It seems to be the universal belief by all the political pundits that we are in for a long night. With the latest polls showing the election still a dead heat, and lawyers already preparing their arguments for and/or against the results, we might not have a new (or old) president by the time rooster crows.

But all is not lost.  Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times says there will be clues as to what could happen.

If exit polling indicates that Mr. Romney is substantially exceeding the share of the white vote that went to Senator John McCain four years ago, that will be a sign that he is replicating the coalition that gave President George W. Bush a second term. If Mr. Obama can win Virginia, a battleground with an early poll-closing time, Mr. Romney’s options for getting an Electoral College majority will be substantially reduced. And in Ohio, the vote in Hamilton County, which Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush both won, could signal who takes the state.

So, based on that information, the first thing to keep an eye on is what happens in Virginia. It's polls close

According to Rutenberg and Zeleny, it is also about who is voting.

Mr. Romney’s campaign built its theory of winning around the idea that turnout for Mr. Obama will fall well below his 2008 tally. The Obama campaign did not entirely disagree, but believes it has rebuilt his coalition of women, Hispanics, blacks and young voters just enough to win.

But in the beginning it will all come down to how Virginia goes:

If Mr. Obama carries Virginia, the path to victory narrows considerably for Mr. Romney, who will have to all but run the table of the remaining contested states. A senior adviser to the Romney campaign said the state’s importance is greater than its electoral votes because the outcome there could set the tone for the rest of election night.

So, starting at 7 PM, all eyes will turn to the Old Dominion to see which way Virginia goes, and if as goes Virginia, so goes the country.

And I always thought Ohio was the key state.