US Election Night

Tonight, you should hardly need telling, is US election night, so here’s a thread for overnight discussion and some things to look out for tonight.

First up a note about exit polls. Exit polls this year are only being conducted in 31 states rather than 50, they aren’t bothering with some of the safe states, including some of those states closing first (so no exit polls in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia – all safe Republican states). Exit polls are done in the same way as in the UK – people stand outside polling stations and get a proportion of people leaving after having voted to fill in surveys, although unlike in the UK they ask a full survey about their opinions and why they voted as they did, not just how they voted. Exit polls are supplemented with phone polls to take account of early voters.

Exit polls are not released until the polls in that state are closed, people will inevitably claim to have leaked exit poll data prior to that. Any claimed leaks before 10pm will be bollocks anyway – the polling data will still be under strict quarantine in a locked room. Any claimed leaks after that will probably be bollocks too, and should be ignored anyway as it won’t be probably weighted yet. Also bear in mind that in recent elections the initially released exit poll data has tended to be a bit skewed to the Democrats, becoming more accurate as actual votes come in. That may or may not be the case this time.

The initial exit polls are updated as actual votes are counted, and weighted based on the declared votes in the districts where the exit poll took place. Once the networks are certain that a party has won the seat they call it – obviously the closer a state is, the longer it takes for the networks to be certain who has won. Hence while we have a list of the time that states’ polls close and exit polls will be released, its it only the very safe states that will be called straight away. In 2008 states where the vote was relatively close (say, under 10 points) sometimes took a couple of hours after polls closed for the networks to call the race, states with the tightest races took much longer to call: Montana and Florida four hours, North Caroline a day, Missouri a week.

In a tight race, don’t expect a result in the early hours!

Looking at the timetable.

11pm. Most polls close in Indiana and Kentucky – some parts of both states are an hour behind, so the networks may not call them until the whole state has finished voting, but either way both will vote Romney.

12 midnight. Polls close in Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont & Virginia. Most polls close in Florida. Georgia and South Carolina will vote Romney, Vermont will vote Obama. Virginia and Florida are the first toss-up states. For Romney to win, he really needs to win both of these – if Obama wins either of them then it becomes difficult (but not impossible) for Romney to win. The polls in Florida are neck-and-neck, if they have been accurate it is not going to be called for many hours. Most recent polls in Virginia have shown Obama ahead, but it will probably be a few hours until it is called.

12:30 am. North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia polls close. West Virginia will vote Romney. North Carolina and Ohio are another two key states. Recent polls have tended to show Romney ahead in North Carolina, again it is a state he really does need to win. Ohio is likely to be the key – if Romney wins Virginia, North Carolina and Florida he needs Ohio and another state (New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa?) to win. If Obama holds Ohio he has won unless he loses something unexpected like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania. At 12:30 though this will be academic – if the race is at all close they aren’t going to be calling it yet.

1 am. A whole slew of states close: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, most of Texas and Michigan and the remaining part of Florida close. Apart from Florida the only really interesting states amongst them all are New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania should be solidly Democrat, Obama won it by 10 points last time, John Kerry won it, all but one of the recent polls have shown Obama ahead, often by good margins. It should be Obama. However, both campaigns have been targeting it so it must be seen as somewhat close. In the event that Romney does win it he would probably win unless Obama had won Virginia, North Carolina or Florida instead (though frankly, the idea of the Democrats winning one of those states and not Pennsylvania is somewhat bonkers)

1:30 am. Arkansas polls close.

2:00 am. New York, Kansas, Louisana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming polls close, the remainder of Texas and Michigan close. Again, these are mostly safe states – the two interesting ones are Wisconsin (which the polls suggest should go for Obama without too much difficulty) and Colorado, where the polls are closer, but are consistently showing Obama ahead. More interesting is that by now we’ve had a couple of hours for votes to be counted in the early-closing states, so with a bit of luck we should start to see competitive states being called. The broad picture of the night, whether Obama is probably home and dry, whether it is going to be close or whether there could be a Romney win will hopefully start to emerge around now.

3:00 am. Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Utah, Nevada and most of North Dakota. Iowa and Nevada are the last of the swing states. Nevada looks like it should go to Obama, Iowa’s polls have Obama ahead, but less convincingly.

4:00 am. California, Washington, Hawaii. Most of Idaho, Oregon. All safe states for one side or the other. The closer run states should be being called around now. Unless things have gone right down to the wire we should soon know who has won. If they have gone right down to a couple of states where the candidates are neck-and-neck it could take days. Go to bed.

5:00 am. Alaska. Go! Go to bed. Sheesh.


483 Responses to “US Election Night”

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  1. From Huffingtonpost: (Fla 18)

    Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) isn’t coming back to Congress.

