Welcome to the FT’s live coverage of a momentous election in which US voters will choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to lead them through a future of economic and political uncertainty. Here is our moment-by-moment reporting as months of bitter campaigning and rancorous rhetoric end, and voters finally have their say. By Anjli Raval and Arash Massoudi in New York and John Aglionby and Ben Fenton in London. (All times EST)
16.52 We’re going to take a short break before the polls start to close. Stay tuned for more live coverage on FT.com, which can be found here.
16.49: Lionel Barber, Financial Times editor, writes a piece from Washington saying that America’s real test comes after the polls:
“The victor in the 2012 election faces an immediate test of leadership, not merely to overcome the divisions between Democrats and Republicans that have largely paralysed Washington. The greater challenge is how to rekindle a spirit of can-do optimism in a nation beaten down by the global financial crisis”
16.42: While long queues were an issue several states, here’s a voter receiving her ballot at a quiet precinct in Macksburg, Iowa. President Obama has a narrow 2.4 per cent advantage over Mitt Romney in the swing state, according to polls averaged by RealClearPolitics.com.
16.30: US markets have closed and Vivianne Rodrigues, the FT’s markets reporter, says that US stocks finished higher for a second straight day.
“Wall Street rallied, while US Treasuries and the dollar fell, as Americans headed to polls and definition on the outcome of the US presidential election approached.
Both S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow Jones rose over 1 per cent earlier as 10-year Treasury yields rose 7 basis points to trade at 1.75 per cent. Investors favoured stocks and other risk assets, with the S&P500 closing higher for a second day.
Brent crude oil jumped more than $2 to trade above $110 a barrel for the first time in more than a fortnight, while the euro bounced off a near-two-month low against the dollar. Gold tracked equity prices higher as it leapt back above the $1,700 an ounce level.
But in spite of the improvement in risk appetite, investors remained acutely concerned over whether the US Congress could avert a “fiscal cliff” when a swath of tax cuts and spending programmes expire at the end of the year.”
16.15: Emily Steel, the US Media and Marketing Correspondent, reports that more than 1m television ads have been broadcast by the presidential campaigns since April, costing an estimated $702.7m. She writes:
“That level of advertising is the most ever in a US presidential election, surging 40 per cent from both the 2008 and 2004 presidential campaigns, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which conducted the research.
Barack Obama’s campaign beat Mitt Romney’s campaign by about 2.6 to 1 in both the total number of ads aired and estimated spending. Obama’s campaign is estimated to have spent $265.9m on 503,255 ads versus Romney’s $105.4m on 190,784 ads.”
15.58: Anna Fifield, the FT’s White House correspondent, will be sharing her thoughts and tweets throughout the evening from Boston, where the Romney campaign will gather to watch the results. She shares this photo from where she’ll be tonight:
15.44: Here’s more on the voter (mis) information issues coming out of Florida. Lina Saigol, a London-based FT reporter, has alerted us to a Miami Herald report that says the elections office in Pinellas county, Florida mistakenly made robocalls to thousands of voters telling them they have until 7pm tomorrow to vote.
“The calls went out between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. because of a glitch with the SOE’s phone system,” the Herald reported.
15.30: Robert Wright, the FT’s US industry correspondent, reports on voting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Displaced residents were able to vote thanks to specially organised buses and emergency new election provisions.
Meanwhile, the New York Times captures some New Yorkers efforts to vote:
“Randy Harter, 66, an artist and designer, voted in New Rochelle, in Westchester County, where his frustration at what he described as an incompetent government response to the storm had transformed into frustration with his voting experience.
When Mr. Harter asked an election worker for help to fill out a paper ballot he had never seen before, he was told: “Just fill it out.” When his ballot was inserted, the machine jammed. A second machine also jammed. He eventually was given an envelope in which to place a ballot that would be hand-counted. The entire voting experience took 45 minutes, Mr. Harter said.”
15.15: With a stream of voting irregularities being reported, the Washington Post is compiling a handy list (see 13.45). The latest? Voters in Florida and Washington DC were in some instances told by automated telephone messages that the elections were taking place tomorrow, not today.
15.00: While the Romney camp makes one last push for swing voters, President Obama has arrived in Chicago where his campaign will gather to watch the results tonight. First though, it seems he is playing in his customary election day basketball game with close friends and aides.
From press pool reports sent out a short while ago:
“Motorcade rolled through a gray and drizzly Chicago before arriving at 1:07 pm at the Attack Athletics facility on W. Harrison St., where Potus will play basketball with “friends and staff,” per an aide.”
“Among the players in the game are Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Reggie Love, Mike Ramos and Marty Nesbitt. Pool continues to try to get the rest of the roster.”
14.40: Fresh off the runway (see: 12:30) and onto the final hours of the 2012 US Presidential contest in Ohio, the crucial swing state.
Mr Romney and Paul Ryan, his running mate, stopped at a campaign office to thank supporters and then grabbed a bite to eat at a local Wendy’s, a US fast-food chain.
Before the lunch-break, courtesy of the AP, here is what Mr Romney told supporters:
“Thank you so very much for being here today and for helping people get out to vote. It is critical because this is a big day for big change. We’re about to change America to help people in ways they didn’t imagine in ways they could be helped with good jobs and better take-home pay. The country’s been going in the wrong direction the last few years. We’re going to steer in back onto a course that’s going to help the American people have a brighter future.”
14.15: Elections are quadrennial excuses for broadcasters to showcase new on-screen graphics, digital gizmos and social media tools, but news outlets are also looking to make a splash in the real world, says Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, the FT’s media editor.
