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Election 2012 results Liveblog: In Senate, Democrats ward off challenges

Democrats prevailed in Senate races in Massachusetts, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, indicating that the Senate will remain in Democratic hands.

By StaffCSMonitor.com / November 6, 2012

US President Barack Obama, who won a second term in office by defeating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, waves before addressing supporters during his election night victory rally in Chicago.

Jeff Haynes/Reuters

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Wednesday 3:21 a.m.

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The GOP fell short in its attempts to take the Senate on election day, losing key battles in at least four states. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, the staunchly liberal Harvard professor, defeated one-term incumbent Scott Brown in a hard-fought race, becoming the Bay State's first female senator.

In what is also viewed by liberals as a victory for women, Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana defeated Republican Richard Mourdock, who seems to have alienated female voters when he asserted that pregnancies that result from rape are divinely ordained.

In Wisconsin, former Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, narrowly beat former Republican governor Tommy Thompson. When she takes office, Baldwin will be the first openly gay member of the US Senate. 

And in Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Bob Casey held his own against political newcomer and coal executive Tom Smith, who outspent Casey by almost $8 million. 

The votes are still being counted in the Senate races in North Dakota and Montana, both states with Democratic incumbents.

Wednesday 2:40 a.m.

US Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) handily won reelection Tuesday, leading his challengers with 68 percent of the vote. Jackson is currently hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. for bipolar disorder. He has been absent from his office since early June.

In a statement, Mr. Jackson said he was “humbled and moved by the support shown today. … Once the doctors approve my return to work, I will continue to be the progressive fighter you have known for years … My family and I are grateful for your many heartfelt prayers and kind thoughts. I continue to feel better every day and look forward to serving you.”  

Jackson is currently the subject of two federal probes into alleged misconduct. A House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Jackson tried to bribe Blagojevich for an appointment to the seat, or at least tried to engage in the process through an emissary. Jackson denies the charges. Jackson is also reportedly under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for improperly using campaign funds to decorate his Washington home, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

 -- Mark Guarino

Wednesday 2:16 a.m.

Three senate races still too close to call:

Election night was a big win for Democratic senators, as Republicans fell well short of their goal of overtaking the Senate.

But at 2 am, three races – in Montana, North Dakota, and Nevada – were still too close to call.

Even if all of those races go to Republicans, Democrats will finish the night with 51 seats, counting two Independents expected to caucus with them.

But at the moment, the Democratic candidates are leading – narrowly – in both Montana and North Dakota.

Nevada’s is the closest of the three races, with incumbent Dean Heller, the Republican appointed to fill John Ensign’s vacated seat when he resigned following a scandal, currently leading by 1 percentage point.

His challenger, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, has significant ethics issues of her own but had managed to narrow the race in recent weeks.

If she prevails, it will likely be due in part to President Obama’s coattails, and to a strong Latino vote.

That the race in North Dakota is so close, meanwhile – and currently seems to be going the way of Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, the former state attorney general – is particularly striking, given that North Dakota is a solidly red state that voted for Mitt Romney by 20 points.

But Ms. Heitkamp is a popular centrist who has been vocal about her disagreements with Obama.

-- Amanda Paulson

Wednesday 2:02 a.m.

The president embraces his family and Vice President Joe Biden after his nearly 25-minute speech. Red, white, and blue confetti falls as Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own” plays.

Wednesday 1:59 a.m.

President Obama mentions “hope,” his theme from the 2008 campaign, several times during his acceptance speech for reelection. This time, however, the theme references events from the last four years: the wreckage of Superstorm Sandy and the economic wreckage of the recession. “Despite all the hardship we’ve been through … I’ve never been more hopeful about our future,” he says. “I’m not talking about blind optimism … I have always believed hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists … that something better awaits us.”
 

Wednesday 1:56 a.m.

“Our economy is recovered. A decade of war has ended … and if I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you. And you have made me a better president,” Obama says, who adds he will return to White House more “inspired than ever.”

Wednesday 1:49 a.m.

President Obama enters with his family to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” He pauses before starting to the chants of “four more years.”