    After months of battling through one of the nastiest and most expensive races in the country, the Tea Party freshman was knocked out of his seat, barely, by Democratic newcomer Patrick Murphy.

    Still waiting for results in some of the tight House races in California….

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  2. @Colin/Other Howard

    “It is also clear as Colin says above that the Nation is deeply divided”

    You’re both stating the bleedin’ obvious here.Two party contests, especially Presidential elections like those that occur in the US and France, where there is no opportunity for the vote to be spread over a multiplicity of parties and candidates, always produce apparently “deeply divisive” results. One candidate got 51% and the other 49%, what a deeply divided lot they must be goes the cry. Nonsense, they just voted for different candidates because, wait for it, they preferred one over the other. Unless we want Saddam-esque plebiscites won with 99% majorities, then two horse races will always “divide” electorates. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the two groups of voters are a symptom of a divided country at all, even though partisan sympathisers will always try and claim it to be so. Sour grapes adds to the jaundiced view too.

    Wonderful result for the US and the world last night, by the way. Hollande elected. Obama re-elected. Merkel and Cameron; rest uneasily in your beds!

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  3. CHRISLANE

    I’m sure it does.

    Certainly Socal’s last five words, applied to the voting preference of nearly half the country, makes my point I feel.

    Obama’s acceptance speech included a lot of reaching out/one nation /all in this together stuff.

    So let’s hope it catches on -even with Socal after he has had a sleep. We all have a stake.

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  4. CROSSBAT11

    @” Presidential elections like those that occur in the US and France, where there is no opportunity for the vote to be spread over a multiplicity of parties and candidates, always produce apparently “deeply divisive” results. ”

    In USA?

    Bush/Kerry-50.7/48.3
    Bush/Gore 47.9/48.4

    But :-

    Obama/McCain 52.9/45.7
    Clinton/Dole 49.2/40.7
    Clinton/Bush 43.0 /37.5
    Bush/Dukakis 53.4/45.7
    Reagan/Mondale 58.8/40.6
    Reagan/Carter 50.7/41.0

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  5. “”I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggest. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of individual ambitions,”

    Barack Obama -acceptance speech..

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  6. @TOH

    “I feel deeply sad for the American people. They have chosen to re-elect a weak President whose policies will ensure the decline of a once great Nation.”

    I feel deeply sad for the American people. They have chosen to retain a House of Representatives whose main purpose will be to frustrate and block Obama, irrespective of the damage done to the US economy and the American people.

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  7. Howard,

    I find it very hard to follow your comment, which makes me think that I must have expressed myself in an unclear way. Here’s another shot: “The fact that 80% of professors in the US vote Democrat and 80% of Baptist preachers vote Republican is statistical evidence that there is a strong echo-chamber effect in much of American life, leading to a divisive and uncivil political climate.”

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  8. Breaking News.

    Nick Clegg has defected to UKIP!!

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  9. There will be an Israeli election on January 22nd (analysis of last night should keep us going till then).

    The censor surprisingly allowed a documentary to be shown which suggests that two years ago the security services/military put a stop to Netanyahu planning a strike on Iran. This is being interpreted as a signal to the electorate about the dangers of reckless foreign policy, and the need to work with allies. If Netanyahu had had his way, the backdrop to the US election could have been startlingly different.

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  10. A deeply impressive performance from 538, in terms of calling all the states correctly as well as the share of the popular vote.

    A deeply unimpressive performance from Gallup, who leaving aside their final poll consistently produced likely voter tracking polls in the final month with Romney up 4%,5%,6%, compared to a 2% margin for Obama in the final mix.

    Imagine if all that we’d had in the US were national and not state polls – it would have been far harder to forecast the outcome. So as we also have a FPTP system, I do hope that the emphasis of the US on state polling might lead to more emphasis on constituency/marginal/regional polling here.

    Finally, it’s good to see the winning candidate standing on a populist platform of putting up taxes for the very rich. The remnants of New Labour/Progress/Peter Kellner should all take note.

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  11. @Colin
    What did you expect Obama to say. Something like “Republicans, you lost. Move on and get used to it?”. The fact that Obama sought to appeal to the whole nation in his acceptance speech is par for the course.

    Nonetheless, I think Obama means it. Coming from “47%” Romney such comments would be far less convincing.

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  12. Shevii:

    You moved TO Wigan???????????????????/

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  13. A COMPLAINT:

    Like many I switched between chanels etc earlier on. I have no idea why so many UKIP people kept parroting what had just been announced.

    “orange county has just been declared for blah blah blah blah blah” etc

    I UFFING KNOW!!!!!!!! I am watching the results as well. The fact I am able to read those comments is evidence that [1] I have my lappy on and [2] I am interested in the US election.