This year as in 2008, NBC News is rebranding Rockefeller Center as “Democracy Plaza”, with plans to colour in a map on the skating rink and lift red and blue banners up its 30 Rock headquarters as the results come in.
CNN, which beamed holographic renderings of its correspondents in to the studio four years ago, has gone one better, or at least higher. It will display its projections of each state’s results on the top of the Empire State Building. Election night will be the first outing for the building’s new “state-of-the-art dynamic lighting system from Philips Color Kinetics,” CNN says, boasting that it will “exclusively shoot footage” of the tower from the roof of a neighbouring building, watching for the moment when CNN calls a winner and the tower changes to all-blue or all-red. (Though what’s to stop competitors in midtown Manhattan from poking a camera out of the window is unclear.)
It was all a lot simpler 80 years ago. The first illumination on the top of the Empire State Building was a searchlight that announced the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president in 1932.
14.10: If you’re wondering how many campaign stops the Obama and Romney camps made, how much money was spent on negative advertising or the number of likes garnered by the “Binders Full of Women” Facebook page within an hour of its creation, check out the The Huffington Post’s Presidential Election 2012 in numbers page.
14.00: Aaron Stanley of the FT’s DC bureau has sent in a photo of long lines at his northern Virginia polling district of Pentagon City.
13.53: Jason Abbruzzese, an FT reporter in New York, says that as of 1:46 pm EST, Obama’s Intrade contracts pegs him as a 70 per cent favorite, up about 2 per cent on the day. Romney remains around 30 per cent.
These levels are far from the extremes the contracts hit in late September before the first debate, but up from the late-August charge from Romney that brought the contracts as close as 55.7/44.3.
13.45: Among a flurry of reports about voting irregularities, here’s a story from NBC News. A Pennsylvania electronic voting machine has been taken out of service after being captured on video changing a vote for President Obama into one for Mitt Romney (hat tip to FT Alphaville’s Joseph Cotterill).
13.40: Barney Jopson, the FT’s reporter in Ohio, sends his latest dispatch from the swing state:
I’m now in Warren County, a rural district of Ohio on the road from Cincinnati to Columbus, where I found the county election board meeting to deal with one of the fires that sprung up on a day described as “crazy” by Kimberlie Antrican, its director. The problem: what to do with 18 voters who find themselves unexpectedly in hospital today and cannot get to the polls?
After much discussion the board members vote unanimously to let them cast last-minute absentee ballots. But that left an unresolved question over how the hospital patients would get the ballots and return them. The board is not allowed to ferry the papers back and forth. So it is left to the voters to find family members to do the job
When I noted that such ballots could become pivotal if the Ohio race is close, Ms Antrican gave a weary look and said: “I hope it’s a landslide one way or another. Board of elections always hope for a landslide.”
13.35: Emily Steel, US Media and Marketing Correspondent, says more than one fifth of registered voters have shared how they voted or that they planned to vote on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, according to election day research from the Pew Research Center.
Particularly among younger voters, social media are emerging during this election cycle as a key venue for voters to discuss the campaign and their ballot picks.
About a quarter of voters supporting Barack Obama indicated their preference compared to about a fifth of voters supporting Mitt Romney.
People also are posting a flurry of messages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like encouraging friends to vote.
The campaigns also are getting in on the action by sharing messages and buying paid ads. Obama’s campaign posted more than 20 messages to Twitter by midday on Tuesday, encouraging people to share why they are voting for the president with the hashtag #VoteObama. “Election Day is here! Confirm your polling place and bring a friend with you to vote,” read one message.
Romney’s campaign posted four messages to Twitter by midday on Tuesday. “A brighter future is out there waiting for us. Let’s choose it today,” one messages said.
The Obama campaign on Tuesday is buying the promoted trend #VoteObama, Twitter confirmed. It doesn’t appear that the Romney campaign has bought a similar post. Searches for “Obama,” “Romney,” “Vote,” “Election 2012” and other related terms reveal ads from interest groups and media organisations.
13.25: Trying to figure out who’s running for president today? You’re not the only one. According to Google Trends, worldwide web search interest for “who is running for president” has reached its peak volume (hat tip to FT Alphaville’s Cardiff Garcia).
13.20: Red states versus blue states. How do long-term stock market returns vary between companies that are based in or have a significant business presence in conservative and liberal states? Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank has done the analysis:
Using Bloomberg State Indexes, red states have outpaced blue counterparts by 0.1 per cent per year since 1995.
However, since Obama’s term in office, blue states have thrashed red states by about six percentage points per year. California can take most of the credit. The Golden State surged more than 23 percent per year over the last four years. That compares to a 12 percent annualized return posted by the S&P.
But Election Day is all about swing states. How have they fared relative to the market? Interestingly, all of the states in play today have outpaced the S&P 500 over the last four years. Thanks to a whopping 683 percent gain in Las Vegas Sands and some successful gold mining operations, Nevada leads the pack with a 58 percent annualized return. It will be interesting to see how the swing states will vote today. If stock market returns influence elections, Obama will be helped.
13.15: As FT stateside takes over the blog for the rest of the day and night, our New York-based banking correspondents, Tracy Alloway and Tom Braithwaite, have drawn our attention to Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein’s reaction to the long lines and hefty delays at his polling station. As Reuters reports:
Voting at the YMCA on West 63rd Street in Manhattan was delayed because election officials could not find the ballot cards and scanners were not working properly. Among those arriving to vote there was Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of investment banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs. He left before voting there began.
Tom Braithwaite, US banking editor, adds that Mr Blankfein will vote later, according to a person close to him.
