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 freelance writer based in the US who has formerly worked for the Guardian and the New Statesman. He tweets @NickyWoolf.

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We're racing towards another private debt crisis - so why did no one see it coming?

The Office for Budget Responsibility failed to foresee the rise in household debt. 

This is a call for a public inquiry on the current situation regarding private debt.

For almost a decade now, since 2007, we have been living a lie. And that lie is preparing to wreak havoc on our economy. If we do not create some kind of impartial forum to discuss what is actually happening, the results might well prove disastrous. 

The lie I am referring to is the idea that the financial crisis of 2008, and subsequent “Great Recession,” were caused by profligate government spending and subsequent public debt. The exact opposite is in fact the case. The crash happened because of dangerously high levels of private debt (a mortgage crisis specifically). And - this is the part we are not supposed to talk about—there is an inverse relation between public and private debt levels.

If the public sector reduces its debt, overall private sector debt goes up. That's what happened in the years leading up to 2008. Now austerity is making it happening again. And if we don't do something about it, the results will, inevitably, be another catastrophe.

The winners and losers of debt

These graphs show the relationship between public and private debt. They are both forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, produced in 2015 and 2017. 

This is what the OBR was projecting what would happen around now back in 2015:

This year the OBR completely changed its forecast. This is how it now projects things are likely to turn out:

First, notice how both diagrams are symmetrical. What happens on top (that part of the economy that is in surplus) precisely mirrors what happens in the bottom (that part of the economy that is in deficit). This is called an “accounting identity.”

As in any ledger sheet, credits and debits have to match. The easiest way to understand this is to imagine there are just two actors, government, and the private sector. If the government borrows £100, and spends it, then the government has a debt of £100. But by spending, it has injected £100 more pounds into the private economy. In other words, -£100 for the government, +£100 for everyone else in the diagram. 

Similarly, if the government taxes someone for £100 , then the government is £100 richer but there’s £100 subtracted from the private economy (+£100 for government, -£100 for everybody else on the diagram).

So what implications does this kind of bookkeeping have for the overall economy? It means that if the government goes into surplus, then everyone else has to go into debt.

We tend to think of money as if it is a bunch of poker chips already lying around, but that’s not how it really works. Money has to be created. And money is created when banks make loans. Either the government borrows money and injects it into the economy, or private citizens borrow money from banks. Those banks don’t take the money from people’s savings or anywhere else, they just make it up. Anyone can write an IOU. But only banks are allowed to issue IOUs that the government will accept in payment for taxes. (In other words, there actually is a magic money tree. But only banks are allowed to use it.)

There are other factors. The UK has a huge trade deficit (blue), and that means the government (yellow) also has to run a deficit (print money, or more accurately, get banks to do it) to inject into the economy to pay for all those Chinese trainers, American iPads, and German cars. The total amount of money can also fluctuate. But the real point here is, the less the government is in debt, the more everyone else must be. Austerity measures will necessarily lead to rising levels of private debt. And this is exactly what has happened.

Now, if this seems to have very little to do with the way politicians talk about such matters, there's a simple reason: most politicians don’t actually know any of this. A recent survey showed 90 per cent of MPs don't even understand where money comes from (they think it's issued by the Royal Mint). In reality, debt is money. If no one owed anyone anything at all there would be no money and the economy would grind to a halt.

But of course debt has to be owed to someone. These charts show who owes what to whom.

The crisis in private debt

Bearing all this in mind, let's look at those diagrams again - keeping our eye particularly on the dark blue that represents household debt. In the first, 2015 version, the OBR duly noted that there was a substantial build-up of household debt in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. This is significant because it was the first time in British history that total household debts were higher than total household savings, and therefore the household sector itself was in deficit territory. (Corporations, at the same time, were raking in enormous profits.) But it also predicted this wouldn't happen again.

True, the OBR observed, austerity and the reduction of government deficits meant private debt levels would have to go up. However, the OBR economists insisted this wouldn't be a problem because the burden would fall not on households but on corporations. Business-friendly Tory policies would, they insisted, inspire a boom in corporate expansion, which would mean frenzied corporate borrowing (that huge red bulge below the line in the first diagram, which was supposed to eventually replace government deficits entirely). Ordinary households would have little or nothing to worry about.

This was total fantasy. No such frenzied boom took place.

In the second diagram, two years later, the OBR is forced to acknowledge this. Corporations are just raking in the profits and sitting on them. The household sector, on the other hand, is a rolling catastrophe. Austerity has meant falling wages, less government spending on social services (or anything else), and higher de facto taxes. This puts the squeeze on household budgets and people are forced to borrow. As a result, not only are households in overall deficit for the second time in British history, the situation is actually worse than it was in the years leading up to 2008.

And remember: it was a mortgage crisis that set off the 2008 crash, which almost destroyed the world economy and plunged millions into penury. Not a crisis in public debt. A crisis in private debt.

An inquiry

In 2015, around the time the original OBR predictions came out, I wrote an essay in the Guardian predicting that austerity and budget-balancing would create a disastrous crisis in private debt. Now it's so clearly, unmistakably, happening that even the OBR cannot deny it.

I believe the time has come for there be a public investigation - a formal public inquiry, in fact - into how this could be allowed to happen. After the 2008 crash, at least the economists in Treasury and the Bank of England could plausibly claim they hadn't completely understood the relation between private debt and financial instability. Now they simply have no excuse.

What on earth is an institution called the “Office for Budget Responsibility” credulously imagining corporate borrowing binges in order to suggest the government will balance the budget to no ill effects? How responsible is that? Even the second chart is extremely odd. Up to 2017, the top and bottom of the diagram are exact mirrors of one another, as they ought to be. However, in the projected future after 2017, the section below the line is much smaller than the section above, apparently seriously understating the amount both of future government, and future private, debt. In other words, the numbers don't add up.

The OBR told the New Statesman ​that it was not aware of any errors in its 2015 forecast for corporate sector net lending, and that the forecast was based on the available data. It said the forecast for business investment has been revised down because of the uncertainty created by Brexit. 

Still, if the “Office of Budget Responsibility” was true to its name, it should be sounding off the alarm bells right about now. So far all we've got is one mention of private debt and a mild warning about the rise of personal debt from the Bank of England, which did not however connect the problem to austerity, and one fairly strong statement from a maverick columnist in the Daily Mail. Otherwise, silence. 

The only plausible explanation is that institutions like the Treasury, OBR, and to a degree as well the Bank of England can't, by definition, warn against the dangers of austerity, however alarming the situation, because they have been set up the way they have in order to justify austerity. It's important to emphasise that most professional economists have never supported Conservative policies in this regard. The policy was adopted because it was convenient to politicians; institutions were set up in order to support it; economists were hired in order to come up with arguments for austerity, rather than to judge whether it would be a good idea. At present, this situation has led us to the brink of disaster.

The last time there was a financial crash, the Queen famously asked: why was no one able to foresee this? We now have the tools. Perhaps the most important task for a public inquiry will be to finally ask: what is the real purpose of the institutions that are supposed to foresee such matters, to what degree have they been politicised, and what would it take to turn them back into institutions that can at least inform us if we're staring into the lights of an oncoming train?