    Some of the opinions and analysis were good but mostly it was like watching footy on tv, with a group of people, and ine if them coming up with info such as:

    “Theo Walcott gas just scored. He kicked the ball right into the net. That means Arsenal are one-nil up.”

    In the words of Socal [for whom I am very pleased:]

    “Shut the f*** up”

    On an autre subject I am surprised that theLab lead hasn’t widened and not sure why that might be.

    TOH on Obama and the future of the USA is hyperbolic – whether that is a word or not.

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  14. I can’t see why Labour would have extended their lead (?)

    If anything Cameron’s swift action on the shadowy Tory would have won him some points. Leveson holds dangers 9those emails?) but I wouldn’t have thought many opinions would have shifted.

    The next big game changer? Economic figures in Jan?

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  15. howard

    If you discovered that 80% of atheists voted Dem, then I think you would be on safer ground.

    71% according to the NBC exit poll:

    http://elections.msnbc.msn.com/ns/politics/2012/all/house/

    (warning really irritating auto-refresh that keeps dumping you back at the top of the page)

    A lot of other figures showing the divide that religion and race imposes on US politics.

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  16. NickP

    Because of the Tory rebellion and labour winning that rather commen-sense amendment re seeking a reduction in EU costs, at a time when govts everywhere are cutting national budgets. That’s why.

    But, if anything, the lead has dropped.

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  17. Re US divided:

    Division isn’t just about stats – 51/49 etc – but depth.

    There really is very little room ro compromise between people who are convinced atheists and the the sort of christian right one sees in America [or some of the more extreme “faiths” throughout the world]

    One can only arrive at agreements if BOTH parties are willing to bend. If one says its against their faith then its gridlock.

    That’s why I thought the “echo-chamber” analysis from earlier in this thred was apposite.

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  18. Paul Croft,

    I think it’s worse than you suggest. I think that BOTH sides tend to live in echo chambers, with tenets based largely on faith. It’s not even the case that one side is outwith an echo chamber trying to get their voice heard within.

    Usually, it’s only apostates from one side or the other seem to be intimately familiar with the arguments (particularly the fundamental arguments) from the other side. So you get some papers in political psychology that identify anti-Semitism as an idiosyncratically right-wing belief (to justify the claim that Stalin was a conservative!) and similarly conservatives throw around the word “socialist” like it simply means “person who smells” rather than refers to a variety of heterogenous and sophisticated philosophical, economic and other miscellaneous types of theories.

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  19. @Colin

    Your figures rather make the point I was making. Yes, winning margins may sometimes vary depending on the closeness of the race, but even when Reagan beat Mondale by a huge margin in 1984 (Mondale only won one state), 37.5 million people voted for the defeated Democrat candidate (Reagan got 54.5 million). Symptoms of a divided nation or just 40% of the nation’s citizens having a different view on how they would like the country to be run. There wasn’t enough of them to form a majority and they had to accept the democratic will of the 60%. “Deeply divided”? I don’t think so.

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  20. CROSSBAT11

    @” “Deeply divided”? I don’t think so.”

    Well I am just sitting here watching tv & listening to the analyses, and the common theme is of pretty deep demographic differences in political affiliation.

    Peter Kellner has an interesting piece on it today too :-

    http://yougov.co.uk/news/2012/11/07/how-obama-won/

    …in which he comments on divisions in gender, & age which far exceed their UK equivalents.

    Actually the most staggering one in his analysis , for me, is what he calls “race”-particularly the Black & Hispanic preference for Obama.
    I have been listening to a tv discussion on the steady “browning” of America & it’s implications for both parties if they truly wish to be representative of the whole cultural & racial mix.

    So when you put these deep differences in the context of a 50/50 ish popular vote split-and add in what Bill Patrick is highlighting about the increasing partisanity & non-communication in US political debate today, then I don’t think that the characterisation of USA as a “divided nation” is off target.

    Seems to me they all realise it is over there-and want to do something about it -if they can

    I don’t think Obama is denying it -in fact I hear him recognising it.
    Maybe it is the GOP that needs to understand it a little more than it does currently.

    But I don’t think it represents some sort of political failure to recognise it-on the contrary, in a country whose cultural & racial mix is changing so fast , it would seem to be absolutely imperative to understand where the centre is over time.

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  21. @ Billy Bob

    Raul Ruiz won! :)

    It’s not being projected at this point and I don’t have inside info here or anything (sadly) but with what remains to be counted (absentee ballots dropped off on election day and provisional ballots) is traditionally certain to favor the Democrat. Spectacular upset for a first time candidate.