12.40: TribLive, the website of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, is reporting that an Allegheny County judge on Tuesday issued an order to halt electioneering outside a polling location in Homestead.
County officials received a complaint shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday that Republicans outside a polling location on Maple Street in Homestead were stopping people outside the polls and asking for identification.
The order states: “Individuals outside the polls are prohibited from questioning, obstructing, interrogating or asking about any form of identification and/demanding any form of identification from any prospective voter.”
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Guido A. DeAngelis, one of two judges overseeing Elections Court, issued the order and said such actions by partisans “could have a chilling effect” on voting.
Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, who also is overseeing the court this morning, said the only people permitted to ask for ID are the poll workers inside the voting locations.
Poll watchers will ask for photo ID, but voters need not show identification for this year’s election.
12.30: Further to 12.20pm – if you were in any doubt as to how important Ohio could become in this election, here’s a photo, courtesy of CNN, of the congestion at Cleveland airport. Ryan and Romney’s planes are in the foreground, Biden’s in the background.
12.20: White House correspondent Anna Fifield has sent us a great pic from USA Today – where no stat is too insignificant. Would the data be the same if the burger was replaced with a beer?
12.15: VP Joe Biden has just landed in Cleveland, Ohio, en route to join Barack Obama in Chicago. He’s apparently helping to get out the vote. The airport’s VIP section is getting a bit congested – both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are in the city too. Many people on Twitter are suggesting they all meet up for a debate. Or is Obama on his way too and something’s going on that we’re not aware of….?
12.10: Anna Fifield, FT White House correspondent, has been with the Romney campaign and is in Boston for his election night party. She found long lines of people waiting in the freezing cold outside the Boston public library and snaking well into the building. Massachusetts is deep blue and there is no question about who it will vote for in the presidential election, but it is the site of one of the tightest – and most expensive – Senate races in the country.
Republican Scott Brown, who won an upset victory two years ago to claim the seat held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Elizabeth Warren. The Harvard professor and the Obama administration’s former Wall Street watchdog is is slightly ahead in the polls, but Brown is within easy striking distance and the vote could go either way.
Anna’s completely unscientific survey of voters in line found an advantage for Warren but also plenty of Brown backers.
12.02: On our sister website at beyondbrics, the FT’s experts on the emerging markets have been gauging reaction to the US election from around the world.
12.00 noon: Meanwhile, in some parts of Florida, it’s raining. What does it mean for the election?
Well, as the English jurist Charles Owen once said:
The rain it raineth on the just and also on the unjust fella,
But mostly on the just because the unjust hath the just’s umbrella.
In other words, who knows?
11.54: Aaron Stanley of the FT’s DC bureau says a lot of people in his northern Virginia polling district are beginning to complain about the length of time they are having to wait. He says the area is heavily Democratic, so if people choose not to vote, it would benefit Mr Romney. STOP PRESS Aaron has just managed to cast his vote, after 3 hours in line.
11.51: Sergey Brin, co founder of Google, has taken to his own social media site Google Plus to blog about the deficiencies of the US democratic system. He says he is dreading the outcome of the poll because whoever wins will indulge in another orgy of partisanship.
Brin asked recipients of his wisdom to pass on his thoughts to their newly-elected representatives.
He asked them to tell their congressmen, and presumably their new (or re-elected) president to “please withdraw from your respective parties and govern as independents in name and in spirit. It is probably the biggest contribution you can make to the country”.
11.40: If you’re wondering how the US election might affect emerging market currencies, listen to the latest FT Hard Currency podcast.
11.32: Obama saves fuel alert. Anna Fifield, the FT’s White House correspondent, reports that the president is hitting the campaign trail after all today.
While Mr Romney makes last-minute dashes to Ohio and Pennsylvania this morning, Mr Obama is doing a swing state blitz of his own but from the comfort of Chicago, via interviews with television channels in Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Nevada. All are states that are in play today.
11.30: More from Barney Jopson, the FT’s reporter in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The local Recreation Center is where people are voting in Evanston, an African-American neighbourhood. Here the Obama camp needs to rack up a big score from committed Democrats so it can at least match Mitt Romney in Hamilton County, a swing district in the battleground state of Ohio.
That’s why Obama activists are milling around the centre to deal with any muddles that could stop people from voting. “Are you voting this morning? You have a ballot? You sure?” one yells at cars as they enter the parking lot. Giving her name as Mrs Smith she says: “We have a very good turnout … We had a few problems. But we got them cleaned up.”
One of the voters with a problem in Evanston was Lynell Evans, 44, who was in tears and on the point of giving up. “I never voted and this is why. It’s too stressful. I’ve got enough stress with my husband and my family,” she said. She had found a yellow line through her name on the voter roll and officials who told her she could not cast a vote.
Obama activists guessed – correctly – that she had received an absentee ballot that she had not cast, although Ms Evans knew nothing about it. “My uncle did this and now he’s dead so I’m helpless,” she said.
To avoid double voting officials allow people in her situation to cast provisional ballots on the day, which are later checked to make sure there is no duplication. That’s what Ms Evans did. But it will take several days to check the provisional ballots. And if the Ohio race is tight, the US could end up waiting on them to break the deadlock.
11.25: More long lines alert: Christine Spolar, the FT’s investigations editor, has just been chatting to her parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Carole Spolar, 87, said that it was the longest line she had encountered on a voting day. She has been voting for nearly 60 years — she emigrated from Canada and received citizenship as a war bride after World War II. “It’s a beautiful sunny day and I think that’s what bringing all the people out,” said the mother of four, who went to the polls in Allegheny County, outside Pittsburgh, with her husband, Steve, who is 91.
