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A viewer's guide to the "hidden election"

The biggest prize in election 2012, of course, is the presidency. But it isn't the only one. Out of the national limelight are an abundance of other contests — for the U.S. Senate and House, governorships, state legislative chambers, state attorney general races, ballot measures and state Supreme Court races. Winning some of these other contests won't make up for losing the presidential race, but wins and losses at these levels can measure how well each party is competing for a variety of offices in a variety of states.

Here is a guide to 10 hidden contests on election night, along with a rating system to gauge how well each party did when the results were tallied. After the election, we'll see how well each party did.

1 How many battleground states does President Barack Obama win?

The nine battleground states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

0-2: weak night for Obama; 3-4: medium night for Obama; 5-7: strong night for Obama; 8-9: very strong night for Obama

2 How many states won by Obama in 2008 does he lose to Mitt Romney in 2012 (not counting one electoral vote in Nebraska)?

10-14: extremely weak night for Obama; 6-9: very weak night for Obama; 4-5: weak night for Obama; 3-4: medium night for Obama; 0-2: strong night for Obama.

3 How many freshmen House Republicans facing competitive races this year do the Democrats oust?

0-6: weak night for the Democrats; 7-12: medium night for the Democrats; 13-18: strong night for the Democrats; 19 and up: very strong night for the Democrats

4 How many incumbent House Democrats lose?

15 and up: very weak night for the Democrats; 9-14: weak night for the Democrats; 3-8: medium night for the Democrats; 0-2: strong night for the Democrats.

5 Cumulative percentage points by which GOP Senate candidates in competitive races exceed Romney's percentage of the vote in that state.

Races are: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin. (Not included: Maine's three-way race.)

55-70 points: very weak night for the Democrats; 25-54 points: weak night for the Democrats; 0-25 points: medium night for the Democrats; any negative number: strong night for the Democrats.

6 How many Democratic-held gubernatorial seats do the Republicans flip?

Five or more: very weak night for the Democrats; 3 to 4: weak night for the Democrats; 2: medium night for the Democrats; zero or 1: strong night for the Democrats.

7 How large is the net partisan shift in the control of state legislative chambers?

Republicans gain a net 8 chambers or more: very weak night for the Democrats; Republicans gain a net 2 to 7 chambers: weak night for the Democrats; Republican gain of 1 to Democratic gain of 1: medium night for the Democrats; Democratic gain of 2 to 7 chambers: good night for the Democrats; Democratic gain 8 chambers or more: very good night for the Democrats.

8 How large is the net partisan shift in the control of state attorneys general seats?

Net gain of 3 or more AG seats by the Republicans: very weak night for the Democrats; net gain of 1 to 2 seats by the Republicans: weak night for the Democrats; no change in seats: medium night for the Democrats; net gain of one seat by the Democrats: strong night for the Democrats; net gain of 2 or more AG seats by the Democrats: very strong night for the Democrats.

9 In how many of the following ballot measures does the "liberal" side win?

Same sex-marriage (Maine, Maryland, Washington state); immigration (Maryland, Montana); labor unions (California, Michigan, Idaho, South Dakota); abortion (Florida, Montana).

0-3: weak night for liberals; 4-7: medium night for the liberals; 8-11 strong night for liberals.

10 How many incumbent Supreme Court judges in Florida and Iowa are retained for re-election after conservative opposition, and how many Democrats win Supreme Court judgeships in Michigan and North Carolina?

Included: Florida (three judges facing merit retention elections); Iowa (one judge facing retention election); Michigan (three seats up for grabs), North Carolina (one seat up for grabs).

0-1: very weak night for the Democrats; 2-3: weak night for the Democrats; 4-5: medium night for the Democrats; 6-7: strong night for the Democrats; 8: very strong night for the Democrats.

A viewer's guide to the "hidden election" 11/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 4:30am]
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