Nov. 6, 2012: Live Election Day Coverage

Well, here we are, everyone! It’s time to get things rolling with Election Day 2012.

This post will be updated throughout the day (and perhaps into tomorrow morning) with all the latest news on the presidential election, including results, media coverage, and (when we have one) our president for the next four years.

270 Electoral Votes to Win

Obama (D)
332
Romney (R)
206
California (55)
Colorado (9)
Connecticut (7)
Delaware (3)
District of Columbia (3)
Florida (29)
Hawaii (4)
Illinois (20)
Iowa (6)
Maine (4)
Maryland (10)
Massachusetts (11)
Michigan (16)
Minnesota (10)
Nevada (6)
New Hampshire (4)
New Jersey (14)
New Mexico (5)
New York (29)
Ohio (18)
Oregon (7)
Pennsylvania (20)
Rhode Island (4)
Vermont (3)
Virginia (13)
Washington (12)
Wisconsin (10)
Alabama (9)
Alaska (3)
Arizona (11)
Arkansas (6)
Georgia (16)
Idaho (4)
Indiana (11)
Kansas (6)
Kentucky (8)
Louisiana (8)
Mississippi (6)
Missouri (10)
Montana (3)
Nebraska (5)
North Carolina (15)
North Dakota (3)
Oklahoma (7)
South Carolina (9)
South Dakota (3)
Tennessee (11)
Texas (38)
Utah (6)
West Virginia (5)
Wyoming (3)

2:00 a.m. — And that’s it, everyone! Thanks for following the election with us. If you’re returning home from a watch party, please stay safe tonight. Either way, God bless you, and enjoy the rest of your evening.

1:59 a.m. — As Obama hugs his family and the crowd celebrates with confetti pouring from the sky, let’s close the book on this election. Sure, the major networks have been hesitant to call Florida, but it’s a safe enough bet at this point. It’s the exclamation point on the president’s victory tonight.

Obama: CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, VA, WA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

1:58 a.m. — So his speech comes to a conclusion. He ends with an emphatic pledge to remind that world why the U.S. is the greatest nation on the planet.

1:56 a.m. — That’s probably the biggest question about his second term: whether he can dull the bipartisanship that prevailed over the past four years, as well as many years before that, or whether it will persist through the duration of his presidency.

1:55 a.m. — Lots of hints about bipartisanship, though. Every other line is about working together, setting aside differences, and so forth. It’s really starting to sound like the prelude to a second Clinton term, although cynics might suspect that he’s just imploring Republicans to make the concessions that result in “coming together.”

1:52 a.m. — There’s a reflection back to the classic Kennedy line, saying that it’s not about “what government can do for us, but what we can do together.” Very similar to the “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” As expected, the speech has a very uplifting tone. It’s not so much a speech about policy as it is a celebration, both of victory and about America itself.

1:51 a.m. — “Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is now ending.” More cheers before the second sentence even ended.

1:50 a.m. — He’s also used the word “forward” several times, although that’s probably more of a reflection back to his campaign slogan than a hint at future policy.

1:45 a.m. — By the way, with 83% of the popular vote counted, Obama now holds a lead of just over 700,000 votes out of the 105 million+ counted thus far. As predicted, the margin is growing as the hours drag on.

1:44 a.m. — He’s invoked the “family” metaphor several times in this presentation. That may just be a rhetorical device, but I’m sure that many people watching are wondering if it means he’s planning to follow in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who crossed the aisle much more in his second term in an attempt to unite the political parties toward a common agenda.

1:42 a.m. — His thanks for Joe Biden drew what may have been the loudest roar of the speech. I think they even eclipsed the cheers in response to his impassioned pledge to his wife and daughters.

1:41 a.m. — He just noted the need to fix the long waiting times at the polling booths. Perhaps a tacit hint about reforming the procedures, including voter ID laws, in the future?

1:40 a.m. — Obama’s acknowledging that “the road has been hard, but…the best is yet to come.”

1:38 a.m. — “Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!”

1:37 a.m. — The whole family is at the podium, waving all together. It looks like Obama’s working to create a classic presidential moment here.