11.15: Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker has written about the prospect of Ohio being decisive and needing a recount. He writes that if this proves to be the case we’re in for a “prolonged bout of insanity”, concluding – with reference to the Florida mess in 2000:
In Florida, in 2000, James Baker III lead a coördinated political, media, and legal effort that swamped the threadbare Gore forces, who were led, timidly, by Warren Christopher. The Republicans had protesters in the streets, with staged expressions of outrage like the so-called Brooks Brothers riot. The Democrats had none. Nothing mattered more to the ultimate result. If this year’s election comes down to a recount, those numbers—of partisans in the streets—may matter as much as the vote count.
11.00: The Washington Post is holding the nation’s best pundits to account by collating their predictions. They can’t all be right….
10.57: Humour alert: The Huffington Post has a wonderful piece on the worst predictions of the 2012 campaign season.
10.50: More from Tracy Alloway in New York, where there are some unhappy polling volunteers.
“It’s an atrocity,” said a volunteer at St Anthony’s Church in NYC. “It’s like the stone ages. I mean, what am I doing here? I’m filling [voter verification] forms out by hand.”
10.40: Barack Obama has congratulated Mitt Romney on his ‘spirited campaign’ while on a visit to a Chicago campaign field office. He told the assembled press:
“I also want to say to Governor Romney, congratulations on a spirited campaign. I know that his supporters are just as engaged and just as enthusiastic and working just as hard today. We feel confident we’ve got the votes to win that it’s going to depend ultimately on whether those votes turn out. And so I would encourage everybody on all sides just to make sure that you exercise this precious right that you have that people fought so hard for, for us to have.”
“I’m looking forward to the results. And I expect that we’ll have a good night. But no matter what happens, I just want to say how much I appreciate everybody who has supported me, everybody who has worked so hard on my behalf. And again, I want to congratulate Gov. Romney and his team for a hard-fought race as well. OK?”
10.33: If you’re wondering how receptive and open Texans are to monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring their voting, peruse through the tweets in this Buzzfeed link. The monitors are there, Anna Fifield, the FT’s White House correspondent writes, because Texas has battled with the federal government over whether it is allowed to introduce strict new voter ID requirements.
10.30: Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, the FT’s media editor, writes that Obama has just snared another high-profile endorsement.
Both major US parties like to court billionaire entrepreneurs, but one high profile member of that club who has no vote has come out in favour of Barack Obama. Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, used his blog today to say: “Personally, because of their extreme position on women’s issues and lack of understanding of health care, immigration and gay rights, if I had a vote I could not vote Republican.”
His position is not a huge surprise: earlier in the week, he highlighted a Bloomberg BusinessWeek cover story headlined “It’s global warming, stupid” to make the case that Barack Obama was “the best man to tackle [the] job of climate change.” Given the scarcity of debate about the climate during the campaign, voters might have a hard time deciding on that point.
10.25: Nate Silver, of the FiveThirtyEight blog, has done some more number crunching based on today’s polls. If you thought it was going to be close in Florida, think again. It’s going to be veeeeerrrrry close.
10.20: Here’s a copy of the am New York cover (see 09.25)
10.15: Shannon Bond, an FT reporter in New York, has been voting at polling station 142 in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
Several people in my polling site were Red Hook residents casting affidavit ballots because their polling place had been moved. Also, outside several schools serving as voting sites, people had set up bake sales for hurricane relief.
10.05: Tracy Alloway, one of the FT’s reporters in New York, reports that in her district, 41, only two of the four polling volunteers turned up. Result: Disconsolate voters soon started walking away…
“It feels like it puts a black cloud over the process,” said Jennifer Lopez, director of strategic partnerships at PopTech, after waiting over an hour at St Anthony’s Church in New York. “The gentleman behind us had to go to class and decided to leave. I’m sure that’s the last thing the candidates would want to hear, that people are having to leave without voting.”
10.00: More from Aaron Stanley, the FT’s Washington DC bureau office manager.
Voters began lining up to vote in Arlington, VA, at 6:30am, with average wait time is 2-3 hours according to volunteers. 41 degrees [5 celsius] out here so quite cold. Ppl handing out free coffee, donuts and hand warmers to Ppl in line.
09.57: Bill Gross, of Pimco, sums up many voters’ feeling today:
09.55: Alice Ross, the FT’s currency correspondent, has tweeted Citigroup’s advice re the presidential election:
09.50: John Husted, the Ohio secretary of state (see 04.25), has just tweeted that there are 40,000 election workers in the state covering 4,800 polling locations. We trust they’ve been selected based on their stamina.
09.40: Anna Fifield, the FT’s White House correspondent, has sent us the pool report from the Romneys’ trip to the polling station.
The process took them about three minutes altogether. When they finished filling out the ballots, the Romneys walked over to poll workers on the other side of the room and handed in their ballots.
Asked by a reporter as he left the room who he voted for, Romney said, “I think you know.” He also said that he felt “very, very good” about his prospects.
09.35: Barney Jopson, the FT’s man in Ohio, reports that residents hoping election day might have brought an end to the barrage of political advertising are sadly out of luck.
In the city of Cincinnati, heart of a crucial Ohio swing county, political adverts on television are continuing through election morning, at least from the Romney camp. In one spot the Republican promises to create 12m jobs; in another he attacks Obama for breaking promises and shattering hope. There’s also a commercial from Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super-Pac. I’ve not seen any Obama ads so far.
