The US election results - liveblog

Nicky Woolf liveblogs the result of the 2012 presidential election.


I think it's time now to call it - Barack Obama has been reelected as President of the United States. Still no Romney acceptance speech, though, which may mean he's preparing a legal challenge. My instinct is that he won't, though.

So that's it for another four years of Presidential election! Until Chris Christie starts his Republican primary campaign tomorrow morning...

Thank you all, and good night.



Well now it really is all over bar the shouting, and all that remains is for Romney to make his acceptance speech - which he is being very reluctant in getting around to, I must say. My grouching over premature calling of states - Roger from the Obama for America Defiance field office explains things to me: 



...I have allowed myself a small whisky.



Then again, Obama is now winning in Virginia, from what I can see. So he is over the total, and I doubt now Ohio will need to count its provisional ballots.



NBC is calling Florida for him too - which would begin to make this look like a massacre. But I'm not so sure. Ohio, from where I'm sitting, is way too close to call. So is Florida. I'm not going to call this, my previous entry excepted, until I see Romney make a concession speech.



OBAMA WINS OREGON, OHIO - AND THE ELECTION. It's all over now bar the shouting. And the drinking. And there's a lot of both going on right now in Columbus.



CNN currently has the electoral college Obama 238 - 191 Romney. New Mexico and Colorado, both likely to go Obama, would put the President in a place where Florida or Ohio would tip him over the edge - and MSNBC has just called Iowa for the President.



I cannot stress how close this race now is. In each of the three crucial swing states, that's Virginia, Florida and Ohio, less than a single percentage point separates the candidates. This election teeters on a knife-edge.



An electoral map update. These are called differently media-by-media; MSNBC, for example, which has just called Minnesota for Obama, has Obama on 172 to Romney's 174. RealClearPolitics has Obama 163 - Romney 184, while the Huffington Post has Obama on 173 to Romney's 174.

This is because the networks call states as they come in, without waiting for official confirmation, a very confusing state of affairs sometimes. But really the difference is in who calls what, when - some news organisations are less cautious about calling states than others. Make no mistake, this election still comes down to Florida and Ohio.



So it's looking a lot like Todd Akin's a goner in his Missouri Senatorial race. Claire McCaskill's got almost 100,000 votes on him with nearly a third of precincts reporting. The "make stupid comments about rape" candidates are dropping like flies this evening.



Obama is currently 2 points up in Ohio with over half the state reporting, and a skin-of-his-teeth .5 of a point up in Florida - but Florida's nearly 90% reported. If he keeps this up, things are looking pretty bad for Mitt. But it's all so close - a few Republican precincts in each state reporting late, and it could all look very different. It's all down to Ohio, and Florida, just as predicted.

Meanwhile, the confetti is falling for Sherrod Brown here in Columbus, and I imagine he's off to celebrate. His work here is done.



This is a genuinely heartwarming experience.




"today in Ohio, the middle class won," says Brown. His voice, always gravelly, is almost entirely gone - he speaks in a joyful, but hoarse, whisper. "Citizens united may be a new name in a 21st century suit ... but it's an old game of the rich trying to rig the system for themselves." The crowd are holding up signs with "$40m" with a strike-through on it.

He's positively beaming. Brown really deserves this victory - he's fought a great campaign against an absolutely unprecendented about of outside money. The crowd love him.



If I was Obama, a two-point lead in Ohio with half the state to count would make me very, very nervous indeed.



Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah. Romney remains narrowly ahead in Virginia, Florida remains essentially a tie - slight Obama lead, perhaps, but minescule.

In Ohio, Obama is holding on to a lead - but not a big one. This is still a very, very close election.



MSNBC has the current total at:

Electoral College: Barack Obama 168 - 153 Mitt Romney



And meanwhile, the Democrats are willing plenty of the Senate seats they want. Elizabeth Warren beats Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Joe Donnelly beats Richard Mourdock in Indiana, and Sherrod Brown comfortable holds off the challenge from Josh Mandel here in Ohio - despite the extraordinary money spent by super-PACs on Mandel. All of which bodes well for the overall result.



This is one of the calls that really matter:




With Florida still too close to call, things are looking good for the President here in the crucial state of Ohio. With around 20% of districts reporting, the President is ahead by more than 130,000 votes - 52.24% to 46.31% - almost the opposite of Virginia. But of the three states - Virginia, Florida and Ohio - the President can afford to lose one or two of them, Romney can't.

MSNBC has just called Pennsylvania for Romney - which I think is a premature move as less than 10% of districts have reported. Obama is well ahead in those that have, though.



Whooops at the party as "Virginia - Too Close To Call" comes on the TV screen. It's too close to call, but unfortunately Obama is losing there 52.12% - 46.22%, with about 60% of precincts reporting. It's not looking good in Virginia.

