Senate Desk: Countdown To The Vote Count

With the critical midterm elections now just hours away, CBS News producer Steve Chaggaris gives us a preview of the preparations underway over at the Senate desk. -- Ed.
(AP / CBS)
As political candidates wrap up months of campaigning, those of us following the Senate races here at CBS News are wrapping up months of preparation for our big night on Tuesday.

CBS News National Political Correspondent Gloria Borger and a team of three producers, myself included, are working the Senate desk for the Evening News and for our two Election Night specials in prime-time tomorrow night. And we're spending today and all of tomorrow just outside CBS' Studio 47 in New York City - the home of the Evening News newsroom - finalizing all of our research and potential scenarios for what may happen in a series of tight races.

There's a chance that the Democrats could take over the Senate for the first time in four years, if they can gain a net of six seats from the Republicans. Their chances, if you listen to pundits and polls over the past few weeks, have ranged from not-so-good to extremely possible. We're preparing for the three possible scenarios: 1.) The Democrats will gain a net of six seats and take over control of the Senate; 2.) The Democrats will have a net gain of less than five seats and stay in the minority; and 3.) The Democrats will have a net gain of five and it will mean a 50-50 split in the Senate. In the third scenario, while the Republicans would still be in control of the Senate because Vice President Cheney would break any ties as President of the Senate.

In addition, we're keeping a close eye on roughly 1/3 of the 33 Senate races, as the other 2/3 are expected to be virtual no-contests. The Democrats' hopes of taking over the Senate are in 8 Republican-held seats: Arizona, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia. According to the most recent polls, Democrats have significant leads in only two of those states: Pennsylvania and Ohio. As for the rest, we'll be watching the exit polls and the returns, probably late into the night for some of the tighter races - and those with late poll closing times – such as Missouri, Rhode Island and Montana. Oh, and to complicate matters, the Democrats have a couple of close races for seats they currently hold: New Jersey and Maryland.

This all may seem VERY "inside baseball" – and it may seem like way more info than anyone needs to know but we have to be totally prepared to discuss any scenario – and react on live TV to whatever Katie asks Gloria when she throws to her.

And while we love every second of preparing for such a big event – since all of us on the Senate desk are political junkies at heart – I'm secretly looking forward to a return to normalcy after the election as well…