09.30: Anna Fifield, the FT’s White House correspondent, has forwarded us the early morning pool report from Chicago, where the Obamas are.
The Potus day will include a series of radio and television interviews and his traditional Election Day basketball game. Will he make any other unscheduled stops? Stay tuned.
Potus will eat lunch and dinner at his home before delivering a speech — Victory? Concession? Stay tuned? — at time TBD tonight from Chicago’s McCormick Place.
09.25: Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, the FT’s media editor, reports that the Daily Show is reminding New Yorkers just how many (er few) voters will decide the election.
Comedy Central has wrapped copies of AM New York, the freesheet handed out at stations around Manhattan, with a promotion for the live coverage Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be hosting tonight. Reminding local voters of their democratic irrelevance, it is headlined: “Find out who Ohio decides is your next president.”
09.20: And here is the Republican candidate casting his vote in Belmont, Mass – perhaps wishing he lived in Cincinnati.
09.13: Not only can we tell you what Mrs R was wearing to keep warm, but we can also let you know what her husband had for breakfast and how he “took out the trash”, thanks to on-the-spot FT Romney-watcher Anna Fifield:
After arriving back home in Boston in the wee hours of Tuesday morning — having driven down from his last campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire — Mitt and Ann Romney cast their votes in the Belmont
polling station near their house on Tuesday morning. Mr Romney’s
personal aide, David Jackson, tweeted some details about the
candidate’s morning. He had his trademark peanut butter and honey on toast for breakfast, and then got the rubbish ready to take outside
And there is photographic evidence to prove it, from “Mitt’s Body Man”, @dgjackson:
09.05: A key element most observers seem to have missed in overnight election coverage is what the candidates’ wives were wearing to keep warm. But we at the FT have it covered (don’t excuse the pun) courtesy of fashion editor Vanessa Friedman.
08.54: That tweet is also backed up by Aaron Stanley, the FT’s office manager in Washington DC, who also reported long lines to vote in his Arlington polling station. We’re waiting for an update from him.
08.46: A very anecdotal piece of evidence from Ryan Avent, economics correspondent of The Economist in Washington DC:
The significance being that northern Virginia is a key Obama target area and higher turnout tends to favour the Democrats. One Tweet doesn’t make a Twend, of course.
08.40: CNN has a fascinating page answering trivia questions about the election process, including this one:
Back when voters traveled to the polls by horse, Tuesday was an ideal day because it allows people to worship on Sunday, ride to their county seat on Monday and vote on Tuesday – all before market day, Wednesday.
And the month of November fit nicely between harvest time and brutal winter weather — which can be especially bad when you’re trudging along by horse and buggy.
But since many voters now travel by horsepower instead of live horses, some people — like the group Why Tuesday? — are pushing to move election day to a weekend day to increase the country’s historically dismal voter turnout. According to the group, 15 states do not allow early voting, and 27% of non-voters said the main reason why they didn’t vote was because they were too busy or couldn’t get time off to vote.
08:31: It’s easy to forget that it was only this time last week when voting was the last thing on the mind of people in coastal New York and New Jersey; it was more a question of surviving the storm formerly known as Sandy. Here is a reminder in a picture of an ersatz voting station in Staten Island, the worst hit part of New York City:
08.18: For those seeking a cut-out-and-keep primer (or whatever the online equivalent is) of tonight’s electoral festivities, look no further than the FT’s analysis page.
08.06: Mr Biden is now tweeting his own pictures of him with famous people, just to show he can:
07.56: People outside the US, especially those accustomed to voting with a pencil and a piece of paper, sometimes get confused by all the fuss over mechanical or electronic voting in the States. So here is a picture of an Ohio voting machine and a UK election ballot paper, for comparative purposes.
left, a voting machine in Ohio. right, a piece of paper from a UK general election paper.
07.44: In its final tracking poll, the US website Politico.com finds the two candidates locked level, with 47 per cent of likely voters supporting each.
Our previous poll, conducted Monday through Thursday of last week, found the race tied at 48 percent. Although Romney and Obama have each led at times, the two candidates have stayed within the margin of error since the spring.
Independents break for Romney by 15 points, 47 percent to 32 percent.
Across the 10 states identified by POLITICO as competitive, Obama leads 49 percent to 43 percent.
07.39: There has been some pretty significant movement on Intrade, which describes itself as the world’s leading prediction site, with Mr Obama’s chances of winning moving up from 68 per cent to 73.9 per cent since the first polling stations opened this morning.
07.36: If you want to know when the polls open and close, Time magazine has a useful guide.
07.27: AP has video of people voting in Staten Island, the part of New York worst hit by the storm that came out of Hurricane Sandy:
07.19: Of the four principal candidates in the election, Joe Biden, the incumbent vice president, is the first to cast his own vote, in Wilmington, Delaware. Live pictures show him disappearing into a half-curtained booth with only his legs in view to give a hint as to which way he is leaning! His boss, of course, took advantage of Illinois’ early voting to make his choice last month.
07.15: Reuters reports that the television networks and wire services which co-operate to produce exit polls are facing the problem of how to keep those numbers secret until voting is finished in the relevant states.
It reminds us that in 2000 “some media outlets projected [an Al] Gore victory in Florida while polls in the western part of the state remained open. The networks later pulled back, leaving doubt about who won and leading to a month of recounts and court battles”.
07.10: Of course, in states which practise early voting, the battle is already fully under way. The Miami Herald’s Naked Politics site reports:
More than 4.5 million people have voted early, which accounts for 38 percent of the state’s 12 million registered voters and half of the ones likely to cast a ballot.