1:35 a.m. — Obama’s entering with his family. Joe Biden is doing the same.

1:34 a.m. — CNN reports that Obama is about a minute away from taking the stage.

1:30 a.m. — The Florida vote is still trickling in, ever so slowly. 92% of precincts have reported, and to be precise, Obama’s margin is 0.7%.

1:15 a.m. — Still no sign of Obama. Some of the screens around the stage in Chicago are replaying old reports of states being called for Obama, each of which is evoking cheers from the audience. It’s clear that they’re in such a state of bliss right now that they don’t care if it’s hours-old news, they’re still excited about it.

1:05 a.m. — Obama also has a decisive edge in the popular vote now. His lead amounts to about 266,000 votes out of about 102.5 million, and that lead is likely to increase as the remaining votes are tallied. It won’t be the 52%-45% victory he scored in 2008, but it doesn’t appear to be a repeat of 2000, either.

1:02 a.m. — It’s irrelevant at this point, but now that the Alaskan polls have closed, all the major networks are officially calling it for Obama, leaving Florida as the only state left up for grabs.

1:01 a.m. — Now we wait to see Obama’s victory speech.

1:00 a.m. — And that’s it. A quick, to-the-point, five-minute concession speech.

1:00 a.m. — It’s clear from the look in his eyes that this isn’t how he expected tonight to end. The red in his eyes is either sleep deprivation, or the evidence of tears.

12:59 a.m. — Romney’s urging political leaders to reach across the aisle in order to ensure the future of the country at this crossroads.

12:56 a.m. — There was more of a reaction to his thanks directed toward Paul Ryan than to his congratulations toward Obama. The audience was ready for this, even if Romney’s supporters didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of the election. There were only a few half-hearted “no!” yells when he said he was conceding.

12:55 a.m. — Sparse applause and cheering. The audience knows what’s coming.

12:55 a.m. — Romney’s taking the stage now.

12:52 a.m. — And now it’s being reported that Mitt Romney has called Barack Obama to concede the election. That should also serve as a signal for the Republican party to look forward and figure out how they managed to lose this election, when so many analysts thought it should have been so winnable.

12:50 a.m. — We’re five minutes away from Romney’s speech. In the meantime, it’s about time to project Virginia for Obama. That puts him over the 300 electoral vote mark.

Obama: CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, VA, WA, WI
Undecided: FL
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

12:45 a.m. — Reports indicate that in ten minutes, Romney is going to deliver a speech. Will this be the concession we expect, or something else entirely?

12:35 a.m. — As for Congress, it appears that Democrats ultimately gained two Senate seats despite months of speculation that they would be playing defense tonight, just trying to keep Republicans from taking control of both houses of Congress. All in all, this election was a huge victory for the Democratic Party and a catastrophic failure for Republicans.

12:33 a.m. — The presidency and Congress weren’t the only big issues decided tonight, by the way. Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana, while Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the drug even for recreational use, putting those two states directly at odds with federal law which explicitly prohibits its use for anything other than medical purposes. Arkansas and Oregon rejected similar initiatives on medical and recreational use, respectively, tonight.

12:27 a.m. — It also looks like, taking western states like California into account, Obama may win the popular vote, as well. 73% of the popular vote has been tallied, and Romney leads by a mere 335 votes nationwide. That margin has been plummeting ever since California, Oregon, and Washington entered the picture when those polls closed at 11:00 p.m.

12:25 a.m. — At this point, Obama has 290 electoral votes. Even if Romney somehow managed to pull out a victory in Ohio (or won a legal challenge against the result), and he came back to take Virginia and Florida as well, Obama would still have 272 electoral votes. Now, if Obama wins all three of those states, which appears all but inevitable… well, that’s part of the problem with a legal challenge. It’s not like there’s just one state that tipped the balance in Obama’s favor. The more states that Obama collects, the less significant that Romney overturning any one result becomes.

12:21 a.m. — For the record, Virginia and Florida have counted 88% and 91% of their votes, respectively. Obama leads by 1% in both states, and again, most of the counties still reporting votes were bastions of Obama supporters.

