2014 Viewers’ Guide to the midterms: What to watch

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Congratulations, you survived the run up to the 2014 midterm elections! After months of negative advertisements, hundreds of e-mails begging for donations, and campaign literature the day is finally here. As you prepare to watch the results come in, we’d like to help by giving you a preview of what to watch for this evening. We recorded a primer for you to get the lay of the land in just a 9 minute jaunt. Watch it here. Don’t forget to follow @cstirewalt and be sure to keep an eye on @foxnewspolitics and @foxnews. But as you get ready for the best coverage from the best team on politics, here’s a cheat sheet to keep for the big night. Have fun and happy viewing!

Fox News Channel election night coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET. Bret Baier (@BretBaier) and Megyn Kelly (@MegynKelly) co-anchor live, continuous coverage of key races, plus must-see political analysis. Bill Hemmer (@BillHemmer) will be breaking down the data breaks down results on the electronic “Bill-board” and Martha MacCallum (@marthamacallum) delivers the latest exit poll data. Don’t miss analysis from senior political analyst Brit Hume (@brithume), “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, plus contributors including Charles Krauthammer, Dana Perino, Kirsten Powers, Karl Rove, Joe Trippi and George Will.

[Get real-time election data at Foxnews.com and if you are on- the-go watch Fox News Go on your smart-phone or mobile device]

Are there signs that attempts by Democrats to go on offense in red states Kentucky and Georgia are working to a block to GOP’s goal of taking the Senate?  While polling has been trending in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., favor with the RCP average giving the Senate Minority Leader a 7.2 point advantage over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes,  if Kentucky is close or in doubt, Democrats are likely to be encouraged as it may indicate a big turnout and early glimpses that the night may be trending in Democrats favor.

[Watch Fox: Campaign Carl Cameron brings you the returns live from Kentucky]

Peachy - In Georgia with the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss’, R-Ga., seat up for grabs, key targets for Democrats are Rockdale and DeKalb counties near Atlanta. These are upscale suburbs, with mostly white voters. A new WSB-TV Poll finds Republican David Perdue ahead of Democrat Michelle Nunn, 50 percent to 46 percent. Democrats are hoping to hold Perdue under 50 percent in order to force a contentious and costly runoff on Jan. 6.

Will the Virginia Senate tantalize? - Republicans don’t hold high expectations in the race between Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Republican Ed Gillespie but if the race is close, the GOP may see that as a harbinger of a good night. Warner currently holds a 9.7 percent advantage in the RCP average but recent polling shows Gillespie still gaining.

No surprises in South Carolina - South Carolina Republican Sens.Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are likely to hold on to their memberships in the Senate. Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., is expected to handily win re-election. But this will be a historic moment: Scott, appointed to the Senate in 2012, would be the first African American elected to the Senate from a former Confederate state since the end of Reconstruction.

Sealing the Deal - Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., currently holds a 4.5 point advantage in the RCP average with the most recent polling showing Deal leads Democrat Jason Carter 51 percent to 45 percent.

[Polls close at 7:00 p.m.  ET in: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia]

While polls close at this time in the battleground state of North Carolina, the decision will probably come hours later. The contest between Sen. Kay Hagan, D- N.C., and the GOP’s Thom Tillis is very tight, a must-win for Democrats if they hope to hold the Senate. In one of the mostexpensive races of the cycle, both sides have blanketed the state with over $100 million in mostly negative ads. Eyes will be on the bellwether Wake County in the area surrounding Raleigh. Wake used to be a Republican breadbasket but has seen more young Democrat-oriented voters filtering in of late. Republicans must get back to big wins in this region in order to flip Hagan’s seat. North Carolina will also give us great clues about the national electorate today. After $100 million in saturation bombing on television airwaves and a dead-even race, voters here are guinea pigs for the rest of the country.

[Listen to Fox: Lisa Brady and FNC’s Kelly Wright (@kellywrightnews) co-anchor the coverage with contributions from FNR’s political analyst Jeff Birnbaum and FNC’s Molly Henneberg, who co-anchors from the decision desk Listen from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET here.]

Eleventh hour Obama endorsement - For much of the campaign Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has sought to distance herself from President Obama.  On Monday, the campaign released an ad in which the president says, “stand with me President Obama and take responsibility in moving N.C., forward by voting for Kay Hagan.”

Not so wild in wonderful West Virginia - West Virginia will in all likelihood flip into the Republican column as Rep. Shelly Moore Capito storms into the Senate. Polling has consistently given Capito a commanding lead over Democrat Natalie Tennant.

[Polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET in:  North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia]

“First, as a political junkie, please permit me to be a little cheesy on this Election Day. There’s something really powerful about watching America’s vote come in. For all the times we cover lawmakers arguing about policy positions on both sides of the aisle, this is the day Americans hold those politicians accountable. No matter your ideological bent, it is through this process that we make our voices heard. And siting on the anchor desk watching those millions of votes come in - is, well, what America is all about to me: ‘We the People’. Ok, that was my ‘go vote’ speech. I can promise you one thing about tonight: my co-anchor Megyn Kelly and I will do our best to provide accurate, up-to-the minute race calls with a panel of analysts and experts, but we also will have fun doing it. This will be my fourth general election anchoring for the Fox News Channel – and the third anchoring alongside my colleague and friend Megyn. I can tell you that you never know what’s going to come up throughout the night, and that’s part of the thrill of a live, free-flowing 7 or 8 hours of television. Behind the scenes, producers are talking in our ears, steering us to the next calls or the next elements of the show.  And the Decision Desk is churning out calls throughout the night. One thing I know already: Expect the unexpected. I know I speak for Megyn when I say that it’s an honor for us to be on the anchor desk for you tonight. Here’s to Election Night!  See you at 6pm ET.” - Bret Baier.

In determining if Tuesday turns highly in favor of Republicans, New Hampshire can be thought of as an early wave detection device. This is another must-win state for Democrats. If Republican Scott Brown is ahead, tied with or even close to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., the rest of the night will not bode well for the blue team.  The key to this contest is Rockingham County, on the state’s seacoast. Rockingham includes the city of Portsmouth, N.H., which Brown’s family has ties to and is adjacent to Massachusetts, where Brown previously served as Senator.  Should Brown pull off an upset it could be an indicator that other tight races across the country will fall into the red team’s hands. If Democrats are able to succeed in keeping Republican gains to only five and preserve their Senate majority, this the earliest time they could possibly accomplish it.

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Molly Line (@MollyLineFNC) is in New Hampshire to bring you the latest on this must-win state for Democrats.]

Gov mansions on the line - The 8:00 p.m. ET hour will also bring the results of several high-profile gubernatorial contests.  This includes several very close races. Among them: Florida, where Democrat Charlie Crist holds a slim lead over Gov. Rick Scott, R- Fla., and Illinois, where embattled Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill., is tied with Republican Bruce Rauner. In reliably blue Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker is poised for an upset against Democrat Martha Coakley after getting the backing of the Boston Globe. In the Nutmeg State, Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., is in a dead-heat with Republican Tom Foley. Rhode Island’s gubernatorial contest is trending in Democrat Gina Raimondo’s direction as she holds a small lead over Republican Allan Fung. Democrats are also favored to win Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial contest. The expected takeaway from the governors contests across the country is that several seats will switch parties, but only yield a Democratic net gain of one or two.

[Polls close at 8:00 pm ET in:  Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee]

Of Republicans running against incumbent Democrats, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has had one of the easiest paths to victory given that the state has trended Republican for all of Sen. Mark Pryor’s term. Cotton is expected to beat the incumbent Democrat. However, if Pryor prevails, there is hardly any chance the Republicans will wrest control of the Senate from Democrats.

Clinton’s can’t tout clout - Just as Cotton is expected to score a win for Republicans in the Senate race, GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson is favored to win over Democrat Mike Ross. And like Pryor, Ross was very much part of former Governor Bill Clinton’s legacy in the state. Double statewide losses for candidates whom Bubba worked hard to rescue would be strong evidence that his wife’s presidential bid won’t bring Arkansas and other Southern and border states back into the Democratic fold.

[Polls Close at 8:30 p.m. ET in Arkansas]

9:00 p.m. ET - ‘THE HOUR’
This is the hour when it really gets interesting. This is the first hour, if they are really surfing a wave, that Republicans could clinch the Senate. As South Dakota and Colorado are moving in the Republican’s direction, the more important contest is Kansas. The Sunflower State will be the greatest test of Republican turnout efforts to help incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., pull off a win against Democrat-backed independent Greg Orman. The Kansas City suburbs, particularly Overland Park in Johnson County, are the key to Orman’s strategy to deny Republicans this crucial vote. These are densely populated areas that will give him a firewall against his weakness in more reliably Republican areas in the rest of the state.

[Watch Fox: Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen (@JamesRosenFNC) is in Kansas with the latest on the hotly contested race.]

See you in December - By all indications, Louisiana’s Senate contest between Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Republicans Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness is heading for a runoff. With the RCP average showing no candidate reaching the 50 percent threshold, the race will move on to a Dec. 6 runoff. Unless Landrieu has a miraculous comeback, this race will be on a one-month delay shortly after the polls close.

