This may be one of the most important roll call votes in recent history, so when the House voting display pops up on your C-SPAN channel around noon today, here's what to look for on the bailout vote.
First, watch the Republican "no" votes surge first, representing the hardened ideologues who won't vote for this package no matter what's in it. It's not clear yet whether the GOP opposition will amount to a few dozen votes against the bill or a true breakaway bloc. Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has just given members of his 100-strong caucus of conservatives cover to vote against this bill, so this may be a significant group of no votes.
Next, watch for a mini surge of Democrats to oppose the bill. That part of the C-SPAN vote chart will likely trickle upwards more slowly than the Republican "no" votes, but the Democratic opposition also represents an ideological strain among liberals who want a more punishing bill for Wall Street and more money for affordable housing.
Keeping an eye on the "no" votes, watch the "yes" votes build slowly on both sides. This probably only going to be a 15 minute vote on the clock, but on these historic roll calls, 15 minutes can often be stretched out for much, much longer as leaders scramble in real time to twist arms.
As soon as the "yes" votes hit 218 _ the magic number for the majority of the House _ the roll call will accelerate to a close so people can't start switching their votes.
WHAT YOU CAN'T SEE: Those of us who will be in the House chamber watching from the galleries will watch the floor frenzy to see who GOP leader John Boehner is cajoling in the Republican corner. We'll look for conservatives like Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Eric Cantor of Virginia _ now dedicated "yes" votes _ to see if they can try to stem a breakaway bloc of Republican opposition.
In the Democratic side, we'll keep an eye on Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina to see if he has any work left to do on liberals in his caucus, trying to prevent cynical Democrats who don't trust the Bush administration from breaking away. If things get hairy on the Democratic side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have to work the aisles, but that seems unnecessary at this point.
And then there's the vote changers. What we can see in the gallery _ and you can't see on TV _ is a massive display on the House chamber wall that shows the yes and no votes of every member. Lawmakers and gallery watchers will look for anyone whose green "yes" light turns to red right before the end of the vote _ those are the folks looking for a convenient "no" vote once they know this thing will pass. We'll try to name the flip floppers if we see any.
All of this, mind you, will unfold over the course of 30 minutes or so at lunch time, so buckle up.