12:18 a.m. — CNN reports that a Romney aide says the Republican candidate is not yet ready to concede. On a human level, it’s hard to blame him when so many states were so tormentingly close, but looking at the numbers themselves, it’s hard to see any way for him to keep it close. Based on the counties that are still reporting vote totals, both Florida and Virginia are almost certain to go Obama’s way, as well.

12:16 a.m. — As Obama continues to win more states, though, any challenge becomes less and less likely to succeed. Speaking of which, Obama now has enough of an edge in Colorado to add that state to his tally, as well.

Obama: CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: FL, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

12:11 a.m. — Maybe this is why Romney didn’t have a concession speech prepared. Perhaps he knew that the states he might lose would at least be close and was never intending to concede, even if Obama reached 270 electoral votes, in the hope that he might be able to mount a successful legal challenge. There are also the provisional ballots that were always more likely to go toward Obama, but which might — in theory — shift a state like Ohio back if they were unexpectedly disproportionately votes for Romney.

12:04 a.m. — Romney may not give a concession speech, which begs the question of whether Obama will make a victory speech. In the meantime, Florida is getting further and further out of reach. If things don’t change rather soon, I’ll be putting that one in the blue column as well.

11:56 p.m. — Nevada also moves into the Obama column, padding his win in the election.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

11:36 p.m. — Some commentators have noted the possibility that the lawyers might try to jump into the fray and challenge the closer results like those of Florida and Ohio, but the more that Obama increases his electoral lead, the less relevant any potential challenge would become. There’s also the possibility of an automatic recount, which is a ten-day process, but with a wide margin (tens of thousands) in any particular state, that’s unlikely to make a difference.

11:29 p.m. — While the outcome as a whole has been decided, we’ll continue tracking the remaining states for a few hours to come.

11:22 p.m. — So, the question now becomes: What will happen in the next four years? Both parties would agree that a great deal of potential legislation has been gridlocked. Even CNN is acknowledging that this is effectively a second chance for Obama to do what he could not do in his first term. So how will things change over the next four years? And if he does indeed lose the popular vote while winning the election, much like Bush did in 2000, does that change how he has to lead?

11:18 p.m. — And that’s all she wrote. I project that Barack Obama will carry the state of Ohio and win re-election as the President of the United States of America.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, NV, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

11:17 p.m. — Oregon enters the Obama column as well, as expected.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, NV, OH, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

11:14 p.m. — Earlier, I thought that this might be a long night. But we may be done before Virginia and Florida voters are even done casting their ballots. How weird is that?

11:10 p.m. — And Romney gets the ten electoral votes from Missouri, while Iowa’s six votes go to Obama.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, NV, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

11:08 p.m. — New Mexico brings Obama five more electoral votes.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, IA, MO, NV, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

11:03 p.m. — North Carolina will help Romney breathe a little, but not much.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, IA, MO, NV, NM, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

11:00 p.m. — Here come more instant calls.

10:59 p.m. — With 90% of precincts reporting in Florida, Obama leads by over 36,000 votes.

10:57 p.m. — California will certainly be an instant Obama call, and Oregon will likely follow suit in a hurry, along with Washington and Hawaii.

10:55 p.m. — We’re five minutes away from five more states totaling 82 electoral votes closing their doors.

10:53 p.m. — Ohio alone would get him a breath away. The combination of Ohio, Nevada, and Oregon (the latter two of which were leaning his way in pre-election polls) would get him to exactly 270. That’s to say nothing of New Mexico, and of course all the other states still within range for Obama.

10:52 p.m. — At this point, if Obama wins Florida and any other state on our undecided list, he will be the president for the next four years.

10:48 p.m. — There’s another one into the Obama column. Minnesota belongs to the incumbent.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, IA, MO, NV, NM, NC, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

10:46 p.m. — We’ll add Montana to the total, for good measure.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, IA, MN, MO, NV, NM, NC, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MT, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

10:43 p.m. — Arizona goes to Romney, as most commentators expected.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: CO, FL, IA, MN, MO, MT, NV, NM, NC, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AZ, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

10:40 p.m. — Just to be clear, if Obama wins Ohio and Florida, our projection will have him at 276 electoral votes, which will cinch the election.

