The interesting thing is to see what early States may show the who will win the night. Sometimes its pretty much over by 8 PM. Other times it goes well into the night.
Since the 2000 elections, news organizations have been reluctant to make any State predictions prior to the closing of any polls. Otherwise, they get accused of suppressing voter turnout by declaring a winner before all the voters of a State get a chance to vote.
As a result, most of the evening is filler - commentary from all the talking heads, with all the action happening at the top of the hour when polls close in certain States. As soon as the polls close, most news organizations will announce the predicted winner, unless it remains too close to call.
If you like to watch the returns come in live, the key is knowing when polls close and what State really matter. Some states are not an issue. I could tell you last month, or last year that Clinton would win New Jersey and California, and that Trump would win Texas and Kentucky. Some States are just a given for one party or another. Its the swing States that decide who goes over the top.
Popular vote does not matter. Electoral votes decide the Presidency. Almost all States are "winner take all" meaning the candidate with the most votes get all the electoral votes for any given State. The only two exceptions are Nebraska and Maine, which award one electoral vote for each Congressional District won, plus the two state-wide electoral votes to the State winner overall.
With many States now too close to call, many of the most critical swing states may remain too close to call for hours after the polls close. Here is what you should be watching though - all times are listed in eastern standard time.
Polls close in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky
South Carolina, Indiana and Kentucky should be easy wins for Trump.
Clinton once thought Georgia was winnable, but not appears strongly Trump. If Georgia is still too close to call at 7PM, that is very bad news for Trump.
Vermont it the only easy win for Clinton at 7PM
The only interesting State is Virginia, where Clinton is favored by a good five points. If Trump does well there, or too close to call at 7PM, that is very bad news for Clinton.
North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia close at 7:30.
West Virginia is an easy Trump win. Ohio seems to be leaning for Trump, with North Carolina also leaning but a little less so. If Clinton wins either State, a Trump victory is probably impossible.
Most east coast states close at 8:00.
Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Illinois should all be easy Clinton wins.
Tennessee, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas should all be easy Trump wins.
Michigan is a pretty Clinton-leaning State. If Michigan is too close to call or going for Trump, Clinton is in real trouble.
New Hampshire also leans Clinton but is much closer. New Hampshire may be too close to call. If Clinton wins there, the math starts to get very difficult for Trump. Clinton is still very much alive though, even if Trump wins there. The night just becomes more of a nail biter.
Pennsylvania is a State where both candidates campaigned hard. Clinton seems to have had an edge there for most of the campaign. I see Pennsylvania as a must-win for Clinton. If she loses Pennsylvania, she will need to make a great many votes in other toss up States where she is farther behind if she has any chance of winning.
Maine is an easy win for Clinton, but has one Congressional district with an electoral vote that may go for Trump. Losing that also makes Clinton's math a little harder.
Also closing at 8:00 PM is Florida. This is by far the biggest swing State. It will almost certainly be too close to call. If Clinton wins, there is probably no path for a Trump victory at all. If Trump wins, Clinton's road to victory looks very rocky.
Arkansas is the only state closing at 8:30. Despite the fact that Clinton lived there for years as first lady, it is expected to be an easy Trump win.
At 9:00 PM most of the remaining eastern and central States close their polls.
New York, home state to both candidates, should be an easy Clinton win. New Mexico is also pretty reliably Clinton.
Louisiana, Nebraska, Arizona, Kansas South Dakota Texas, and Wyoming should all be easy Trump wins. Clinton made a push for Arizona at one point, but seems to have given up there.
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are both pretty solidly Clinton as well. But Trump targeted some time in both states for his last few days, hoping for a flip somewhere. If Trump can take any of these, he could very well pull off a victory. Expect them to go to Clinton though.
The biggest question mark for the 9:00 hour is Colorado. This has remained pretty consistently for Clinton in the polls, but never by very much. Clinton is favored here. If she wins Colorado, she is likely to win the whole thing. If Trump has won most of the tossups up until then, Colorado could be Clinton's last stand.
If the race is still up in the air by 10:00, there are some key States in play.
Montana is an easy win for Trump. Iowa should be for Trump as well. That is another must-win for Trump.
Utah is certainly not going to go for Clinton. However, Independent Candidate Evan McMullin has been polling very well there. He could possibly deny those electoral votes to Trump, which could make it nearly impossible for Trump to reach the 270 majority.
Nevada is the biggest bell weather at 10:00. It is leaning for Trump and is another State he really needs if he wants to remain in the fight. Trump will likely win, but a Clinton upset there could be the final nail in Trump's coffin.
Until 11:00, Trump will likely lead in all electoral vote counts.
At 11:00 he will also pick up wins in North Dakota, and Idaho.
However, Clinton's numbers will surge with what should be easy wins in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and the giant: California.
None of these States are in serious contention.
Finally, polls close in Alaska at 1:00 AM eastern time. Trump will almost certainly win there, but by then no one will care. The election should be over. If Alaska's three electoral votes would make the difference, Trump will be President.
In my opinion, this race has come down to four States: Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada. These are the States that I think are most up in the air. If Clinton wins any one of them, she should become President. Trump must either win all four, or pull an upset somewhere like Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Colorado. I predict Trump may win Nevada, but will lose narrowly in New Hampshire Florida and North Carolina. As a result, we will see a comfortable electoral Clinton victory: