Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UK Take on US Election

I walked into my politics lecture at 11am, set my bag down beside me, and began to take out a notebook. "Hello everyone," began the professor, "Thank you all for coming out this morning, taking a break from your essays and the US election." Only, this wasn't an American professor, and I wasn't sitting in an American Politics class. I wasn't even in America. This was all taking place at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom. Whether we realize or not, the American election is big news worldwide. So, on the suggestion of my American colleagues, I've set up shop here in Edinburgh to provide live coverage of the US election... as seen by the UK. This will be my first live-blogging experience (I'm a more versed live-tweeter), so get your finger on the refresh button (starting perhaps 6pm EST) and let's see what happens.

Today's BBC homepage is overflowing with US election material
Thanks to support from Tufts University, this post was updated live through the Tufts Admissions website. I have since migrated the live coverage back to Peacelight. The original article can be found here: Tufts Admissions - Live: UK Take on US Election.

Please note that all times will posted in Edinburgh local time, which is 5 hours ahead of EST. Whereas polls close at 8pm EST in New Hampshire, you'll see a 1am time-stamp when it happens. Feed appears below:

Wed., 1:50pm (8:50am EST)
The UK is cheering Obama's victory, projecting the American Flag onto the US Embassy in London. The Scotsman (publication) wonders where Obama could stand in the upcoming 2014 Scottish independence bid, while British PM David Cameron congratulates Obama. Opposition leader Ed Miliband of the Labour Party also congratulated the American President, via Twitter, tactfully calling his victory "based on building a fairer economy".

Among other things, Britain certainly has a vested economic interest in the outcome of the US election; 18% of the country's credit and 14% of its debit flowed through the States last year.

Wed., 1:35pm (8:35am EST)
After an exciting night, the results are in: Obama is the president, Democrats keep the Senate, and Republicans keep the House. Specifically:

President: Obama won both the popular vote (by roughly 2.6 million votes) and Electoral College vote. As of this posing, Florida has still not yet been called, but everyone from Fox News to CBS has Obama in the slight lead (by roughly 50,000 votes). Virginia went to Obama.

Senate: Democrats pick up 3 Republican seats (or thereabouts, depending on who you ask), moving from a 53-47 majority to a 56-44 majority (to be fair, 2 of those Democrats identify as Independents expected to lean left).

House: Before the election, Republicans held a 242-193 majority. Results appear to still be coming in, so I can't quite tell the numbers, but Republicans will hold their majority, perhaps by the same margin.

Huffington Post, ABC News, and Politico follow the NTY in calling Virginia for Obama. Looks like that could actually be happening.

Gay marriage proposals look like they're passing in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington!

This room's suggestions for helping the Republican party revamp for a better shot next time around: give up the fight against gay marriage, acknowledge climate change, and pick a running mate less ideologically polarizing than yourself.

Colorado legalizes marijuana, the first state to do so. But this completely contradicts federal law. Wonder what that'll mean. "The amendment would allow those 21 and older to purchase up to one ounce of the drug at specially regulated retail stores. Possession would be legal, but not public use. Adults could grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes." - Denver Post

In other news, the New York Times is calling Virginia for Obama - which I did not expect. Let's see which other news outlets follow.

If the President takes Florida and Virginia, can we call this election "Big Bird's Revenge"?

Colorado is called blue by Huffington Post. 

The bigger the margin of victory, the more the mandate: let's see where Florida and Colorado go later tonight. Meanwhile, Maryland votes to legalize same-sex marriage.

Curious as to how this election compares to '08? For one thing, North Carolina and Indiana turned red this time, but beyond that, we'll need to see more battleground turn-outs before we know more.

Obama tweets: "We're all in this together." #HighSchoolMusical?

The British flat-mates rush into the room in their pajamas: "Have you heard? We expected screaming!" The election is called: Four More Years. 

Sources from Penn State University are reporting chants of "four more years"; I can only imagine the celebrations around the country - and around the world.

Fox News and MSNBC call Ohio for Obama; this should mean the election is over. He won. Obama tweets: This is because of you; thank you!

Regarding ballot initiatives: Politico is calling Oklahoma as voting to ban affirmative action (Question 759), North Dakota should be banning smoking in all indoor workplaces, and Florida should be restricting abortion funding and religious school funding.

CNN is calling the House as remaining in GOP control, and based on the few Senate seats the Democrats have picked up recently, I'm thinking the liberals keep the Senate, as well. If everything stays the same (Executive and Legislature), are we doomed to 4 more years of gridlock? I say no way; whereas the House was unwilling to compromise leading into the election, if the country puts the President back in power, I don't think there'll be nearly as much incentive to oppose his every move...or vice versa.