10:36 p.m. — A lot of the discussion at this point is about whether Romney’s rejection of the auto bailout cost him the election, or whether it was more about his failure to capitalize on the economic problems and the Benghazi disaster. Note the past tense.

10:33 p.m. — That advantage is roughly 64,000 votes in Ohio, where 59% of precincts have reported.

10:32 p.m. — With 87% of Florida precincts reporting, Obama has a 46,000-vote advantage.

10:30 p.m. — It’s starting to look less and less relevant, but the last significant wave of poll closings is a half-hour away. After 11:00 p.m., the only state in which the polls will still be officially open is Alaska. (That’s apart from cases like Virginia and Florida, where voters are still casting their ballots due to the absurd wait times.)

10:28 p.m. — Despite all the talk about discontent with the current administration, with a Congress at war with itself, and with the long-term stagnant economy, the increasingly likely outcome is that the Republicans will still control the House, the Democrats will still hold the Senate, and Barack Obama will still be in the White House. Either that sentiment wasn’t nearly as strong as some pundits thought, or it just didn’t make a difference, and the political scene was ultimately unaffected by how the voters feel.

10:25 p.m. — CNN has resisted calling Wisconsin, but Fox News is giving it to Obama. We’ll follow suit with those ten electoral votes. That’s another potential reach for Romney which didn’t come to fruition. More doors are closing on the challenger.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WI
Undecided: AZ, CO, FL, IA, MN, MO, MT, NV, NM, NC, OH, OR, VA
Romney: AL, AK, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

10:23 p.m. — Of course, there’s also the question of whether lawyers could jump in to try to challenge the results. A lot of these states, after all, will be very close one way or another.

10:22 p.m. — And, more importantly, it effectively slams the door on Romney if he loses Florida. There are no obvious Romney routes to 270 without Florida; he’d have to pull off a huge upset in another state (or set of states) in order to have a chance.

10:19 p.m. — Maybe Romney shouldn’t have been so sure about a Florida win. He neglected to push in his campaigning there, working harder in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, and his hope to win the state is now fading in a hurry. If he loses Florida, that will be the biggest surprise Obama win in this election.

10:17 p.m. — As another big Senate projection, Claire McCaskill held her seat in the Senate, winning the Missouri election over Todd Akin, who is now most well-known for his comments on “legitimate rape” which destroyed his huge early lead and prompted calls from throughout the Republican Party for him to get out of the race and let another Republican take the reins. He refused, and he ultimately lost. It’s now mathematically impossible for the Republicans to take control of the Senate in this election, which was a huge goal for them.

10:14 p.m. — Obama has the early lead in Iowa, although much of that is due to the Des Moines area. That state will heavily depend on where, exactly, the Iowa turnout is located.

10:12 p.m. — Of course, much the same could be said of Ohio. That’s a must-win for the Republican challenger, but it’s getting harder to find votes for him to make a stand.

10:10 p.m. — Obama’s leading by almost 40,000 votes in Florida. That’s not a lot, percentage-wise, but the remaining counties look more promising for Obama than for Romney, which makes one skeptical about his ability to come back there. If Romney loses Florida, that pretty much seals the election.

10:05 p.m. — New Hampshire goes to Obama, as well, holding off Romney’s charge in the state. That was another toss-up from the start, and one that Romney coveted so dearly that he even campaigned there today.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA
Undecided: AZ, CO, FL, IA, MN, MO, MT, NV, NM, NC, OH, OR, VA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

10:02 p.m. — There’s enough evidence to call Pennsylvania for Obama at this point. Romney threw some campaign dollars at the state in the final week of the campaign, but it had no effect other than to make Obama match him dollar for dollar. Pennsylvania remains left-wing blue, and it’s looking increasingly promising for Obama in Florida as well, as most of the counties that might lean right have already finished reporting.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA
Undecided: AZ, CO, FL, IA, MN, MO, MT, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, OR, VA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

10:00 p.m. — Here comes the next wave. Iowa’s the big one in this set, and Nevada’s a longshot reach for Romney.