“We are an American family and we will rise and fall together as one nation and one people,” he says. “We know in our hearts, the best is yet to come.”
President says he talked with Mitt Romney and congratulated him “for a hard fought campaign.” He said the nation should “honor and applaud” the Romney’s family commitment to public service and that he will sit down with him in future weeks.

“I know political campaigns can sometimes seem small and even silly … Democracies in a nation of 300 million can be messy and complicated,” Obama says. “That won’t change after tonight. And it shouldn’t. Our arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.”

Wednesday 1:34 a.m.

POTUS motorcade left the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Chicago about 12 minutes ago and headed to McCormick Place.

Wednesday 1:23 a.m.

At Chicago’s McCormick Place, chants of “USA” take over as the crowd waits for the president’s entrance. And then, old school R&B — “Groove Me Baby” by King Floyd and “Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight.

-- Mark Guarino

Wednesday 1:08 a.m.

Mitt Romney’s concession speech in Boston forced the jubilant crowd at Chicago’s McCormick Place to quiet down and listen. But nothing compared to the video that followed — a testimonial to President Obama’s common touch with voters. For the first time in hours, the convention floor is almost silent.

– Mark Guarino

Wednesday 1:03 a.m.

Some major social changes are faring well in some states via ballot initiatives, particularly in the areas of gay marriage and marijuana use.

It’s a very strong night for gay-rights supporters, as both Maine and Maryland voted to legalize gay marriage. Votes in Washington and Minnesota (in the latter, voters are deciding not whether to legalize gay marriage but whether to prohibit it in the state’s constitution) are still too close to call, but gay-marriage supporters are currently leading in Washington.

Massachusetts voters, meanwhile, voted to allow medical usage of marijuana – joining 17 other states – and Colorado and Washington became the first states to allow recreational usage of marijuana.

 -- Amanda Paulson

Wednesday 12:55 a.m.

Electronic voting-machine jams, breakdowns, and glitches were strewn across the Election Night landscape, creating long lines when machines simply broke down.

In at least one case, a viral YouTube video purported to show a Pennsylvania machine "flipping" a vote cast for President Obama into a vote for Mitt Romney, writes Mark Clayton.

Check out the range of voting machine problems in the rest of the story.

Wednesday 12:43 a.m.

Elizabeth Warren came on strong in the homestretch to win one of the highest-profile Senate races of 2012, ousting incumbent Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

The New England state's largely Democratic electorate, coupled with Warren's pulling women voters to her side, proved too much for Senator Brown to overcome, writes Mark Trumbull.

Read the full story here

Wednesday 12:40 a.m.

President Obama was headed for almost certain reelection, Democrats retained control of the Senate, and Republicans retained control of the House Tuesday night, in a presidential election that, while close, seemed to go the president’s way from the beginning of the evening and was called far earlier than many people expected, writes Amanda Paulson.

“A lot of it comes down to the economy,” says Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California. “If the economy were stronger the president would be doing better, if it were weaker Mitt Romney might [have won]. But it was just good enough to push the president over the finish line.”

Expect a lot of finger-pointing in coming days as Republican insiders decide where to lay blame: whether with Romney, considered a weak, gaffe-prone candidate by many, or with his campaign managers, or somewhere else.

Read the rest of the story here.

IN PICTURES: Election Day 2012 - America Votes!

Wednesday 12:36 a.m.

Early returns portend a good night for abortion rights advocates.
 
NARAL Pro-Choice America points to these Senate and House races in which Democrats prevailed: Chris Murphy over Linda McMahon to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren over incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts, Sen. Claire McCaskill defeating Republican challenger Todd Akin, and Tammy Duckworth over incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh in Illinois.
 
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan’s statement in the McCaskill-Akin race echoed her statements in the other races as well.
 
“I congratulate the McCaskill campaign for a job well done,” she said. “Sen. McCaskill’s victory over anti-choice Todd Akin is another sign that voters are tired of the War on Women. Voters want leaders like Claire McCaskill who will protect and defend women’s reproductive freedom, not Akin, whose shocking views on women and reproductive rights earned him nationwide scorn. We, along with our affiliate NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, look forward to continuing work with Sen. McCaskill as she stands up for pro-choice again in her next term.”
 
As those election results were coming in, several TV networks were projecting the re-election of President Obama to a second term.
 
Ms. Keenan quickly put out another statement:
 
“In 2008, NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC was the first major pro-choice organization to endorse Sen. Obama for president and we are extremely proud of the progress he has made in the last four years – from passing Obamacare to guaranteeing contraceptive coverage for women nationwide to appointing two new women to the Supreme Court to blocking a grant shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding,” Keenan said. “We look forward to four more years of progressive, commonsense policies – and hopefully an end to the divisive War on Women that anti-choice lawmakers have waged.”

Tuesday 11:58 p.m.

CNN reports that Mitt Romney is not ready to concede defeat, despite projections by various news organizations that the race is over. Romney stayed out of sight late Tuesday as news organizations including The Associated Press announced that President Barack Obama had won a second term.

Dejected Romney supporters milled around a hotel ballroom where the Republican hopeful had planned to declare victory and groaned as key battlegrounds moved Obama's way.

Obama's victory in closely fought Ohio narrowed Romney's path to the 270 electoral vote. The Democrat also was declared the winner in other swing states including New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Colorado and Iowa. Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Republicans hoped to put in play, stayed in Obama's camp as well. Florida and Virginia remained too close to call.

Romney supporters cheered a win in North Carolina, which Obama captured four years ago. But it was a rare prize in an evening that broadly favored the presidency, reported the Associated Press.

IN PICTURES: Election Day 2012 - America Votes!

Tuesday 11:25 p.m.

CNN projects that Barack Obama will win the electoral vote. Fox News and CNN call Ohio for Obama.

Tuesday 11:24 p.m.

Exit polls are revealing more about voters and the issues that influenced their decision in the presidential race.

Associated Press exit polls show about half the voters surveyed blame former president George W. Bush for the nation’s economic problems, compared to about 40 percent who say President Obama is more at fault – good news for the incumbent.

Still, exit polling by CNN and other news sources confirms that a large majority of voters see the economy as the nation’s biggest problem with most of those listing unemployment as their greatest personal concern. Broken down by who they voted for, voters predictably say Romney or Obama is better prepared to right the economy.

As it has for many months, the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – continues to be a contentious issue, deeply dividing Americans, according to early exit polls: while 45 percent want at least some of it repealed, 47 percent would keep it as it is or broaden its provisions.

Exit polls also show that Obama’s response to superstorm Sandy didn’t influence most peoples’ votes.

On one issue sure to interest federal authorities cracking down on state-approved medical marijuana programs, exit polls show Colorado’s Amendment 64 winning, according to the Washington Post. The measure would legalize growth and possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

In a race this close, how independent voters break could be critical to the outcome.

At the moment, Politico.com reports that Mitt Romney leads among independents in two battleground states: 56-40 percent in Ohio and 3-41 in Virginia. ABC News exit polls find that independents are siding with Mitt Romney in nearly every battleground state – Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and Wisconsin – but Obama has been able to make up for it with gains among Hispanics and women.

– Brad Knickerbocker

Tuesday 11:05 p.m.

With only 49 percent of Wisconsin precincts in, the US Senate race between former governor and Republican candidate Tommy Thompson and US Rep. Tammy Baldwin remains a dead heat. Mr. Thompson is currently leading Ms. Baldwin, 50 to 47 percent.

Exit polling showed Thompson leading Baldwin 51 to 47 percent, according to the Journal-Sentinel in Milwaukee. Both candidates are vying to fill the seat vacated by Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, who announced his retirement after five terms.

Baldwin was once the frontrunner in the race until last month, when Thompson’s poll numbers increased following the first presidential debate between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Outside money is also figuring heavily into the race. According to the Federal Election Commission, independent groups on both sides of the political spectrum spent a total of $23.2 million on the race. By comparison, in the 2010 election between newcomer Ron Johnson and US Sen. Russ Feingold, independent groups spent just $3 million. The majority of the outside spending has been by groups attacking Baldwin.

-- Mark Guarino

Tuesday 10:55 p.m.

At this hour, Mitt Romney’s path to victory is looking significantly steeper.

Three states that Romney's team had seen as possible battleground states - New Hampshire and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (Paul Ryan's home state) - have gone to Obama.

"Meanwhile, the Southern battleground states – Florida, Virginia, and even North Carolina – all remain too close to call. Needless to say, those are all states Romney must win (and was, in fact, favored to win according to the most recent polling). The fact that those results are taking longer to come in is not an encouraging sign for Romney," writes Liz Marlantes.

Check out the full story here.

Tuesday 10:42 p.m.

Speaking on Fox News’ election coverage, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said she was “crossing [her] fingers” as early election returns appeared to favor President Obama. “It is a perplexing time for many of us,” she said.

Ms. Palin, John McCain’s running mate in 2008, said that the “Bain Capital ads, I think, really hurt Romney.” In the spring, the Obama campaign ran a heavy schedule of attack ads in battleground states stressing Gov. Romney’s work at a venture capital firm. 

If Obama were to win re-election, Palin said it would be “a catastrophic setback to our economy.”   

Palin spoke from Wasilla, Alaska, and was interviewed by Greta Van Susteren.

 -- David Cook

Tuesday 10:25 p.m.

Republican dreams of victory in Pennsylvania will remain just that -- dreams -- for the next four years. Obama took the state's 20 delegate votes.

The state where Mitt Romney made an sudden effort to win in the campaign’s final days – holding two rallies there in the past week and pumping in several million dollars in advertising after having left the state alone for months – was called for President Obama Tuesday night before even a third of the Keystone State’s precincts had been counted. Republicans have not won the state in a presidential race since 1988.
 
Mr. Obama looks to be running up victories similar to his performance in 2008 in key urban locales like Philadelphia, where he’s currently crushing Romney by better than four to one. In Bucks County –  a “collar county” around Philadelphia, which strategists on both sides predicted would be a bellwether of the less-partisan suburban voters either candidate would need to win – Obama leads Romney 54 percent to 45 percent. The Republican party’s hope for a surge from voters in coal country in western Pennsylvania, meanwhile, did not materialize.

– David Grant

Tuesday 9:30 p.m.

Look Ma! No concession speech?

"We are still waiting on voting results from key states, but in the meantime, we couldn’t resist commenting on a statement Mitt Romney made to reporters on his plane Tuesday evening: He said he’d “only written one speech at this point” – meaning, a victory speech, but not a concession speech," writes The Christian Science Monitor's Liz Marlantes.

To which Liz asks: Really?

"We have to assume that Mr. Romney was either being disingenuous or picking his words very, very carefully – so that while, perhaps technically speaking, he hasn’t written a concession speech, one such speech may in fact have already been prepared by his speechwriters."
What about President Obama? He said: “You always have two speeches prepared because you can’t take anything for granted.”

IN PICTURES: Election Day 2012 - America Votes!

Tuesday 9:11 p.m.

Early exit polls in the presidential race give a picture of who’s voting for Mitt Romney, who for President Obama. The results are pretty much as predicted, according to these numbers gathered by CNN.
 
Of some 23,000 respondents, 53 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women voted for Romney. Flip the numbers for Obama: 54 percent of the women and 45 percent of the men voted to give the President a second term.
 
By age group, the older the voter, the more likely he or she is to go for Romney. The former Massachusetts governor got most of those over 45; Obama won most of those ages 18 to 44.
 
Looking at the size of the place where these voters live, Obama got most urbanites (61 percent to Romney’s 37 percent), while Romney won most of those from rural areas 59 to 39. The split among those in the suburbs was closer, with 51 percent for Romney, 47 percent for Obama.
 
– Brad Knickerbocker

Tuesday 8:53 p.m.

In Connecticut, more than $40 million of her own money couldn’t save Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon from being tapped out early on election night.

Rep. Chris Murphy (D) got off to a slow start in the contest, with Ms. McMahon but was called the winner of the race to replace Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) with just three percent of the vote having been counted on Tuesday. (Representative Murphy, for his part, raised $9 million.)

McMahon, who, with her husband Vince, built the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise, spent $90 million of her own money in two ultimately unsuccessful races for the Senate in 2010 and 2012.

McMahon won “August and September largely because Murphy seemed unprepared to respond to attacks from her campaign. As a result, she was running ahead of Murphy, forcing Democrats to pour millions into the race,” wrote Jennifer Duffy, chief Senate analyst at The Cook Political Report.

Democrats responded with more than $7 million in firepower into the Nutmeg State, which appears to be more than enough to get Murphy across the finish line in a deep blue state.

-- David Grant

Tuesday 8:35 p.m.

In US Senate races, Republicans hoping to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats got their first disappointment of the night as Angus King, the former Maine governor, won his Senate Race.
 
Republicans had hoped that Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill would siphon off enough votes to allow Republican candidate Charlie Summers to eke out a victory. Mr. King, an independent, has not said which party he will caucus with, but most people predict that he’ll align himself with Democrats.
In Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson won reelection – not a big surprise, but still a disappointment for Republicans who had slim hopes that US Rep. Connie Mack could manage a win.

Meanwhile, votes out of Indiana, Massachusetts, and Virginia both show the closely watched Senate races in those states in too-close-to-call territory.
 
-- Amanda Paulson

  Senate races

Tuesday 8:22 p.m.

The minute the 8 p.m. poll closings came – the largest block of the evening – CNN and other networks called a number of expected states for each candidates.

In President Obama’s column: Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Illinois, and the District of Columbia joined Vermont, which had been called earlier for Obama.

Mitt Romney now has Oklahoma, along with South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia and Indiana (and, according to some news organizations, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee).

The current electoral count: 64 for Obama and 56 for Romney.

But, as expected, the vote is extremely tight in key states like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. Some exit polls in Virginia and Ohio seem positive for Obama, but be wary of any preliminary results in states where the margin is so close.

-- Amanda Paulson

Tuesday 8:15 pm

Obama has a projected 65 electoral votes, according to the Associated Press.

Romney has a projected 40 electoral votes.

Romney has Oklahoma, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and South Carolina. 

Obama has Illinois, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C.
Still too close to call: Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Tuesday 7:47 p.m.

Even though polls have now closed in they key battleground states of Ohio and Virginia, it may be some time before it’s possible to know who won in either state. (In Ohio, in particular, the uncertainty could drag on more than a week, if provisional ballots need to be counted.)

In the meantime, here are some tidbits about both states’ electorates from early exit polls:

–  There is a big racial divide among Virginia voters. White voters (who make up about 70 percent of the electorate) have been voting for Romney over Obama by about a 64 to 35 percent margin. Among black voters, on the other hand, 94 percent are for Obama.

– Virginia exit polls also show a gender and age divide, with male voters favoring Romney 53 percent to 45 percent and women going for Obama, 53 percent to 46 percent. Obama led by 16 points among the youngest voters, under age 25, and by 25 points among voters aged 25-29. Romney, on the other hand, had a 14-point advantage among voters 65 and older.

–  In Ohio, exit polls show that Obama supporters hold very different views on the economy compared with those voting for Romney. While nearly all Romney’s supporters say that the economy is in poor or not-so-good shape, Obama’s supporters are fairly evenly split on whether the economy is in poor or good shape. In addition, 3 in 4 Romney supporters in Ohio say that Obama is to blame for the current economic situation, while about 90 percent of Obama’s Ohio supporters blame President George W. Bush.
 
-- Amanda Paulson

Tuesday, 7:35 pm

West Virginia is now in the Romney column, adding 5 electoral votes. Romney now has 13, Obama eight. Several news organizations are giving Romney Indiana and South Carolina but the Associated Press hasn't called either of those yet.

Tuesday 7:31 p.m.

 
The economy is the top issue for voters by a huge margin, but the next biggest issue – cited as the most important one by 17 percent of voters in exit polls – is healthcare.

But when it comes to what they want on healthcare, they’re split.

Forty-five percent of voters wanted to repeal some or all of Obama’s signature healthcare law, while 47 percent wanted to keep it as is or expand it.
And only a quarter of voters want to repeal all of the law, as Mitt Romney favors doing.