"Real Clear Politics" gives the Democrats 49 Senate seats, 44 Republicans, with 7 toss-ups. But of those, CNN is calling victories for Democrats in Massachusetts and Indiana. That's over the 50% mark, if they're right.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is expected to win re-election in Ohio. A foreshadowing of the presidential election? 

Wisconsin to Obama; dropped by Romney according to ABC. He also had a summer home in the state, "a real loss for Mitt Romney." Hilarious.

This is the most expensive election in US history... but then again, they get more expensive every year, so there's no surprise there. And with Super-PACs in this election (groups that campaign for/against candidates without spending limits), we were expecting it.

Battleground Updates
Colorado: leaning Obama (~2%)
Ohio: leaning Obama (~3%)
Virginia: leaning Romney (~3%)
Florida: way too close

Iowa: leaning Obama (~30%)

First battleground state called: New Hampshire goes to Obama according to the New York Times.

Tufts graduate Scott Brown (R) appears to be unseated as Senator from Massachusetts by Elizabeth Warren (D), likely due in part to the votes of Tufts Jumbos themselves. Guess that Daily editorial worked.

Politico and Huffington Post have swing-state Colorado leaning Obama, but only with 9% reporting. I've only been to the Denver/Boulder area, so I have to imagine it's going blue - but apparently, there's more to the state than that. Still, Obama carried the state by almost 9% last election. Then again, George W. Bush took it - twice - before that. But we might not get to see Colorado's outcome before this election is called, with it being a few hours behind the east coast. On the other hand, if Florida, Virginia, and Ohio take too long to count, the order of results will be up in the air. Meanwhile, we'll also want to watch CO Prop 64: Marijuana legalization. CBS puts that as a "Yes" vote based on exit polling as of now.

Different parts of the country close polls at different times: While polls have closed in New York and Texas, they're still open in Iowa for 15 minutes, for example.

So get this: In Mississippi, Al Gore (no, not the previous vice-president, just someone else with the same name, oddly enough) is running for Senate, and in Nebraska, Bob Kerrey (no relation to John Kerry) is running for Senate. It's amazing how much name recognition - even false name recognition - matters.

Fun fact: The election is held the first Tuesday in November, unless that falls on November 1st; All Saints' Day. In which case, we go to the second Tuesday. Or maybe there's a coin toss. I don't remember. 

And my home-state of Pennsylvania is official called for Obama! Brings back memories of the 2008 election. (ABC now directs us to coverage on a "cracked iPad" for details...)

While everyone's paying close attention to the presidential election, let's keep in mind that there are Senators, Congressmen, and Governors up for election. Here's what ABC is calling in terms of senate elections: PA Senator Casey should win, Mississippi goes for the Republican, CT for Murphy (Democrat). After tonight, we'll see what the Senate looks like - there's an opportunity here for either party to be in power.

According to BBC, Florida contains 5 general types of voters: (1) richer Republican upscale voters with a second home, (2) retirees on the West Coast, (3) military, (4) rural, and (5) southern cities. With such a complex electorate, who knows what's going down.

Foreign observers here are occasionally surprised that winning a small majority of votes in any given state (e.g. 51% of the popular vote in, I dunno, Florida) would give the entire state's electoral votes to the candidate. Kind of strange, no? But that's how the electoral college works; it's not just the total number of votes overall, but the ability to secure majorities in specific parts of the country with specific interests. In its defense, the system may well protect minority or regional concerns.

Notably, however, Nebraska and Maine are willing to split their votes in the event of a close election. But with only 9 votes at stake between them, it's not going to matter much.

BBC says: "Just remember Red: Republican; you'll be fine." British struggles.

A student from Singapore just wandered in. If 1 is a representative sample (it isn't, people; take a stats class if you don't believe me), Singapore is rooting for whoever keeps the US dollar down - beyond that: apathy.

Point of interest: The electoral college distribution has changed since the 2008 election, thanks to the 2010 census. Specifically, Texas (red) picked up 3 votes, Florida (tossup) picked up 2, and we have +1 gains in Arizona (red), California (blue), Georgia (red), Nevada (tossup), and Utah (red). Meanwhile, over in the losers category, -1's go to Illinois (blue), Iowa (tossup), Louisiana (red), Massachusetts (blue), Missouri (red), and Pennsylvania (blue). Meanwhile, New York (blue) and Ohio (tossup) dropped 2 points, all based on population. Overall, that's an 8-point gain in red states over blue, but the tossup states can still matter big-time.