9:57 p.m. — This obviously doesn’t account for certain Obama wins like California, but it’s interesting that while the window is closing on Romney, he’s actually leading the popular vote by almost a million ballots out of the 40 million counted so far.

9:55 p.m. — We’re five minutes away from the next four states closing their polls. As Fox News’ commentators have been saying, the election isn’t over yet, but if the challenger wants to unseat the incumbent, he’s going to have to start running the table. All eyes remain on Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado. Iowa, at least, is about to join that set.

9:52 p.m. — Maybe it’s too early to suggest that Romney start writing the concession speech that he supposedly refused to prepare… but still, with the way things are stacking up, he might want to have one on hand. Just in case.

9:50 p.m. — As the scenarios keep lining up, the odds are pointing to Obama in office for another four years, with Republicans maintaining control of the House and Democrats keeping their hold over the Senate.

9:49 p.m. — Ohio in particular is a state where Romney kept trying to make inroads, and it kept not happening. On the other side of things, Florida looked to be as sure a Romney win as any battleground state, but he’s trailing by 1% (over 20,000 votes) at this point with 83% of the precincts reporting.

9:47 p.m. — As results keep trickling in, things look like they’re starting to slip away from Romney. It’s the same story as what we’ve been seeing on the electoral maps for months: while he has several potential routes to victory, he didn’t quite have the advantage in enough states to follow any of those paths. As we keep confirming narrow losses in some of those battleground states, those paths to victories continue to vanish before his eyes, and Obama’s stranglehold on the election looks ever stronger.

9:42 p.m. — Obama is still holding a sizable lead of 6% in Ohio with 42% of precincts reporting. Importantly, he’s won Hamilton and Franklin Counties, which are typically bellwethers in the state. That might be enough to swing the state to Obama, which might completely shut the door on Romney for good.

9:41 p.m. — Fox News has now called the Indiana Senate race for Joe Donnelly. That’s a huge hold for the Democrats, who were expecting to lose the seat just a few weeks ago.

9:40 p.m. — 53% of Virginia precincts are now reporting, and Romney holds a 4% lead. But remember, there are still a lot of people waiting to cast their ballots, and that could make all the difference for Obama.

9:37 p.m. — At 10:00, we’ll have a few more poll closings: Iowa, Montana, Nevada, and Utah. The tighter races there are Iowa and Nevada, with Nevada leaning toward Obama in the pre-election polls and Iowa a bit more of a toss-up.

9:33 p.m. — Obama’s winning Colorado, although his totals in the big cities aren’t quite where they were in 2008.

9:28 p.m. — 81% of Florida precincts are reporting, totaling over seven million ballots. Obama trails by 572 votes.

9:26 p.m. — With almost 600,000 votes counted in Colorado, Obama holds a sizable 8% lead. But remember what we said earlier about Boulder County. To take Colorado, Romney needs to win the rest of the state by a wide enough margin to counterbalance the Boulder results. If Obama can build up enough of a lead from Boulder County, its nine electoral votes are his.

9:24 p.m. — In Indiana, Donnelly’s lead is holding at a somewhat surprisingly slim 2% with reports in from 63% of precincts. Mourdock may yet have a little hope, but he needs some help from the remaining results in order to unseat Donnelly.

9:20 p.m. — The Obama camp might be getting very hopeful about Florida. A lot of pre-election polls had Romney winning there by a comfortable enough margin, but with over 80% of precincts reporting, it’s a nail-biter. Giving Romney a 1% lead right now might be generous. As in many other states, Romney’s charging through the rural areas, but Obama’s winning the fewer, larger population centers.

9:17 p.m. — Ohio won’t start counting its provisional ballots for another ten days, and CNN reports that there may be 200K-250K of them. If the margin of victory in Ohio is smaller than that, not only will the results be terribly delayed, but this election could get taken to the courts, rather like what happened in Florida in 2000.

