Election Day, and What’s Next

The first vote totals will start coming in at 4 p.m. (7 p.m. on the East Coast) from states like Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia, with other results rolling out throughout the evening. Early exit poll information is being sequestered this year until 2 p.m. (5 p.m. EST), so watch for leaks to the Web sometime after that, if you want to go down that route again.

After a final full day of campaigning and poll numbers pointing to a win, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hosts his election night festivities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Among the contributions his campaign reported over the weekend were $22,300 from General Electric, $22,300 from Michael King, $18,000 from Burt Sugarman and $2,500 from Dan Glickman. The Dems are at the Biltmore.

Supporters of Yes on 87 — which enjoys huge backing of the entertainment industry — finished their final day of campaigning with the star power of Brad Pitt, at a rally with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Google’s Sergey Brin was among those who chipped in big in the final week of the campaign, with a $1 million contribution. The measure got a boost from internal polling that showed its prospects were improving. Their election night fete is at the Beverly Wilshire.

The most attention, obviously, will be on whether the Democrats retake the House or the Senate. After three election cycles of disappointment, entertainment industry Democrats are looking for big wins tonight, which could surely give a boost to presidential contenders’ efforts to raise money, expected to be in full force after the first of the year.

What if the Dems take neither chamber? There’s been some speculation that moderate Republicans like Rudolph Giuliani, should he run, could peel away traditionally Democratic industry support, particularly on issues like security and especially if there is frustration over another year of losses. Lara Bergthold, national deputy political director of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid and now director of development for Act III Prods., doubts that such results would cause a major change in the dynamics, but there could be a six-month period of “a depressed level of contributions.” More likely are industry figures retreating from the political scene.”In that scenario, there will be people who will just turn off, not just donors, but voters,” she says.

“If they don’t take back the House, there will be a sense of ‘why?'” she says, adding that it will not only be strategy that is questioned but issues like voting machine fraud. Those who do stay active will be looking for a candidate who is “authentic and real and who sort of tells it like it is and calls the party losses for what they are.”

Political and public affairs consultant Andy Spahn views a Democratic loss tonight as a motivator in the long run. “Paradoxically, the stakes would be even higher, and the need would be even greater,” he says. “There would be no checks and balances.” After Kerry’s 2004 loss, there was a lag in fund raising activity that eventually picked up. He cautions, “It’s so early at this point, we don’t even know the 20 or so candidates who are running.”

Addendum: USA Today rounds up celebrity activism in the midterms.

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