    Julia Brownley also won though she’s in the same position (there are lot of ballots outstanding that favor her, she’s well ahead, but her race has not yet been projected).

    Looks good for Scott Peters and Ami Bera but I wouldn’t call their races just yet.

    California probably has 2-3 million more ballots left to count over the next few weeks (there were 2 million in the midterms). That and some other states will add to the President’s popular vote margin nationwide, which once again appears to be matching that of Virginia.

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  22. Colin:

    I agree with you. As I just wrote I thik its the depth of the division. Its largely religious but also to do with ethnicity.

    The UK’s divisions pale into insignificance in comparison and DC would probably sit comfortably within the Democratic Party.

    Its one [of many] reasons that I am so sad that the Uk’s increasing secularism over my own lifetime [and even then a lot of “C of E” was just lip-service] is being transformed by what I regard as imported faiths. That is where real division is being born and nurtured throughout the world and the implications for the future are scary.

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  23. By the way, there seems something incredibly arrogant about “Feeling incredibly sad” for the American people when some 50 MILLION of them have just voted for the something that one UK citizen thinks is the wrong decision.

    Personally I will save my sadness for people in countries like Iran or Russia – and its a bloody long list one could come up with.

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  24. Thing is, Colin, if one party demonises the poor and immigrants they can hardly complain if those people vote for somebody else, can they?

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  25. NickP,

    I don’t think that Obama demonises the over 65’s or those without a college education.

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  26. in 2000 more people voted for gore than bush jr but bush won by the electoral college. i don’t remember conservative republicans or their british conservative friends here in the uk having a problem with that. there was no hand ringing about america being a “divided” society by fox contributors or republican pundits. they thought it was fantastic. right wingers dish out insults,abuse and sneering comments all the time ,now its their turn to be on the receiving end. when democrats win we are told in the interests of national unity they have to compromise but do you think if romney had won last night we would hear the same thing? not a chance . karl rove,dick morris,donald trump ,fox etc would be crowing all night. what goes around comes around.

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  27. Paul,

    I remember people arguing that way during the Troubles. “Ah, but back in 1687…” It didn’t work out well and it got so bad that even Adams & Paisley were willing to try alternatives.

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  28. Good Evening All.

    PAUL.
    Fully agreed.

    BILL PATRICK.
    Thank God, the peoples of Ireland moved their positions. I have been thinking a lot today about the period 1968-1972 in the USA and in the north of Ireland.

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  29. CHRISLANE

    @”the north of Ireland”

    Do you mean County Donegal, or Northern Ireland?

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  30. COLIN.

    LOL. north of Ireland. Donegal belongs to the nine counties of Ulster, which was itself divided by the Treaty.

    One Man One Vote etc. 1968 campaign.

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  31. The north of Ireland is Donegal isn’t it?

    The other bit at the northern end of the Island is called Northern Ireland-or so I had understood.

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  32. “Deeply divided”
    A concern with a fundamental division in American poltics and in the population seems to me to be little to do with domestic politics – jobs, fiscal policy, education, welfare, health, or even race – but rather with two factors which matter to the rest of the world, and on which such a judgement is basically to do with global poltitics in which American domestic developments affect us: that is, a fundamentalist Christian position, notably in relation to women’s rights and to rights or duties of intervention in countries not practicing an American view of democracy and especially in Islamiic counties; so that we would, unless this divide is healed in a way that permit greater recognition and tolerance of other systems fo belief and governance, see us renew a Western presence in Afghanistan, and armed intervention in countres such as Iran and Syria, and a US dictation of faith-based restrictions on access to women’s rights over their lives and birth of the children they want and can care for.

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  33. Note the Democrats won the popular vote in the presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives (congressional) election. But the House of Representatives has been so badly gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans that the Democrats would have to win by a five or six percentage point margin to even draw even. Remember, in most states, boundaries are drawn by the state legislature in the 1s of each decade (2001, 2011 etc), and in most of the big swing states of the East, Republican legislatures won control in 2010. A very costly loss for the Democrats, who must be kicking themselves over doing such an ineffective organizing effort for 2010.

    Example; Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia. All won by Obama comfortably. All won comfortably by Democratic Senate candidates. But they yielded a combined total of 33 Republican and only 12 Democratic members of Congress despite a near 50-50 split between the two parties on votes.

    Some states draw boundaries like the British — an independent commission involved in some way. Iowa and Arizona have done this for a long time, and have recently been joined by California. A pending switch to a watered-down version of this system in Florida is being litigated.

    The rest of the country depends for fair boundaries on shared political power between Governors, State Senate and State assemblies (or in the case of North Carolina, where the governor is shut out of the process, you’d need one party controlling the state senate and the other the state assembly). Where one party controls everything, there’s trouble.

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