9:14 p.m. — Boulder County, Colorado is going much more toward Obama than the Romney camp had hoped. Their target was to reduce Obama’s 80% take of the county in 2008 down to 60%, with the hopes that they could take the rest of the state to win it. So far, Obama has about 70% of the vote in Boulder.

9:12 p.m. — With 76% of precincts reporting in Florida, it’s effectively dead even: 50%-50%.

9:09 p.m. — Needless to say, Romney needs to sweep almost all of the remaining battleground states in order to hit the magic number of 270 and unseat Obama. The window isn’t closed, but it’s getting there.

9:05 p.m. — A few more projections to add here.

Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA
Undecided: AZ, CO, FL, IA, MN, MO, MT, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, OR, PA, VA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AR, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

9:01 p.m. — It’s not a huge surprise, but Michigan is in the Obama column. Romney would have liked to carry Michigan to support an alternative path to victory in case he lost Ohio, but the votes that have been counted thus far show him losing substantially.

Obama: CA, DE, DC, HI, IL, MD, MA, MI, NY, RI, VT, WA
Undecided: AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, IA, ME, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OR, PA, SC, VA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AR, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, ND, OK, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

9:00 p.m. — And 14 more states just closed their polls. Several more instant projections from the major networks.

8:55 p.m. — Just five minutes until the next wave. 156 electoral votes across those states. Again, watch Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico.

8:51 p.m. — Florida is going through the same problems as Virginia. People may be voting past midnight. #stayinline is trending on Twitter. It’s rather amazing that we’re having such problems this year, especially given the lessons of the past few presidential elections.

8:48 p.m. — 48% of the Indiana vote counted, and Donnelly still leads Mourdock by 2%. If Donnelly holds that lead, it would be a heartbreaking loss for Republicans, who were counting on a Mourdock win in order to have a chance at taking control of the Senate.

8:45 p.m. — Obama’s got a sizable lead in some of the larger Florida counties. He’s winning the state by about 1% with just over three-fifths of the votes counted. It should be noted that a lot of the absentee ballots have yet to be counted, since many of them were submitted with minor errors that were keeping them from properly going through the scanners. Staff members have been manually copying them onto correct ballots so that they’ll go through and be counted, but if the state is close, the race may hinge on that process, which could still take quite awhile.

8:43 p.m. — With over 30% of the Virginia vote counted — over a million voters — Romney currently holds a 12% lead. Obama maintains a 17% margin in Ohio with 22% of those votes counted.

8:37 p.m. — To give you a clearer picture of the turnout in Virginia, the polls are long closed there, but legally, anyone in line when the polls closed is entitled to cast a vote, and some people are still waiting. CNN is reporting that Virginia officials say their voting could go until 11:00 p.m. Get ready for a long night, people.

8:33 p.m. — Virginia’s garnered a tremendous turnout, with waits up to four hours in some counties. That’s exciting for the state, but it could substantially delay those results. We may be watching that state for many hours to come if Virginia winds up being a linchpin.

8:30 p.m. — Everyone’s a heartbeat away from joining me in calling Arkansas for Romney. Let’s look ahead to the next wave, just a half-hour from now. Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico are the key battlegrounds to watch in the 9:00 returns.

8:29 p.m. — It’s interesting to contrast the coverage on CNN and Fox News. In 2008, CNN’s staff was very focused on giving every single result as it came in, while Fox News commentators spent quite a bit of time talking about the issues instead of the vote tallies. That foreshadowed Obama’s victory over McCain, which the right-leaning Fox News didn’t enjoy acknowledging but the left-leaning CNN was delighted to celebrate. The same style of coverage is repeating tonight. Does that spell a second Obama term?

8:25 p.m. — Florida’s back to a dead heat: Obama leads by just over 5,500 votes (out of about five million) with half the precincts reporting. Like I said, it’s going to take awhile before we have any real clarity in Florida.

8:24 p.m. — Six minutes from now, Arkansas’ polls will close. That’s already a safe Romney win, of course. The next significant wave of poll closings will come a half-hour later.

8:20 p.m. — Joe Donnelly is pulling ahead of Richard Mourdock by a fair bit in Indiana’s Senate race. He’s up by about 4% with almost 30% of the votes counted.