Exit polls also show, though, that a growing number of people believe the government is overstepping its bounds.

Fifty-three percent of those polled said that was the case – about 10 percent higher than exit polls showed in 2008.

-- Amanda Paulson

Tuesday 7:25 p.m

The Tea Party Express, the prominent organization that has spent thousands of dollars promoting conservative candidates around the country, is claiming to play a major role in Election 2012 – despite evidence that the political insurgency has stumbled along the way, as reported today by the Monitor’s David Grant.
 
In an e-mail today, the organization boasts that it is “working tirelessly today to get-out-the-vote for Governor Romney and other conservative candidates.”
 
“Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest tea party political action committee, has motivated fiscal conservatives with bus tours, rallies, presidential debates and advertising throughout the 2012 cycle,” the e-mail continued.
 
“Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said, ‘In 2010, America watched a protest movement become the most powerful political movement in recent history. We have focused in key states and generated thousands of Tea Party activists for Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign for President and congressional races across the country. Romney made his first tea party appearance at the Tea Party Express rally in New Hampshire.

‘There is a lot of wishful thinking on Democrats’ part that the tea party has disappeared, but they don’t see the army of tea party activists that are manning the precincts, phone banks and victory centers.  They also fail to note that we are on the verge of defeating an incumbent President, gaining seats in the Senate, and retaining the historic majority in the House. It doesn’t sound like we have gone away, as much as the establishment of both parties would like.

‘Like in 2010, it is the efforts of these newly engaged tea party conservatives that will drive victories across the nation,’ Kremer concluded.”
 
A few more hours will tell if that claim is founded in fact.
 
– Brad Knickerbocker

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.

The first results are in Kentucky has been projected for Mitt Romney. Vermont is now in the Obama column.

Neither, of course, is a surprise. But polls are now closed in Virginia, the first state that could give anxious viewers their first real indication of how the night will go. Watch the Virginia results closely, and then – at 7:30 – Ohio, and Florida at 8 pm.   

Those three states are the most critical prizes, and should provide some early indications – depending on how close they are, and how long it takes to call them – on how the night will go.

 – Amanda Paulson

Tuesday, 7:01 p.m.

While voters were still casting their ballots to elect the next president, work was already underway to build a viewing stand outside the White House, where the nation’s new chief executive will view his inaugural parade.

Late last week, a chain link fence was installed in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, partially blocking the iconic view of the fountain on the north lawn of the executive mansion. Inside the fencing, workers spent Election Day building the wooden foundation on which the reviewing stand will rest.

On the afternoon of Monday, January 21, the president elected for the next four years will sit behind bulletproof glass with his family and watch military units as well as bands from around the country celebrate his inauguration.  It is a tradition that goes back to George Washington’s day.
 
--David Cook

Tuesday, 6:55 p.m.

When will someone win the presidential election so we can all go to sleep?

The first point at which something exciting can occur might be 7 p.m. That’s when the polls in six Eastern states close, with Virginia being the most important. Formerly solid red, Virginia has become much more of a swing state due to the fast growth of the D.C. suburbs in the northern part of the state.

President Obama won there in 2008 by more than eight percentage points, but averages of major polls have the Old Dominion as a tossup in 2012, writes The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier.

Mitt Romney badly needs Virginia’s 13 electoral votes if he’s to put together the 270 he needs for victory. That means that if the networks call it quickly for Mr. Obama, it might be time to start plumping the bedroom pillows, says Grier.

For a run down of more early indicators, check out the rest of this DCDecoder post.

Tuesday 6:41 p.m.

Reports of some election glitches and long voting lines have been trickling in from numerous locations, though so far, not more so than is typical in most presidential elections.

Perhaps the worst error seems to have come from Florida, where voters in Pinellas County – including St. Petersburg – received robocalls telling them that they had until Wednesday night to vote.

Apparently, the calls – which said voters could return absentee ballots until 7 pm “tomorrow” – were supposed to go out Monday morning, but an error in the system meant the calls were made Tuesday morning instead.