Lots of people are worried about the "wrong" candidate winning the presidency. We have people claiming they'd "pull a V-for-Vendetta" or "move to Canada", which I suppose works if you're into treason (or universal health care). But in reality, what's the worst that can happen, people? Congress can swing back the other way to compensate, and there's another executive election in 4 years. It won't be the end of the world for most of us. Now, if your job is appointed by the president (I'm looking at you, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu), you can start to panic.

Not really convinced that Edinburgh is pro-bama? Check out this pics taken earlier today by my friend Stephanie in a local cafe:


No one here can call the swing states - no one anywhere can call the swing states - but let's call 'em just for fun, eh? Let's see what this looks like:

In other news, the Empire State building will be lit tonight, blue (Obama) or red (Romney) depending on the outcome.

Lots of people wondering how they can "call" states like West Virginia (Romney) or Vermont (Obama) with less than a few percent of ballots counted. But with states that are so predictable (I'm looking at you, Texas), it probably just takes a few votes to reassure pollsters that nothing strange is going to happen in that state. Again; we're really watching OH, VA, FL, and maybe NH, WI, and IA in the early parts of this election.

Meanwhile, this room is full of "Go-bama!" cheers and strange suggestions for election-related games - including watching for every time a commentator pretends to know something that's going to happen... and again when they're wrong.

According to my source on the inside, the student center here is full of students cheering on Obama in the election. "Teviot's clappin' for obama...lots of energy." Of course, whether that's British or American students, we may never know.

Morning kids; back awake and ready for a late night. Okay, the latest from the British: conservatives are represented by blue in UK elections, so our UK observers should be aware that blue is liberal here in the US. An important distinction.

In other news, it looks like key east-coast states Ohio, Florida, and Virginia could essentially decide the election long before the nation's votes are counted (or, at least, that's what those in the room who don't want to stay up all night are hoping). I'm calling Florida and Ohio for Obama, with Virginia as the possible drop to Romney. Thoughts from the viewer audience?

Currently, the University of Edinburgh North American Society is hosting an election-watching event in our student center, at which they will be serving "Barack-O-Burgers" (and the less-cleverly named "Romneyburgers").

They're expecting at least a few of the city's 1700 North American students to turn up. Whether or not any of them are dedicated enough to stay up through the evening (we may not have results until midnight EST, which means 5am here) is another story. For my part, I'm going to take a quick nap, right about now.

Just checked the status of my Absentee Ballot online (for fun, really). Ballot Mailed from the UK: September 30th, Received in US:  October 23rd. Status: Vote Recorded. Brilliant.

If waiting for the outcome of the presidential election isn't interesting enough for you, keep an eye on California's Proposition 34: a call to end the death penalty. Here in Europe, no country (except Belarus) executes criminals, and the American practice is seen as quite barbaric. Earlier this year, Edinburgh University's Amnesty International was focused on campaigning to end the death penalty worldwide. California may become the 18th US state to abolish it as a result of tonight's vote, bringing the country one step closer to a near-worldwide consensus. That's something to look for.

BBC just informed me that New Jersey voters can vote by email thanks to Hurricane Sandy. I'm not saying I'm envious of New Jersey (that's impossible for a Pennsylvanian), but that's pretty sophisticated of them. Unless the reason they can't vote in person is that they're stuck at home with no power. In which case, email's not going to do that much good. 

An article in yesterdays' Huffington Post revealed what those of us studying abroad had already figured out: The world would vote for Obama in a land-slide. Here in the UK, 65% of those polled preferred Obama, with only 7% going for Romney. The other 28%? I think they were hoping we'd rejoin the union.

As for the other world nations, Israel (not polled) is projected to be Romney-friendly, but that's disputed. Pakistan would apparently go Republican. A tip from a Norwegian national led me to data indicating that in Norway the scales tip decisively toward the Democrat (93% in favor).

For many countries, especially those with far more progressive policies than are to be found in the US (our student president here is a self-professed Socialist, and that's normal), the choice is obvious: the more left-leaning, the better. Because US "liberals" barely fit on their spectrum... and US "conservatives" would be off the charts.

For fun, I'm calling the election in advance: A sizable Obama victory of near-2008 proportions, carrying Florida and Ohio to a Democratic victory. Yikes - I wonder if my Political Science degree is on the line of I get that one wrong!

Welcome to live coverage of the US 2012 Presidential Election. Updates will appear below; please refresh throughout the evening to see them.

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