Districts to watch early on election night

Minnesota polls will begin to close as election results from within the Eastern Time Zone start coming in. And while you’re waiting for returns in the Gopher State, there are districts out eastern zone that can serve as a barometer for Minnesota elections.

Here are three districts I’ll be keeping an eye on before Minnesota begins reporting its own results:

Maryland’s 1st District
Source: National Atlas of the United States

Maryland’s 1st District: Democrat Frank Kratovil won this district on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 2008 with a margin of less than 3,000 votes despite John McCain besting Barack Obama here by 18 percentage points. This race is an exact repeat of 2008, as the very moderate Kratovil is being challenged again by Club for Growth-style Republican state Sen. Andy Harris.

A poll from The Hill showed Kratovil within the margin of error and actually winning among independents. But the favorite in this race is Harris, who never really stopped campaigning for the seat, is running hard against Obama/Pelosi and has blanketed the district with ads and signs. This is the sort of seat Republicans ought to be winning if they want to take over the House, but could lose because their nominated candidate is far to the right ideologically.

There’s no one single Minnesota race this one directly correlates to, rather it may be a barometer of where the national mood lies. If results are lagging in MD-01, try MI-07 or NH-02.

Kentucky’s 6th District
Source: National Atlas of the United States

Kentucky’s 6th District: Democrat Ben Chandler has held this seat since 2004 and took nearly 65 percent of the vote in 2008 despite McCain winning the district by 12 points. In most election years, he’d be considered safe, but not this time. That could be any district though — the reason why I’m watching this one is because of the way the GOP is campaigning against him.

Chandler voted for the House’s carbon cap-and-trade bill and this central Kentucky district is one steeped in coal. So naturally, his opponents are hitting him hard over that vote. Since the exact same attacks are central to the Minnesota campaigns of Randy Demmer in the 1st and Lee Byberg in the 7th (though both are attacking Tim Walz and Collin Peterson respectively from an agriculture standpoint), I’ll be watching this race to see if those charges are sticking elsewhere. Chandler heads into Election Day in much the same way Walz does — favored, but far from safe.

Florida’s 25th District
Source: National Atlas of the United States

Florida’s 25th District: I looked long and hard for a seat that might give us an election night clue into the Michele Bachmann-Tarryl Clark contest in the 6th District, and, frankly, there isn’t another race anywhere in the nation quite like it. No one has Bachmann’s profile and no one has the massive bankroll either candidate has amassed.

Still, if one is looking to see if a Republican seat can be taken by a Democrat in what looks like an otherwise good year for the GOP, this is an example. The incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart actually switched districts to find a safer seat in his retiring brother Lincoln’s seat, so this south Florida district is an open seat. McCain won here by only one percentage point and Democrats do have a very good candidate who got to within six points of Diaz-Balart in 2008. Republicans remain favored to hold, but if Democrats can’t win this district — which theoretically ought to be an easier task than it was last time — then one wonders how they’ll be able to win tougher elections elsewhere.

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