8:15 p.m. — Florida’s going back and forth as more votes are tallied. With 54% of the vote tallied, Romney now has a 3% lead in the state. That one could go down to the wire.

8:13 p.m. — Early voting in Ohio is moving a fair bit toward Obama; he’s winning by about 17% there. A lot of pundits didn’t expect that margin to be so large, as Republicans thought they had made a lot of headway after 2008, so that may bode well for the Obama camp in closing the window on Romney.

8:12 p.m. — I’m projecting three of Maine’s four electoral votes for Obama. There’s one electoral vote left at which Romney might have an outside chance — the state isn’t winner-take-all, unlike most others — so we’ll wait on that additional projection.

8:08 p.m. — Romney’s telling reporters that he has only one speech prepared for tonight: a victory speech. Confidence, or bluster? Maybe the voters will write that bit of history.

8:06 p.m. — With a quarter of North Carolina’s vote tallied, Romney holds a narrow 1% lead, an edge of just over 17,000 ballots. That’s another critical state that stands at the core of several of Romney’s paths to victory.

8:04 p.m. — Only 7% of the vote is in for Ohio, but Obama holds a massive 62%-37% lead. The Romney camp has to be praying that the numbers are being skewed by traditional Democratic counties.

8:00 p.m. — Here it comes. CNN just projected eight states for Obama simultaneously. None of these are any surprise, but it just shows you how much was riding on those 8:00 closings. Among those projected for Obama: Massachusetts, which is Romney’s home state. Very few candidates have won the election without winning their home states. The only new state that CNN projected for Romney was Oklahoma, which has been in Romney’s column since he won the Republican primary.

7:58 p.m. — According to CNN’s exit polls in Florida, the vote was almost perfectly evenly split between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Democrats represented 35% of the vote, while Republicans took a 32% slice. The remaining 33% of voters were Independents, so they’ll be the ones who largely decide the winner of that critical battleground.

7:55 p.m. — The biggest wave of poll closings in the entire evening is just five minutes away! There are 172 out of the 538 electoral votes tied up in the states closing at 8:00. That’s a mammothian chunk. Ohio and Pennsylvania are perhaps the two biggest states to watch in that set.

7:53 p.m. — It’s more of a point of interest than a key statistic of the election, since the popular vote only has an indirect effect on the electoral college and the resulting outcome of the presidential election, but Romney currently holds only a very slight lead in the popular vote according to the CNN website, 50%-49% with a margin of about 82,000 votes. (About 5.5 million ballots have been counted and reported thus far.)

7:50 p.m. — With 35% of Florida’s vote counted, Obama leads 52%-48%. These are early results — Florida begins closing its polls in ten minutes, and some precincts will stay open longer — but it’s certainly worth noting.

7:47 p.m. — With 16% of the Indiana vote reported, it’s basically a dead heat between Donnelly and Mourdock in the senate race, 47%-47%. That’s an absolutely huge Congressional race.

7:43 p.m. — Some of Florida’s early results, county-by-county, are looking similar to 2008. Duvall County is shaping up quite similarly, with Romney expected to win by quite a bit but only winning by about 1.5% with about 44% of the vote in. Now, those are mostly absentee and early votes, so we’ll see if that holds as the night continues.

7:40 p.m. — With a quarter of precincts in Florida reporting, Obama holds a 3% edge, amounting to roughly 65,000 voters.

7:36 p.m. — 2% of the Virginia vote gives Romney a 19% lead. But in 2008, Obama took the populations centers while losing badly in the rest of the state; he won Virginia by a wide margin of the population despite losing most of the counties, so we’ll keep an eye on the state for major shifts once some of the bigger precincts report. Romney needs to run up a sizable lead before that if he wants to take Virginia from Obama.

7:35 p.m. — Oh, by the way, “official” calls have been made on Kentucky, West Virginia, and Vermont as well. But you knew how those races were going to end well before they got around to making a declaration. You’re here, after all.

