential

How to Watch Tonight

Nate Silver has written up an hour-by-hour guide of what to look for tonight. The first polls close at 6 p.m. in parts of Kentucky and, more important, the conservative southern and eastern parts of swing state Indiana (the liberal northwest closes at 7). “If for some reason the state is called before 7 p.m. for John McCain,” Silver writes, “that probably means we’re in for a long night.” A pre-7 call for Obama, on the other hand, would signal “that McCain is in for a catastrophically poor evening.” After Indiana, keep your eyes on the 7 p.m. closing of Virginia, which Silver calls “the most important state in this election. If John McCain loses it, his path to victory is exceptionally narrow…Barack Obama has considerably more ways to win without Virginia, but a failure to close out the state would suggest at best a more circuitous route to victory.”