Democrats have a lead in total ballots cast over Republicans — 167,000 — but polls indicate Republican Mitt Romney is in a better position than President Barack Obama.
Obama is worse off than he was four years ago. Depending on how the data are sliced, his pre-Election Day lead could be half of what it was in 2008.
Still, Democrats are up in early ballots.
“It’s half-over, but it’s tied,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political science professor and early voting expert. “There’s still another half to play.”
This is the tough half. If Obama wins Florida, he wins re-election.
07.04: Polls are open as far west as Missouri now.
07.03: The prospect of “Winless Wednesday” has the prognosticators all of a flutter as election day dawns. The New York Times points out that if the electoral college vote is so close that Ohio holds the balance, we could be in for a long wait. Under its arcane rules, provisional ballots – ie those where the voter could not prove their eligibility to vote – could exceed 200,000 and in the past 80 per cent have been accepted and tended to favour Democratic candidates. It could delay a result by days if the overall vote could be affected and lead to hideous legal battles.
06.44: The strange politics of November 2012 continue: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and his state’s most famous liberal, Bruce Springsteen, are now officially friends, the New York Times reports.
At a briefing Monday, Mr Christie, a Republican, said Mr Springsteen, a staunch liberal, had embraced him after performing at a benefit concert for hurricane victims on Friday.
“We hugged and he told me, ‘It’s official, we’re friends,’ ” the governor said. And after that kind of highlight in a tough week, the governor said he went home and wept.
06.31: And so the game is on: polls have just opened in Ohio, the swingiest of swing states.
06.29: Jamie Chisholm, the FT’s markets reporter, has updated his Global Markets Overview on the website:
Moves across “risk” asset classes are becoming a little more positive, though trading is fairly thin and cautious, reflecting investor uncertainty over the outcome of the US election.
“Although historically US presidential elections have not had a marked effect on market volatility, the importance of economic policy making, the significant differences between the two candidates, the closeness of the polls and the result’s possible effect on bond yields make this a particularly important election in terms of potential short-run effects,” said analysts at Barclays in a note.
06.15: The Romney campaign has got an early start. Here’s a pic of the Republican candidate’s war room in Boston – courtesy of the Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams – posted on twitter a few minutes ago. Keen basketball fans will identify it as the TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics.
06.05: Polls have opened in several states, including New York and Virginia.
05.30: Americans are not just voting for the president and members of Congress. Further fun and games will focus on the 174 additional questions on the ballots of 38 of the states. The subject matter ranges from plebiscites to legalise homosexual marriage (in Maine, which seems to be leaning towards “I do” on the question) to a vote on whether Michigan should build a new bridge to Canada (the owner of the existing bridge has conducted an efficient campaign to get the issue approved by referendum). Other subjects included in various ballots address the legalisation of assisted suicide (Massachusetts), casinos (Oregon) and the fluoridation of water (Kansas).
05.20: Here’s a primer on the Congressional elections. Thirty-three of the 100 Senate seats are in play and all 435 congressional districts.
RealClearPolitics.com has a rolling average of polls predicting that the Senate will stay in Democratic hands with the same 53-47 split as exits now. But Democratic hopes of wresting control of the House of Representatives seem wishful thinking, with the RCP rolling average predicting Republicans reaching the majority mark of 218 seats well before any of the remaining 40 toss-up districts are taken into account.
This will of course complicate the life of whoever wins the White House, although common sense suggests that a Republican president will have an easier job negotiating with a Democrat-controlled Senate than Mr Obama will face in trying to climb the fiscal cliff against a renewed Republican House.
05.10: Ezra Klein, another closely-followed analyst, is predicting in his wonkblog that Obama will win 290 votes in the electoral college (remember 270 is the number required for victory).
The polls will prove to be right. President Obama will win with 290 electoral votes. I’m not extremely confident in the precision of that estimate: Some swing states are close enough that it’s entirely possible for a good ground game to tip, say, Florida into Obama’s column, or Colorado into Romney’s. Virginia is basically tied, and I’m giving it to Romney based on the assumption that challenger wins in a tie, but it could easily go the other way. So if Obama ends up winning with 303, I won’t be surprised.
That said, 290 is what a conservative read of the polls says, as of this moment. And I trust the polls more than I trust my intuition, or the fragmented, impressionistic reporting on the two GOTV efforts. So I’m going with that.
04.40: Ohio trend pointer: Polls close at 7:30pm EST and, according to the Washington Post, officials have said counties are prepared to quickly post tallies from absentee and in-person early voting. A spokesman said those numbers should be available as early as 7:45 pm to 8pm. The Post article continues:
Public polling leading up to Election Day has indicated that early voters in Ohio broke for Obama by large margins. That means we should expect the president to take an early and potentially sizable lead in the all-important battleground when the early-vote tally is posted.
The question will be just how far ahead Obama is as county election boards begin to post results from Election Day. Those returns are expected to favor Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
(If Romney is ahead after early votes are posted — or if the two are very close — there’s a good chance that Romney will win the state and its 18 electoral votes.)
04.25: Who’s going to be the most important person in the US in the next 24 hours? The Washington Post is suggesting that it could be Jon Husted. For those of you who for whom Husted is not a household name, he is Ohio’s Secretary of State (and a Republican). If voting in the Buckeye State ends in recounts, legal challenges or fisticuffs and the voting across the rest of the nation is also close, Husted will be a key player since he will be the principal arbiter in any disputes (remember Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000…?).
04.20: Here’s a quick guide to how the US president is actually chosen.