7:32 p.m. — Reports indicate that roughly 1.8 million votes in Ohio were cast early. That’s roughly a third of the electorate. By 8:15 p.m., we’ll know how both candidates did in the early vote. Obama was expected to do better among early voters, so if he completely blows Romney away in the early vote, that may destroy any chance of a Romney comeback to take the state via election day votes.

7:30 p.m. — And the next wave begins! We’ll be paying especially close attention to this one as the votes are counted.

7:25 p.m. — It should be noted that some states (including Ohio) have had a tremendous number of early votes and provisional ballots cast, which could substantially slow down the vote-counting process. We could be looking at a couple of weeks to get provisional ballots approved, and if the race hinges on Ohio, those million-plus votes could slow down any clear announcement of a victory.

7:23 p.m. — Well, there’s a big local shift. Donnelly suddenly leads Mourdock by 2% in the Senate race. Maybe those pre-election polls showing Mourdock blowing a huge opportunity were accurate, after all. We’ll see where it goes as more votes come in.

7:20 p.m. — Florida’s currently a dead heat, 50/50. As with many other states, it’s hard to say what precincts have reported thus far, so that could be pretty skewed from the state-wide results. But with almost half a million votes already counted in Florida, Romney’s campaign had to be hoping for a better outlook than this. They were extremely confident about a win there, after all, much moreso than other critical states like (to say it again) Ohio.

7:15 p.m. — Indiana’s looking decisive, so it’s time to call it. Romney takes Indiana and its 11 electoral votes. That’s an earlier projection than I had expected, given that Obama won it in 2008 and Romney’s lead in pre-election polls was nowhere near the 18% by which he’s winning in the initial tallies.

Obama: CA, DE, DC, HI, IL, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT, WA
Undecided: AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OR, PA, SC, VA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AR, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, ND, OK, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

7:12 p.m. — With only 6% of the votes counted, Fox News is already projecting Romney the winner in Indiana. Here, we’ll wait a little longer before making that call, just in case anything significant shifts in the next couple of reports from the state.

7:10 p.m. — The next wave of poll closings is on the horizon. We’re 20 minutes away from several more states beginning to count their ballots, including the all-important Ohio.

7:06 p.m. — In Senate news, Fox News has Indiana Republican Mourdock leading the Democratic incumbent Donnelly by about 4% of the vote with 5% of precincts reporting. That’s a surprise for some after Mourdock blew a sizable lead in pre-election polls thanks to some ill-advised comments about “legitimate” rape, echoing Akin in Missouri. It’s early yet, but if Mourdock pulls out the win, that bodes well for Republicans’ hopes to contest the Senate.

7:02 p.m. — CNN’s exit polls show Romney taking Indiana by 12% — no huge surprise there — and Virginia tied, which is worrisome for Romney. If he doesn’t win there, it’s hard to see him carrying 270 electoral votes. Still, those viewers familiar with exit polls know that they’re hardly definitive, so there could easily be a substantial swing in either direction.

7:00 p.m. — Here we go! It’s time for the first big set of poll closings. Expect the major television stations and web sites to instantly call a number of the races I already listed “over,” even before a single report comes in. Why? Because they knew it months ago, like I told you.

6:45 p.m. — Things are about ready to really get moving. A few states, Indiana included, are starting to count ballots, even though the first major wave of poll closings is still to come. I’ll be going back and forth between the networks as we go along to give you insight, like CNN’s apparent leak of Romney’s internal polling that had Obama winning Ohio by 5% yesterday. In polls across the nation, Obama has jumped at the very end of the race, so we’ll have to see how accurate that apparent break is. The actual vote counts don’t always match late internal polls, after all (especially as voters get tired of picking up the phone and responding to repeated surveys).

3:00 p.m. — We’ll kick things off by going ahead and calling the obviously safe states, the ones where we knew the outcome a few months ago. States like New York, for instance — I’d have more luck training a warthog to fly than I would getting New York to go red for Romney, or to turn Texas blue for Obama.

Obama: CA, DE, DC, HI, IL, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT, WA
Undecided: AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, IN, IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OR, PA, SC, VA, WI
Romney: AL, AK, AR, ID, KS, KY, LA, MS, ND, OK, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY

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