The US election results - liveblog

Nicky Woolf liveblogs the result of the 2012 presidential election.

12:30PM

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.

 


12:07PM

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.

 


11:32PM

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.

 


11:27PM

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.

 


11:13PM

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.

 


11:10PM

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.

 


10:59PM

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.

 


10:50PM

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.

 


10:40PM

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.

 


10:30PM

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.

 


10:24PM

This is a genuinely heartwarming experience.

 

 


10:18PM

"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.

 


10:09PM

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

 


10:03PM 

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.

 


9:54PM

MSNBC has the current total at:

Electoral College: Barack Obama 168 - 153 Mitt Romney

 


9:49PM

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.

 


9:43PM

This is one of the calls that really matter:

 

 


9:16PM

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.

 


9:11PM

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

 


8:43PM

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

 


8:36PM

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.

 


8:27PM

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.

 


8:14PM

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

 


8:11PM

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.

 


8:01PM

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.

 


7:44PM

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%.

 


7:37PM

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.

 


7:25PM

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%.

 


7:20PM

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.

 


7:14PM

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?

 


7:09PM

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.

 


7:02PM

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

 


7:00PM

...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.

 


6:51PM

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

 

 


6:44PM

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. 

 


6:41PM

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."

 


6:22PM

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.

 


6:02PM

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.

 


5:38PM

Amazing figures from the New York Times' Nate Silver:

 

 


5:26PM

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...

 


5:13PM

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:

 


5:08PM

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.

 


4:07PM

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.

 


3:45PM

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

 


3:26PM

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.

 


3:20PM

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 a writer for the Guardian based in the US. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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The 11 things we know after the Brexit plan debate

Labour may just have fallen into a trap. 

On Wednesday, both Labour and Tory MPs filed out of the Commons together to back a motion calling on the Prime Minister to commit to publish the government’s Brexit plan before Article 50 is triggered in March 2017. 

The motion was proposed by Labour, but the government agreed to back it after inserting its own amendment calling on MPs to “respect the wishes of the United Kingdom” and adhere to the original timetable. 

With questions on everything from the customs union to the Northern Irish border, it is clear that the Brexit minister David Davis will have a busy Christmas. Meanwhile, his declared intention to stay schtum about the meat of Brexit negotiations for now means the nation has been hanging off every titbit of news, including a snapped memo reading “have cake and eat it”. 

So, with confusion abounding, here is what we know from the Brexit plan debate: 

1. The government will set out a Brexit plan before triggering Article 50

The Brexit minister David Davis said that Parliament will get to hear the government’s “strategic plans” ahead of triggering Article 50, but that this will not include anything that will “jeopardise our negotiating position”. 

While this is something of a victory for the Remain MPs and the Opposition, the devil is in the detail. For example, this could still mean anything from a white paper to a brief description released days before the March deadline.

2. Parliament will get a say on converting EU law into UK law

Davis repeated that the Great Repeal Bill, which scraps the European Communities Act 1972, will be presented to the Commons during the two-year period following Article 50.

He said: “After that there will be a series of consequential legislative measures, some primary, some secondary, and on every measure the House will have a vote and say.”

In other words, MPs will get to debate how existing EU law is converted to UK law. But, crucially, that isn’t the same as getting to debate the trade negotiations. And the crucial trade-off between access to the single market versus freedom of movement is likely to be decided there. 

3. Parliament is almost sure to get a final vote on the Brexit deal

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the final Brexit deal, which means the government accepts it also needs parliamentary approval. Davis said: “It is inconceivable to me that if the European Parliament has a vote, this House does not.”

Davis also pledged to keep MPs as well-informed as MEPs will be.

However, as shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer pointed out to The New Statesman, this could still leave MPs facing the choice of passing a Brexit deal they disagree with or plunging into a post-EU abyss. 

4. The government still plans to trigger Article 50 in March

With German and French elections planned for 2017, Labour MP Geraint Davies asked if there was any point triggering Article 50 before the autumn. 

But Davis said there were 15 elections scheduled during the negotiation process, so such kind of delay was “simply not possible”. 

5. Themed debates are a clue to Brexit priorities

One way to get a measure of the government’s priorities is the themed debates it is holding on various areas covered by EU law, including two already held on workers’ rights and transport.  

Davis mentioned themed debates as a key way his department would be held to account. 

It's not exactly disclosure, but it is one step better than relying on a camera man papping advisers as they walk into No.10 with their notes on show. 

6. The immigration policy is likely to focus on unskilled migrants

At the Tory party conference, Theresa May hinted at a draconian immigration policy that had little time for “citizens of the world”, while Davis said the “clear message” from the Brexit vote was “control immigration”.

He struck a softer tone in the debate, saying: “Free movement of people cannot continue as it is now, but this will not mean pulling up the drawbridge.”

The government would try to win “the global battle for talent”, he added. If the government intends to stick to its migration target and, as this suggests, will keep the criteria for skilled immigrants flexible, the main target for a clampdown is clearly unskilled labour.  

7. The government is still trying to stay in the customs union

Pressed about the customs union by Anna Soubry, the outspoken Tory backbencher, Davis said the government is looking at “several options”. This includes Norway, which is in the single market but not the customs union, and Switzerland, which is in neither but has a customs agreement. 

(For what it's worth, the EU describes this as "a series of bilateral agreements where Switzerland has agreed to take on certain aspects of EU legislation in exchange for accessing the EU's single market". It also notes that Swiss exports to the EU are focused on a few sectors, like chemicals, machinery and, yes, watches.)

8. The government wants the status quo on security

Davis said that on security and law enforcement “our aim is to preserve the current relationship as best we can”. 

He said there is a “clear mutual interest in continued co-operation” and signalled a willingness for the UK to pitch in to ensure Europe is secure across borders. 

One of the big tests for this commitment will be if the government opts into Europol legislation which comes into force next year.

9. The Chancellor is wooing industries

Robin Walker, the under-secretary for Brexit, said Philip Hammond and Brexit ministers were meeting organisations in the City, and had also met representatives from the aerospace, energy, farming, chemicals, car manufacturing and tourism industries. 

However, Labour has already attacked the government for playing favourites with its secretive Nissan deal. Brexit ministers have a fine line to walk between diplomacy and what looks like a bribe. 

10. Devolved administrations are causing trouble

A meeting with leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ended badly, with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon publicly declaring it “deeply frustrating”. The Scottish government has since ramped up its attempts to block Brexit in the courts. 

Walker took a more conciliatory tone, saying that the PM was “committed to full engagement with the devolved administrations” and said he undertook the task of “listening to the concerns” of their representatives. 

11. Remain MPs may have just voted for a trap

Those MPs backing Remain were divided on whether to back the debate with the government’s amendment, with the Green co-leader Caroline Lucas calling it “the Tories’ trap”.

She argued that it meant signing up to invoking Article 50 by March, and imposing a “tight timetable” and “arbitrary deadline”, all for a vaguely-worded Brexit plan. In the end, Lucas was one of the Remainers who voted against the motion, along with the SNP. 

George agrees – you can read his analysis of the Brexit trap here

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.