Meanwhile, though, New York and Michigan have called for Obama, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Wyoming and Louisiana for Romney.

Electoral College: Barack Obama 123 - 148 Mitt Romney



MASSIVE SURPRISE here - Tennessee and Arkansas go for Romney.

A little experiment in live-blog sarcasm for you folks there.

That takes the total to: 

Electoral College: Barack Obama 78 - 88 Mitt Romney



This is the situation in the Ohio Democrat election night media centre. On the far right you can see Nice Guy Mike from the Cleveland Jewish News.



Virginia is still miles away from being called. Only 873 of 2588 precincts have reported results. That's going to take a while.

Ohio is counting; but as yet, while there's some tantalising data coming in, largely from absentee ballots in Cleveland, it'll still be a while before a bigger picture starts to emerge.

Florida is closer - 38.35% of precincts are reporting, with a minescule edge for Obama - 50.09%, with juts over 38% of precincts reporting. We could be looking at a 2000 situation there if it stays that close.



Real Clear Politics has called Georgia, South Carolina, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma for Romney, and Delaware, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island for Obama.

That makes it Electoral College: Barack Obama 78 - 71 Mitt Romney



Florida is currently at Romney 2,265,239 (47.72%) Obama 2,445,934 (51.53%) with (at my guess) about half of the total votes reported. A win here for Obama basically sews him up the election.

Ohio is reporting a closer race - Obama 653,911 (57.21%) Romney 475,210 (41.57%) at current count - that's mostly absentee ballots, plus a reported 0.06% of counties - far, far too close to call.



Polls in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee all close now. All together, that's 172 electoral votes up for grabs.

Jesse Jackson is behind me, talking to the cameras.



The Ohio Secretary of State's office has posted some results of Ohio's absentee ballots - the vast majority of them from Cuyahoga county - which means Cleveland. Statewide of absentee ballots counted, Obama has 383,700 - 66.17%, to Romney's 190,383 - 32.83%.



Overheard on the phone outside the party: "yeah, there's laws against it. But there's laws against a lot of things."

He continued: "Someone used my vote in 2008. I applied for an absentee ballot in 2008 and didn't use it, and somebody voted in my place."

No idea of the context of it, and no idea who he was. But it's an interesting snippet.



Remember how I said Virginia would look Republican early and then the blue counties would cut in? RealClearPolitics' returns-counter currently has Virginia at Obama 43.5% to Romney's 55.3%.



Polls here in the great state of Ohio close in ten minutes - though anyone in line at the deadline will get to vote - the line that both campaigns are pushing through to their supporters right now is "stay in line".

But it has to be said, it is bloody freezing out there.



Counting still ongoing in Virginia. Like in Ohio, where the President's field offices outnumbered Governor Romney's three to one, Obama's ground game here has been impressive. But will it be enough?



Forgot to put it in earlier - Indiana has also been called for Romney; hence the total of 19, that's Indiana's 11 and Kentucky's 8 electoral college votes.



The first results are in! MSNBC has called Kentucky for Romney and Vermont for Obama. Kentucky is worth more electoral college votes, though Virginia is currently TCTC - Too Close To Call

Electoral College: Barack Obama 3 - 19 Mitt Romney



...And polls are now closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and - this will be the one all eyes are on - Virginia. Early showings in VA will be Republican-leaning (tweets the Manhattan Institute's Ted Frank), with blue counties reporting later on. Virginia will be a crucial early indicator of how the night will go.



Some crucial early polling news from Buzzfeed about the third-party libertarian candidate for President...




Logistical disaster! The Cleveland Jewish News has arrived, in the form of a pleasant bearded man named Mike. I have shunted to the end of the trestle table. If I play my cards right, I'm hoping Mike will let me stay. 



This morning, I accompanied students from the senior class of Hicksville high school to the polls up in Defiance county. Austin Laney voted Republican. "I'm going to be pretty disappointed if Obama wins," he told me. His friend Andrew Willis voted Democrat: "It felt good, like I'd played my part. It's kinda neat, cos I'd never [voted] before."

"If Romney wins, I'll be really disappointed," he says. 

Austin Metz, on the other hand, had been planning to vote Republican - but switched his vote at the last minute to Obama. "Because I'm going to college next year, and it affects the cost."

"This is the biggest thing I've done since being 18," says Brady Meyer. "It makes me feel powerful."

He says he voted for Romney, but says: "I don't think either of [the candidates] are any good, though."



The former Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, did a brief press call just now, and is predictably predicting a victory for Obama and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. So far, so spin - I think he's right, but he'd be saying it even if it was wrong, and over at the Republican party I bet John Kasich, the current Republican Governor, is predicting a win for Romney and Mandel.

