ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And in our studio, NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Every couple of years, here we are around this time trying to figure out who has been elected to what. Tonight, what are you looking for? What are the important signs you're looking for in the numbers as they come in?
RON ELVING, BYLINE: We're looking to see if Mitt Romney can develop a trajectory up the East Coast a little bit like Hurricane Sandy did about 10 weeks ago. If he can start down in Florida, make his way up through the Carolinas and Virginia, which is a state that is probably going to be difficult to call tonight. It looks to be extraordinarily close. And then leap over to Ohio, like some elements of the storm did and then on up to New Hampshire, which is one of his home states as we know, where he wound up his campaign, at least the last full final day of his campaign on Monday night.
SIEGEL: Well, that's practically a Romney landslide you've just described.
ELVING: It would not necessarily get the job done unless he wins all of those. And of course there are other states that are also battleground states around the country. But in the early going on any presidential year, any presidential election, in the early going we get a lot of states in early from the Eastern Seaboard of course because of the time zones and a lot of those are in the South. And so that explains why there's a usually a big lead for the Republican candidate in recent times from those Southern states in the early going.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And, Ron, you're talking about those nine states that Barack Obama flipped four years ago, right? One of which we've now projected, Indiana.
BLOCK: Went to Mitt Romney today. Barack Obama won it by the slimmest of margins four years ago, 1 percent. But as we're projecting now, that state is now in Mitt Romney's column.
ELVING: That's right. And that state came off the table very early this year. The Obama forces briefly thought about trying to contest it as they did a few other states around the country, and they just decided Indiana wasn't going to be doable for them this year and they backed off of it. And it has gone very early, as Kentucky has for Governor Romney.
SIEGEL: Now, we'll obviously later on in the evening be hearing a great deal about Ohio. And it's always said that Republicans need Ohio to get elected. True?
ELVING: Ah, well, no Republican has been elected to the White House without Ohio. But Ohio has been getting smaller and Ohio has been getting a little less reliably Republican. This year we will see. It may put yet another Republican into the White House tonight. If it doesn't, it might be difficult for Mitt Romney to get there because it is still the fulcrum for a lot of the Republican math.
SIEGEL: A few months ago, the Republican Party was looking very, well, not confidently but hopefully about taking control of the Senate, winning the majority of the Senate. Things have improved dramatically for the Democrats in that regard.
ELVING: As recently as February 28th, I think everyone thought the Republicans would take the majority and of course they still might tonight. But on that date, Olympia Snowe retired in Maine. That seat is now seen to be going to an independent, former governor there, Angus King. And that's going to make it a lot tougher for the Republicans to get to that 51. They've had some other reversals as well. We'll see how it sorts out later.
SIEGEL: NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving, thanks.
BLOCK: Ron, thanks so much and we'll be talking to you throughout the night. Lynn, back to you.
LYNN NEARY, HOST:
Thanks. That was Melissa Block and Robert Siegel. And we'll be hearing more from them a bit later this hour after the polls close in Ohio. And starting at 8:00 p.m., they'll be anchoring NPR's special coverage on many member stations with election results from all over the country. You can also find results and analysis at our website, NPR.org.
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