TIME: Given the political landscape, what do you think this Election Night will be like for viewers?
HUME: At first, it'll be suspenseful, assuming you have a rooting interest in one party or the other. First of all, until we know the outcome in the House, which is the one where we're more likely to see a change, there'll be a lot of suspense about that. Once we know, and of course we can't tell how late it'll be before we know, then of course you have the second issue, which is the Senate, which we may know early or late. Beyond that, it becomes a discussion of what it all means, in some sense. It will be of interest, I think, to viewers to say: OK, we know this is which party is going to be in control, what difference is it going to make? And so on. So it seems that it'll be suspenseful and then after that, just a matter of normal curiosity about what the meaning of the results is.
TIME: What's your sense of how soon we'll know control of the Senate, and how soon we'll know control of the House?
HUME: We've looked at this over and over again. We will probably have a pretty clear indication early from polling. Even at 7 o'clock, when the polls close in Indiana and Kentucky, for example, there are a number of endangered seats in those two states, so we might get an early read from that about which way the night is going to go. It's not clear that there will a nationwide trend. But there's a good chance there will. And if there is, in one clear direction or another, we may see it in those two states. And we could know very early. We won't be able to say with finality that it's done until a certain number of races have been tabulated. Of course when you're talking about House races, you can't do all that much from exit polls. You can do something, but not all that much. So you're going to need some kind of indications from the raw vote itself.
TIME: If it's a big Democratic night, what's your top line about why? If Republicans surprise and hold on, what's your top line about that?
HUME: If it's a big Democratic night, the obvious indication that we have it that it's all about the war. We will obviously scan the exit polling to see if there are other factors in the race that we don't immediately see, as sometimes there turn out to be, and that will be an interesting element of the whole evening. If the Republicans succeed in holding this back either in one house or, less probably, in both, which is still possible then it'll be a very interesting night of soul-searching about how this could possibly have happened in a year so clearly unfavorable to the Republicans and with the war front and center and highly unpopular.
TIME: In the end, is the Congressman Mark Foley sex scandal less of a factor than it might have looked like?
HUME: I think Foley's one of those episodes where the damage from that is done. In other words, you're not going to see people going into the voting booth and saying: I'm going to vote Democrat because of the disgusting things that Mark Foley said to a page. But campaigns are kind of organic. They have a certain growth and a certain progression about them. Scandals tend not to be voting issues, but they tend to be major interruptions, and they tend to cause all kinds of tactical and even strategic problems. Because what happens to a party or an individual candidate who is caught up in one of these things in the middle of a campaign is that whatever they're trying to get out whatever message they're trying to send, what events they're trying to do, whatever it is that they're trying to call attention to is completely obliterated by days of negative publicity, or even longer, about a particular scandal. In this case, it was the Foley scandal, which clearly interrupted some Republican momentum which had built during the month of September.
TIME: Is there something different you're doing with exit polls this year?
HUME: We were very worried about the exit polling because it's been so dodgy in the last several outings. So we're going to look at it with very great care. The problem, of course, is that the first cut we're going to see is about 5 p.m. Exit polling is better when you've got a 12,000-person national sample. It'll be much more helpful in the Senate races than it will be in the House races. We'll be watching to see whether the kind of oversampling that we got in 2004 in the early going, it was with women, and then with Democrats overall happens again, which it well could.