6 p.m.: First polls close

We’re in uncharted territory tonight on the site, and not just because we may be about to see some sort of super-tsunami. Hot Air debuted in April 2006, right around the time Bush’s presidency was falling apart in earnest; the Democrats took back the House six months later and then Hopenchange descended upon the land in 2008. Which is to say, with the memorable exception of Scott Brown’s win this year and Bob McDonnell’s and Chris Christie’s bellwether victories last year, we’ve never had occasion at HA for a big celebration. That’s soon to change in a major way. I just hope Humpbot can handle it.

The goal tonight on the site is simply to try to manage the absolute chaos that’ll erupt around 8 p.m. ET when polls start closing all over the east coast. So here’s the plan: Each hour, as a new round of states start coming in, I’ll post a thread flagging the key match-ups for you guys to watch out for. As news breaks during that hour, that post will be updated. Once that hour is over, we’ll move on to a new post for the new hour and go from there. The resources I’m using to keep tabs on races are Townhall’s election tracker for results and the hour-by-hour scorecards created by Patrick Ishmael and Nate Silver to gauge the magnitude of various upsets. (If you’re hungry for other “what to watch for” posts, try David Freddoso or Marc Ambinder.) If there is a super-wave a-comin’, I assume we’ll be seeing a few shockers before 8 p.m., so don’t wander off before then.

Here’s the hourly outlook. The first polls to close are in Indiana (and eastern Kentucky), which means an easy early Senate pick-up for the GOP. We should get a call for Dan Coats right away; the polls in the rest of Kentucky close at 7 p.m., so if it’s true that Rand Paul has a 15-point lead over Jack Conway, there’ll be a call in that one not long after the top of the next hour. The House race to watch is IN-9, the first toss-up of the night. Incumbent Dem Baron Hill — whom you may remember for calling health-care protesters “political terrorists” — trails narrowly. If he wins, the super-wave may be receding; if he’s blown out, hoo boy. One thing to remember, though: I know it’s hard to believe, but Democrats will likely pick up a few Republican seats tonight (Joe Cao’s among them). Don’t go popping the champagne if/when the GOP wins its 40th House seat, in other words. Thanks to the Dems’ pick-ups, the actual number needed to take the House is more like 45.

As I write this, Jim Geraghty is citing sources who’ve seen the exit polls and … well, here’s a quote from a GOP strategist: “If this holds, we win everything.” Madam Speaker is greeting the news by finally losing her grip on reality altogether, which will make tonight’s and tomorrow’s lame Democratic spin extra fun. (If you’re drinking, play along!) Exit question: How should Humpbot be deployed tonight? I’m thinking once when the House is captured, once if/when the 1994 threshold is crossed, and then … well, we’ll play it by ear. Let’s hope we get the chance. Things might get humpy too for Rubio and Sharron Angle and — oh, for Linda McMahon. Believe it or not, Blumenthal’s camp is apparently worried by turnout up there. Hmmmmm.

Update: If you’re looking for other sites where you can track returns, Politico has its usual interface up and this clickable map from WaPo/Yahoo News is pretty nifty.

Update: We’ll all be exhausted by the time midnight rolls around and the polls close in Alaska, but here’s something to keep you looking forward to that one:

New York Times reporter William Yardley was in Girdwood this morning as the Murkowski family showed up at the poll to, presumably, write in the incumbent’s name on their ballots. First, Sen. Lisa Murkowski left her ID in the car and sent her son to retrieve it; then, as they voted, Murkowski’s husband, Verne Martell, asked from his booth, “Hon, how do you spell your last name?”

Update: For what it’s worth, no surprises in the early national exit poll: Economy, economy, economy. And The One’s approval rating stands at a hearty 45/54.

Update: Drudge is teasing an exit poll from Wisconsin suggesting that Ron Johnson’s knocked off Russ Feingold. Exercise caution. If you were a blog reader circa 2004, you know how wrong exit polls can be.

Update: Actually, the NYT’s House and Senate clickable maps look to be super-nifty for following returns. Color-coded too for at-a-glance checking. Well done.

Update: Looks like we won’t get any early calls this hour, so get ready for a new thread. For what little it’s worth, in the bellwether of KY-6, Democrat Ben Chandler is up by 12 with just three percent reporting.