Each of the 50 states will count the votes cast for presidential candidates and the winner of a plurality receives the mandate from that state to enter the White House as president. Its votes are entered into the electoral college and the winner is the candidate that reaches the majority figure of 270 votes.
However, not all states are equal and the size of the mandate is determined by the population of each state.
All 50 have a minimum of three, comprised of a vote each for the two senators that all states send to Washington, and one for its Congressman, or member of the House of Representatives. Then, for an average of every 700,000 or so of population that it has, each state has an additional congressional district and gets a vote in the presidential electoral college. (In fact, the representation varies from one for every 527,000 in Rhode Island to one for every 994,000 in Montana)
For example, Wyoming, with a population of only 568,000, has one congressional district and so gets the minimum three votes. California, with 37.7m, has 53 congressional districts and 55 votes in the electoral college.
As there are 435 US Congressmen, 100 Senators, and three voters from the District of Columbia, the total number of votes in the college is 538. Just to complicate things, Maine and Nebraska could in theory have a split in their college votes because they allocate them according to who wins each of the congressional districts – Maine has two and Nebraska three – but this in practice is rare. In 2008 Nebraska gave one of its five to Mr Obama.
04.15: First big swing alert: In Hart’s Location, another (see 02.20) early-voting town in New Hampshire. Obama has won 23 votes, Romney nine and Gary Johnson one. This compares with 2008, when Obama won 17 votes, compared with John McCain’s 10 and Ron Paul’s two. While the electorate has swelled by some 13 per cent, the swing to the incumbent is 11.1 percentage points.
04.10: Politico.com has done a good explainer on why and how the next president might well not be known on Wednesday.
Between the possibility of recounts, provisional ballot problems and lawsuits, there’s no shortage of scary vote-counting scenarios that threaten to push the election outcome beyond Nov. 6.
Most of the scenarios, of course, are contingent on a tight race where the result comes down to one, or just a few highly competitive states. And that’s exactly the election the polls are suggesting.
04.00: Intrade, which bills itself as the world’s leading prediction market, gives Obama a 69.8 per cent chance of being re-elected, up a couple of percentage points in the last 24 hours.
03.50: It seems Obama is getting more celebrity endorsements than Romney (do they really help, though?). Singer Bob Dylan predicted on Monday that Obama is going to win in a landslide. Halfway through the song Blowin’ In The Wind during a concert in the battleground state of Wisconsin, he said: “We tried to play good tonight since the president was here today. Don’t believe the media. I think it’s going to be a landslide.”After his comments, Dylan completed the song to the roar of the crowd.
03.45: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that 61 polling stations in the city have had to be relocated as a result of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. Anyone wanting to know if their polling station is affected should check on the city’s election website.
03.40: European markets update. Jamie Chisholm, the FT’s global markets commentator, says trading is thin “and moves across asset classes are a bit muddled reflecting investor uncertainty over the outcome of the US election“.
“Markets continue to be subdued in the final hours ahead of the US elections” said analysts at Barclays in a note. “Although historically US presidential elections have not had a marked effect on market volatility, the importance of economic policy making, the significant differences between the two candidates, the closeness of the polls and the result’s possible effect on bond yields make this a particularly important election in terms of potential short-run effects”.
03.35: The University of Cincinnati’s final pre-election poll says the presidential race in Ohio, which many experts believe could decide the race, is too close to call, with Obama on 50 per cent, Romney on 48.5 per cent and other candidates on 1.5 per cent. The margin of error is 3.3 per cent.
03.25: The FT has published a very clear state-by-state graphic to how the presidency will be decided, with nine states (Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire) with 110 electoral college votes being classified as swing states, four (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon and Minnesota) with 53 electoral college votes leaning to Obama, two (Montana and Arizona) with 14 electoral college votes leaning to Romney and the rest firmly in one camp or the other
03.10: As mentioned at the start. many American lawyers are gearing up for a potentially very busy few days, particularly if races prove to be as close as many of the polls are suggesting they are.
A flavour of what awaits is as follows: Bloomberg is reporting that electronic voting machines being used in Ohio contain a software “back door” that could allow alteration of the balloting results, a Green Party candidate for one of the state’s 16 US congressional districts claimed in a federal court lawsuit.
Robert Fitrakis filed papers in federal court in Columbus, seeking an order blocking the use of the machines and the software in vote counting. Named as defendants in the case are Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software Inc.
There’s an “an imminent risk that persons who are not under the supervision and control of defendant Husted” or the county boards of election may exploit the alleged breach to “alter the recording and tabulation of votes cast,” Fitrakis said in the court filings yesterday.
US District Judge Gregory Frost scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the injunction request for today. The complaint contains no direct statement of knowledge as to the existence of the alleged electronic back door.
03.05: Nate Silver, one of the most closely-followed polling analysts, has just published a post on his FiveThirtyEight blog. Silver writes:
“Among 12 national polls published on Monday, Mr. Obama led by an average of 1.6 percentage points. Perhaps more important is the trend in the surveys. On average, Mr. Obama gained 1.5 percentage points from the prior edition of the same polls, improving his standing in nine of the surveys while losing ground in just one.
Because these surveys had large sample sizes, the trend is both statistically and practically meaningful. Whether because of Hurricane Sandy, the relatively good economic news of late, or other factors, Mr. Obama appears to have gained ground in the closing days of the race.”
However, Silver, who reckons Obama has a 92 per cent chance of victory, concludes with a caveat:
“As any poker player knows, those 8 percent chances do come up once in a while. If it happens this year, then a lot of polling firms will have to re-examine their assumptions — and we will have to re-examine ours about how trustworthy the polls are. But the odds are that Mr. Obama will win another term.”