In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, there was apparently confusion about whether poll workers could ask voters for ID, after a judge blocked a new voter ID law from taking effect this election.

And reports have been coming in of lines several hours long at some polling locations in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, and New York and New Jersey, where much of the voting infrastructure has been disrupted due to Hurricane Sandy. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued an order allowing New Yorkers affected by the storm to vote anywhere in the state, but reports were still coming in from New York City Tuesday of some lines several-hours long, confusion over polling places, and broken scanners.
 
-- Amanda Paulson  

Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Obama family is gathering for dinner in Chicago, and to await the election results together.

Before election returns begin flowing in tonight, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will have dinner in Chicago with their daughters, Malia and Sasha, and with Mrs. Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson.  
 
The "First Daughters," who attend Sidwell Friends School in Washington, are flying in after school to join their parents, according to a report from the White House press pool accompanying the President in Chicago.  Mrs. Robinson, who lives with the First Family at the White House, is also accompanying them.

After dinner, the First Lady’s brother, Craig and his family along with the President’s sister, Maya and her family, will join the
 president to watch election night returns, says a corrected pool report. (updated at 6:55 pm)
 

--David Cook

Tuesday 6:26 p.m.

New York magazine has provided a useful service for political junkies. It’s posted what it calls “An Exhaustive Collection of Presidential Pundit Predictions.”
 
There they are for all the shame or glory: Dozens of prominent commentators, plus a few of the top pollsters, predicting not only who’ll win the presidential race, but also the margin of victory in the popular vote and by how many electoral votes. It's sort of like picking your “sweet sixteen” for college basketball’s "March Madness," only for nerds of a different subject.
 
Writes Adam Pasick for New York magazine’s “Daily Intel”:
 

Every four years, our nation falls under the sway of a tribe of political Brahmins who boast of their ability to tell us who is going to be president, and why. The moment the election is over, the magic spell of the pundit (from Sanskrit: someone who is erudite in various subjects; thanks Wikipedia!) is broken, and we can all wallow in the very wrongness of all but a very few of them. So, to prepare for that lovely moment of schadenpunditfreude, Daily Intel has collected all known predictions by the political chattering class from our Instant Politics participants, the Washington Post, the Awl, the Blaze, and Twitter, among other sources, tabulated by electoral and popular vote prognostications for your convenience. Whatever happens, make sure to get your gloating in quickly. As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey told us: ‘If I'm wrong, this e-mail will self-destruct in five campaign-commercial seconds.’

-- Brad Knickerbocker

Tuesday 5:55 p.m.

CBS says exit polls show the economy is the top issue, health care is a distant second.
 
The official CBS News twitter site is offering some early details from the national exit poll conducted by the major networks and wire service as voters left precincts.
 
The economy was seen as the most important issue for 60 percent of those surveyed, CBS says.  Health care was a distant second, ranking most important for 17 percent of those who responded to questions, while concerns about the federal budget deficit were most important for 15 percent of today’s voters.
 
When asked which economic issue mattered most to them, 40 percent of those who took part in the exit poll mentioned unemployment. Close behind was the issue of rising prices, the most pressing economic concern for 37 percent. Tax issues were in third place, cited as most important by 13 percent.
 
--David Cook

IN PICTURES: America votes!

Tuesday 5:40 p.m.

What if the electoral college ends in a 269-269 delegate tie? Ugh!

"If the latest polls are right, President Obama could lose the popular vote on Election Day, yet score big in the Electoral College, racking up well beyond the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. The GOP's Mitt Romney has a steeper path to victory that requires a near sweep of 2012 battleground states.

But there are at least five combinations of wins and losses in toss-up states that could also produce a tie, 269 to 269, when the Electoral College convenes on Jan. 6. It's also possible that one or two so-called "unfaithful electors" could vote contrary to the results in their state.

In such a case, a Congress widely viewed as dysfunctional would choose the next occupant of the White House, with no requirement to respect the popular vote," writes Gail Russell Chaddock.

Check out Ms. Chaddock's look at four ways the presidential race could end in 269-269 tie.