[Watch Fox: Senior National Correspondent John Roberts (@JohnRobertsFox) is in Louisiana bringing the latest developments in the race.]

Union clout on the line - Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., holds a slim lead over Democrat Mary Burke in the RCP average. The race is consequential as win would further propel Walker among the field of likely 2016 Republican contenders. It’s a similar story in Michigan where Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., is locked in a close contest against Democrat Mark Schauer. The RCP average gives Snyder a 1.7 point advantage. Democrats and government worker unions have dumped astronomical sums to sack these right-to-work advocates. If they can’t turn the tide, Democrats will face diminishing prospects in coming elections in the Upper Midwest.

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Mike Tobin (@MikeTobinFox) is following the gubernatorial race live from Wisconsin.]

Not high on Hickenlooper - Aside from the Colorado’s hotly contested Senate race between Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., the state’s gubernatorial contest will hold clues as to the direction the battleground state is leaning. Saddled by the unpopularity of liberal policies on marijuana and gun-control, Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., finds himself in a tight race against Republican Bob Beauprez.

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Alicia Acuna (@aacuna1) is in Colorado with the latest on the race.]

Brownback backlash - The trajectory of the contest between Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Democrat Paul Davis could hold clues as to how well Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., will fare in the Sunflower State. Currently, Davis holds a two point advantage in the RCPaverage.

[Watch Fox Online: The Strategy Room, 9-11p.m. ET - This live-streaming online program delivers news and analysis from Harris Faulkner, Eric Bolling, Kennedy, Andrea Tantaros and others.]

[Polls Close at 9 p.m. ET in: Arizona, Colorado, Kansa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming]

It is hard to imagine a scenario that has Democrats clinging to a Senate majority without a win in Iowa. And Republicans are feeling very bullish about the chances of Iowa nominee Joni Ernst, who has become the star player for the GOP this cycle. Iowa is a fast-counting state and we should see results quickly, but while the votes are flowing in keep your eyes on Polk County, which includes Des Moines and its suburbs. This is the only large swing district of the state. If Ernst is close or even slightly ahead in Polk, she can be expected to win widely given her expected success in the western side of the state.

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream (@ShannonBream) is tracking the latest in Iowa.]

GOP’s treasure trove - Montana, which proved a comedy of errors for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s team, is highly likely to move into the GOP column in the 10 p.m. ET hour. If the Republicans are having a good, but not great night, Montana is a leading candidate to put the red team over the top.

[Polls Close at 10 p.m. ET in Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah]

Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.9 percent//Disapprove – 53.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 27.8 percent//Wrong Track – 66 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 43.2 percent// Republicans – 45.6 percent

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

The states with polls closing in this hour won’t likely have much to say about control of the Senate, with safe seats in Idaho (Republican), Oregon, (Democrat) and Hawaii (Democrat), but this is when we might see the deadlocked races back East come to clarity. Given the number of close calls, this could very well be the hour that we find out who will control the Senate.

[Polls Close at 11 p.m. ET in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington]

Should Louisiana and Georgia head towards runoff elections, it could be a very late night for viewers and the Fox News Decision Desk. If control of the Senate is deadlocked after returns come in from the lower 48, it will not be until after 1:00 a.m. ET that Alaska could prove to be the deciding factor in whether or not Republicans will clinch control of the Senate. Although polling has given Republican Dan Sullivan a steady advantage over Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Democrats claim a rural turnout effort that will defy the pollsters. If Alaska does end up being the make or break point, it could be a very long and restless night for Republicans. The place to watch will be the Mat-Su Valley, a fast growing suburban district between Anchorage and Mt. McKinley.

[Watch Fox: Correspondent Dan Springer is in Alaska as the results come in.]

Palin, Dems team up to try to sink GOP governor - Independent candidate Bill Walker, backed by Democrats and former Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, holds the advantage in the race for Alaska’s governor’s mansion over Gov. Sean Parnell, R-Alaska.

[Polls Close in Alaska at 1:00 a.m. ET]

“This is a referendum on [President Obama’s] hyper-liberalism. In 2010, it was sort of aspirational. It was in legislation but it hadn’t been enacted yet. Well, now we are six years in and we see the results of ObamaCare. We see the results of the stimulus, the worst recovery since the Second World War. We see the results of this kind of overreaching government, which at the same time is incompetent…. And this isn’t only the party in government, this is the party of government. This is liberalism on trial. I can assure you that if the Democrats pull off a miracle and do well … [White House Press Secretary] Josh Earnest is going to be up there on the podium on Wednesday saying of course this was a national referendum on Obama and Obamaism. You say it isn’t if you know you’re going to lose.”—Charles Krauthammer on “The Kelly File” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up

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