What to watch for on election night
© Greg Nash

An Election Day that could end with Republicans winning a Senate majority for President Obama’s final two years in office is finally here.

Tuesday is likely to be a good Election Day for Republicans. The question is whether it will be a great one. Here’s what to watch for early on, during what will be a long election night.

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Can Democrats hold New Hampshire and North Carolina?

If Sens. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganNC state senator meets with DSCC as Dems eye challenge to Tillis GOP, Dems locked in fight over North Carolina fraud probe 2020 Dems compete for top campaign operatives MORE (D-N.C.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election MORE (D-N.H.) both lose, Republicans will almost be guaranteed to gain the six seats they need to take back the Senate.

A victory in either of the tightening races could let the GOP breathe easy early on — and portend a big night.

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“North Carolina and New Hampshire will set the tone for the evening,” one national Democratic strategist tells The Hill. “If Democrats are losing in New Hampshire or North Carolina, there’s not going to be a lot of suspense about who holds the majority.”

Margins matter as well. If both Hagan and Shaheen are cruising to victory early on, Democrats will feel much more optimistic about the ground game they’ve been touting — and their chances of holding the Senate.

“We’re going to see early on that Jeanne Shaheen and Kay Hagan have been reelected and that it will be a long and interesting election night that ultimately leads to us holding the majority,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky.

Close races, on the other hand, would make it a nail-biting night for Democrats.

And if either Hagan or Shaheen loses, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellConservatives wage assault on Mueller report Overnight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' MORE (R-Ky.) may know whether he’s going to be majority leader by the time his own race is called.

Polls close in North Carolina at 7:30 p.m. and at 8 p.m. in New Hampshire. They close at 7 p.m. in Kentucky.

Will Georgia go to a runoff?

Businessman David Perdue (R) has regained his lead against former charity executive Michelle Nunn (D), according to most recent public polling, and Republicans are feeling much better about his chances of holding Georgia.

Still, polls show the race remains close, and if neither candidate reaches 50 percent the race will head to a Jan. 6 runoff. Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford could play spoiler. If she can win 2 to 3 percent of the vote, strategists think Perdue and Nunn will go to overtime.

Both parties claim they can pull off an outright victory, with Perdue’s allies more confident as recent polling shows the Republican with 48 percent support.

Even if Georgia goes to a runoff, Republicans are confident given their recent history of winning such elections in the state.

“We are going to win the majority, period, whether it’s in November or January,” said one national GOP strategist. “Perdue is surging in the latest polls and is very close to 50 percent. … Regardless, you really think Nunn fares better in the runoff than in the [general election]? Nope.”

How many House seats will GOP gain?

The House map is much smaller this election cycle, but there are also an unusually high number of close contests given the small playing field.

Both parties are in for a long night given the fact that some of the most competitive races are in California and Arizona. As a result, unless there are some major surprises or every early race breaks toward one party, it will be hard to guess early on whether Republicans will reach their goal of netting 11 seats.

For clues, look to Georgia, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois. Polls will close in all of those states at or before 8 p.m., and they will generate more than a half-dozen races to watch.

Democratic Reps. John BarrowJohn Jenkins BarrowRepublican wins Georgia secretary of state runoff to replace Kemp The most important runoff election is one you probably never heard of Our democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget MORE (Ga.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (W.Va.), Joe GarciaJose (Joe) Antonio GarciaOvernight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Biden pays tribute to McCain at emotional memorial service Mueller indictments: Congressional candidate asked Russian operatives for info on opponent MORE (Fla.), Bill Enyart (Ill.) and Brad Schneider (Ill.) are all in tough races, with Enyart, Rahall and Garcia in trouble most of all. On the GOP side, Rep. Steve Southerland (Fla.) is in a tough fight.

How will Republicans do in Northeast?

In a very good night for Republicans, Democratic Reps. Ann Kuster (N.H.), Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDems seek to stifle primary challenges to incumbents Progressive demands put new pressures on Democrats House Dems haul in record donations for February MORE (Ill.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) will be in trouble, as well as Seth Moulton, the Democrat running for Rep. John Tierney’s (D-Mass.) seat.

“If we lose them that’s a sign the environment hangs us and it projects bad things for the rest of the races,” said one national Democratic strategist.

Other early races to watch include battles for the seats of retiring Reps. Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfDOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling Vulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump Bolton could be the first national security chief to prioritize religious freedom MORE (R-Va.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), and Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPence, GOP senators discuss offer to kill Trump emergency disapproval resolution Bipartisan think tank to honor lawmakers who offer 'a positive tenor' Trump tries to win votes in Senate fight MORE (R-W.Va.), who is favored to win her Senate race.

Republicans are favored in all of those contests, so if those races flip to Democrats the GOP will be less confident about making big gains.

If Republicans start winning in New York and New Hampshire, it’s a bad omen for Democrats.

“If we’re winning seats in the Northeast it’s an indicator that it will likely be a great night,” said one national GOP strategist.