I asked him about the provisional ballot issue, and he looked troubled. "It could. I hope it doesn't [come down to provisional ballots], because we know provisional ballots can't be counted for several days," he tells me. "I think it would be very unfortunate if it happened." I ask if Husted's directive on Friday, so late in the day and so confusing to poll workers and voters, might be cause for a legal challenge if it does. "If this comes down to the provisional ballot issue, it is possible that could end up being a court-involved process," he says. "I hope not. I don't think that would be good for the country, I don't think that would be good for Ohio."

But then again, there are all those lawyers standing by.



So I just noticed that I posted the tweet by @fivethirtyeight at exactly 5:38. Not sure what that's a sign of, but it's sure as hell a sign.



Amazing figures from the New York Times' Nate Silver:




It's not just the Presidential race that depends on Ohio. The Republicans are hoping that Josh Mandel, a 35-year-old Marine veteran, will un-seat the popular incumbent Sherrod Brown, tipping the balance in the Senate. But Brown is an extremely popular Ohioan, while Mandel has appeared slippery in his campaign - and RealClearPolitics is posting a 5 point lead for Brown in its polling average.

Amusingly, the Guardian's James Ball just linked me on Twitter to a story in the GayStarNews about some cousins of Mandel, who take issue with him about his stance on gay marriage and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The cousins took out an ad against him that says: "Your cousins, Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza, are among the many wonderful couples whose rights you do not recognize." It goes on: "'We are equally distressed by your belief that gay men and women should not be allowed to serve openly in the military. Like you, Cholene spent many years in the armed forces. ... And yet, you have argued that she, like many gay and lesbian soldiers, should be forced to live a life of secrecy and lies."

You can read the whole story here.

And the newspaper that ran the cousins' ad? By strange coincidence it is the Cleveland Jewish News, whose seat I am currently occupying...



Seats in the Ohio Democratic Party Election Night Celebration are limited. Currently, your correspondent is squatting in the hope that the rightful Ohio publication doesn't arrive and claim it. Here's the label:



If this election comes down to the wire, or ends in legal action; if Ohio is, as it's predicted to be, the crucial tipping-point - triggering a long and torturous adding-up of provisional ballots that could last until the 16th - one name will become horribly familiar to a country already sick to the bone of politics: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

I wrote early on about attempted electoral irregularities in Ohio – irregularities in which Husted was involved.

Provisional ballots are going to be key if Ohio is close. These are ballots that are filled out under the voter ID laws if someone is unable to present their identification at the polling-booth. If someone fails to present ID at a polling station they can still vote, but they have several days to present their ID. On Friday, Husted issued a directive that part of the form required for provisional ballots had to be filled-out by the voter – not the supervisor at the polling-station. Under Husted's directive, the vote will be discounted if the area is left blank. Lawyers on behalf of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless are already fighting Husted in federal court over the decision.

Another potential tripping-point: everyone in Ohio was sent an application form for an absentee ballot this year; if many people filled it out, but then decided to vote in person, there would be space for another legal challenge there. At the centre of these nightmares would be Husted.

Remember the name.



There have already been a number of reports of derring-do around the polling stations. Here in Ohio, some areas have seen alleged intimidation by voter-watch groups - while there are also reports of a accredited election watch official being threatened with a gun in Detroit, Michigan.

Meanwhile, Ohio and Pennsylvania are still extremely divided on the issue of voter ID, the new law supposedly designed to eliminate in-person voter fraud. Critics say that it unfairly discriminates against black and elderly - and therefore likely Democrat - voters. With lawyers for both parties poised like vultures to descend on any irregularities - MSNBC is reporting that there are 2,200 in Ohio alone - this could end up being a very long night indeed.



The Hilton is media central right now. Here's a picture of all the satellite trucks lined up outside on Main st:



This New York Times graphic shows just how much the electoral college calculus is against Romney tonight; of the 512 likely permutations of swing states, Obama has 431 ways to win to Romney's mere 76. Though there can always be surprises.



Hello and welcome to the New Statesman's live coverage of the US Presidential election results. I'm in the Ohio Democratic Party's event at the Hilton hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

Polls close here in just over four hours, and the state's media is whipped into a frenzy. I'll be bringing you all the results as they come in. It's expected that a winner will be known before 11PM Eastern time - 4AM UK time - but if the race is as close as some are predicting, there could be legal challenges and other delays that could last well into next week. Specifically in Ohio, the counting of provisional ballots is mandated by state law to take until the 16th - a torturous process for the state to endure - especially as most here are already tired of being under the world's political microscope. Most predictions are for an Obama win - the New York Times' FiveThirtyEight model is giving the President a better than 90% chance of victory in the electoral college. Stick with us for all the twists and turns as they happen.

Barack Obama. Photograph: Getty Images

Nicky Woolf is reporting for the New Statesman from the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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Q&A: What are tax credits and how do they work?

All you need to know about the government's plan to cut tax credits.

What are tax credits?

Tax credits are payments made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support families with children, or those who are in low-paid jobs. There are two types of tax credit: the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

What are they for?

To redistribute income to those less able to get by, or to provide for their children, on what they earn.

Are they similar to tax relief?

No. They don’t have much to do with tax. They’re more of a welfare thing. You don’t need to be a taxpayer to receive tax credits. It’s just that, unlike other benefits, they are based on the tax year and paid via the tax office.

Who is eligible?

Anyone aged over 16 (for child tax credits) and over 25 (for working tax credits) who normally lives in the UK can apply for them, depending on their income, the hours they work, whether they have a disability, and whether they pay for childcare.

What are their circumstances?

The more you earn, the less you are likely to receive. Single claimants must work at least 16 hours a week. Let’s take a full-time worker: if you work at least 30 hours a week, you are generally eligible for working tax credits if you earn less than £13,253 a year (if you’re single and don’t have children), or less than £18,023 (jointly as part of a couple without children but working at least 30 hours a week).

And for families?

A family with children and an income below about £32,200 can claim child tax credit. It used to be that the more children you have, the more you are eligible to receive – but George Osborne in his most recent Budget has limited child tax credit to two children.

How much money do you receive?

Again, this depends on your circumstances. The basic payment for a single claimant, or a joint claim by a couple, of working tax credits is £1,940 for the tax year. You can then receive extra, depending on your circumstances. For example, single parents can receive up to an additional £2,010, on top of the basic £1,940 payment; people who work more than 30 hours a week can receive up to an extra £810; and disabled workers up to £2,970. The average award of tax credit is £6,340 per year. Child tax credit claimants get £545 per year as a flat payment, plus £2,780 per child.

How many people claim tax credits?

About 4.5m people – the vast majority of these people (around 4m) have children.

How much does it cost the taxpayer?

The estimation is that they will cost the government £30bn in April 2015/16. That’s around 14 per cent of the £220bn welfare budget, which the Tories have pledged to cut by £12bn.

Who introduced this system?

New Labour. Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, developed tax credits in his first term. The system as we know it was established in April 2003.

Why did they do this?

To lift working people out of poverty, and to remove the disincentives to work believed to have been inculcated by welfare. The tax credit system made it more attractive for people depending on benefits to work, and gave those in low-paid jobs a helping hand.

Did it work?

Yes. Tax credits’ biggest achievement was lifting a record number of children out of poverty since the war. The proportion of children living below the poverty line fell from 35 per cent in 1998/9 to 19 per cent in 2012/13.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a weird system in that it lets companies pay wages that are too low to live on without the state supplementing them. Many also criticise tax credits for allowing the minimum wage – also brought in by New Labour – to stagnate (ie. not keep up with the rate of inflation). David Cameron has called the system of taxing low earners and then handing them some money back via tax credits a “ridiculous merry-go-round”.

Then it’s a good thing to scrap them?

It would be fine if all those low earners and families struggling to get by would be given support in place of tax credits – a living wage, for example.

And that’s why the Tories are introducing a living wage...

That’s what they call it. But it’s not. The Chancellor announced in his most recent Budget a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, rising to £9 by 2020. He called this the “national living wage” – it’s not, because the current living wage (which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, and currently non-compulsory) is already £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Will people be better off?

No. Quite the reverse. The IFS has said this slightly higher national minimum wage will not compensate working families who will be subjected to tax credit cuts; it is arithmetically impossible. The IFS director, Paul Johnson, commented: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.” It has been calculated that 3.2m low-paid workers will have their pay packets cut by an average of £1,350 a year.

Could the government change its policy to avoid this?

The Prime Minister and his frontbenchers have been pretty stubborn about pushing on with the plan. In spite of criticism from all angles – the IFS, campaigners, Labour, The Sun – Cameron has ruled out a review of the policy in the Autumn Statement, which is on 25 November. But there is an alternative. The chair of parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee and Labour MP Frank Field has proposed what he calls a “cost neutral” tweak to the tax credit cuts.

How would this alternative work?

Currently, if your income is less than £6,420, you will receive the maximum amount of tax credits. That threshold is called the gross income threshold. Field wants to introduce a second gross income threshold of £13,100 (what you earn if you work 35 hours a week on minimum wage). Those earning a salary between those two thresholds would have their tax credits reduced at a slower rate on whatever they earn above £6,420 up to £13,100. The percentage of what you earn above the basic threshold that is deducted from your tax credits is called the taper rate, and it is currently at 41 per cent. In contrast to this plan, the Tories want to halve the income threshold to £3,850 a year and increase the taper rate to 48 per cent once you hit that threshold, which basically means you lose more tax credits, faster, the more you earn.

When will the tax credit cuts come in?

They will be imposed from April next year, barring a u-turn.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.