02.45: As mentioned below, the looming “fiscal cliff” – the $600bn in spending cuts and tax rises set to take effect on January 1 if changes to the law are not agreed – is going to be the main economic priority for whoever wins the White House.
And if it’s Obama, he’s going to face a very tough battle. John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, has reiterated to Politico.com just how opposed he is to fresh tax hikes.
“We’re not raising taxes on small-business people,” Boehner said. “Ernst and Young has made this clear: It’s going to cost our economy 700,000 jobs. Why in the world would we want to do that?” Boehner’s strong comments on the eve of the election show just how tough a time President Barack Obama, if he is reelected, will have keeping his campaign promise to increase taxes on individuals earning more than $250,000 per year. Tuesday’s congressional elections are certain to give Boehner a stronger hand — at least on Capitol Hill — as Republicans are expected to lose only a handful of seats and maintain an iron hold on the House majority. Boehner sees this election as a validation of his no-tax-hike approach — and doesn’t view an Obama victory as a mandate to raise taxes on upper-income Americans. “Listen, our majority is going to get reelected,” Boehner told Politico. “We’ll have as much of a mandate as he will — if that happens — to not raise taxes. He knows what we can do and what we can’t do — I’ve been very upfront with him about it going back over the last year and a half.”
02.40:Asian market update: Investors seemed unwilling to make any big bets ahead of the US election – and China’s leadership congress, which starts on Thursday. The FT reports:
Asian stocks were mixed and activity low with investors reluctant to make any big bets on the last trading day before the closely contested US election and with an eye on China’s leadership transition later in the week.
Beyond the US election, investors are looking to the potential damage to the economy that would be caused by Washington’s failure to resolve the “fiscal cliff”of automatic spending cuts and tax rises.
02.30: Despite today being election day, campaigning is not over – or not for Mitt Romney. The Republican candidate has two rallies planned, in the northern Ohio city of Cleveland and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. His campaign team insists both states are still in play, despite polls showing the latter leaning towards Obama. Romney hits the road after voting with his wife Ann in Belmont, Massachusetts at 8.35am.
02.20: The first result in the presidential election has been declared – in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. Here 10 people voted and the winner was…. no one. Yup, it was a tie, 5-5. Is this an omen for things to come in the next 24 hours?
02.10: We start with a look at how the media have covered the last hours of campaigning as the candidates hurtle around swing states trying to energise voters to support them. The FT‘s US bureau chief Richard McGregor says a confident Mr Obama ended the campaign where he started it, in Iowa, adding that the pace of the final days show that whatever else they are…
…candidates must also be athletes, with stamina that combines the qualities of a sprinter and a long-distance runner. Mr Obama is fit but it was still a tired, hoarse president who took to the podium on a chilly morning to deliver a speech that sounded like an old recording that had been slowed down.
The FT also has articles describing the cohorts of lawyers standing by for both sides in case of legal challenges at polling stations, and the paper says Wall Street fears that the real issue of 2012 – the so-called fiscal cliff awaiting Tuesday’s victor – simply has not been addressed. As the clocks rolled into Tuesday, the rolling average poll compiled by RealClearPolitics.com showed Mr Obama with a tiny overall lead, of 0.7 per centage points, and an advantage in all the key swing states except Florida and North Carolina. The New York Times says Mr Romney, who was in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire on the final full day of campaigning, issued a message of optimism for voters:
“If there is anyone who is worried that the last four years are the best we can do, or if there is anyone who is fearing that the American dream is fading away, or if there is anyone who wonders whether better jobs and better paychecks are a thing of the past, I have a clear and unequivocal message: with the right leadership, America is about to come roaring back,” Mr. Romney said. “We are Americans; we can do anything,” he said. “The only thing that stands between us and some of the best years we’ve ever imagined is lack of leadership. And that is why we have elections.”
The papers and pundits are all agreed that turnout will determine victory, but differ wildly about what that means. The Wall Street Journal‘s Gerald Seib says:
As a general proposition, if turnout is higher, that is probably good news for President Barack Obama. If it is lower, that is probably good news for Republican Mitt Romney. Here’s why. Throughout this year, Republicans have had the advantage in enthusiasm and intensity. Meanwhile, Democratic enthusiasm has been lower than when Mr. Obama won in 2008.
Four years ago, for those who like hard facts, turnout reached 62.5 per cent, so that is the benchmark of overall voter enthusiasm. Michael Tomasky in the Daily Beast says that for Mr Romney to win, Republican turnout will have to beat the Democratic groundwork machine. Only once since 1952, in 2004, has it even matched it:
The 2004 race represented the the biggest ground game the GOP has ever assembled, and it went to work against a Democratic one that at least on paper doesn’t come close to matching the Obama operations.
On Politico.com, the cheery thought that the US could wake up on Wednesday with no idea who it has chosen is reported by Elizabeth Titus.
Between the possibility of recounts, provisional ballot problems and lawsuits, there’s no shortage of scary vote-counting scenarios that threaten to push the election outcome beyond November 6. Most of the scenarios, of course, are contingent on a tight race where the result comes down to one, or just a few highly competitive states. And that’s exactly the election the polls are suggesting.
She points out that the last time a recount was held in the state of Wisconsin, where either side can prompt one with a simple request to the state legislature, it took four weeks to finish. But perhaps it’s best today, after all those hours of campaigning, all those attack ads, all that money spent, to go forward in the simple hope that by the time the sun rises again on the US, it will all be over for another four years.