Okay, but what happens if both candidates get the exact same number of votes in a swing state? Randall Munroe, creator of the popular webcomic xkcd, explores this unlikely outcome in his "What If?" series. He found that, in most of the swing states, the outcome would be determined randomly, by drawing lots. He calculates that the odds of this happening in one state is about 1 in 100,000. The odds of this happening in all nine states is about one in a quattuordecillion, that is, a 1 followed by 45 zeroes. 

Tuesday 5:35 p.m.

Do you need a photo ID to vote in Pennsylvania?
As The Christian Science Monitor reported last month, a federal judged ruled that "election officials may continue to ask prospective voters to show photo ID at the polls, but that each vote must be counted regardless of whether a valid photo ID is presented.

The judge said that any voters lacking proper ID would be given the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot that could be verified and counted within six days of the election."

In Pennsylvania, there were reports today of election workers nonetheless demanding photo ID from voters, according to Philadelphia-based election watchdog the Committee of Seventy.

Outside one polling place in the Pittsburgh suburb of Rochester, an election worker shouted to a line of voters to "have your ID ready," the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Poll watchers reported other problems around the state in the first few hours of voting, including Republican inspectors being denied access to polling places in Philadelphia.

Democrats had won the past five presidential elections in the state, including President Barack Obama's win four years ago, but a strong, late push by Republicans raised the level of drama. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes, the fifth-most of any state, as the Associated Press reports.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney staged an aggressive, last-ditch effort to erode Obama's support. Romney capped that 11th-hour sprint with an Election Day visit this afternoon to Pittsburgh, his second visit in three days to Pennsylvania.

IN PICTURES: Election Day - America Votes!

Tuesday 5:15 p.m.

You’re in the polling booth, and your smartphone is in your pocket as usual. Why not snap a photo of your completed ballot, something you could bore your grandkids with as you tell them once again how you were able to vote (a) for the first African American president or (b) the first Mormon president of the United States? Better yet, Instagram your ballot to Twitter or Facebook so all your friends and followers can see your partisan stripes.
 
Why not? Here’s why not, reports Kate Sheppard on the Mother Jones “Political MoJo” site.
 
“If you want to take photographs or shoot video inside your polling place, you must be cautious to avoid violating the law. Election laws are serious business – you could be removed from the polling place and even subject to criminal penalties. Some states like Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas expressly prohibit the use of photographic and recording equipment inside polling places.

In addition, a majority of states have laws prohibiting the disclosure of your own marked ballot, although the details of these laws vary significantly. As the Citizen Media Law Project points out, there's a good reason for the rules – they're intended to ‘protect voters from interference and intimidation.’ Basically they don't want you snooping on people's ballots, which makes sense. The laws differ by state, so check here for information relevant to where you live.”

MoJo also has this nifty guide to voter suppression and poll problems.
 
-- Brad Knickerbocker

Tuesday 5:05 p.m.

With the media (including This Intrepid Reporter) dug in at McCormick Place, and Democratic supporters starting to arrive we've caught up on the details of the "Audacity of Hoops" pickup game played at the Hope Athletic Center in East Garfield Park, on Chicago's embattled West Side.

The president played basketball this afternoon with former Chicago Bulls players Scottie Pippin and Randy Brown. Also on the team: Alxi Giannoulias, the former Illinois State Treasurer who lost his US Senate seat to Republican Mark Kirk, Obama assistant Reggie Brown, retired decathlete Mike Ramos, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and close friend Marty Nesbit.
 
–  Mark Guarino

Tuesday 4:55 p.m.

When will the polls officially close and the results start to be known?

The first polls to officially close will be in parts of Kentucky and Indiana at 6 p.m. E.S.T.

An hour later, the 2012 elections excitement will really begin as voting stations will officially close at 7 p.m. E.S.T in the key battleground state of Florida. Also closing at 7 p.m.:  Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, and the rest of Kentucky and Indiana.

At 7:30 p.m. E.S.T., voting will officially end in Ohio, North Carolina and West Virginia.

You can expect to start to see exit polling results and projected results from news organizations very soon after the polls close in each state.
And the last poll to close: Alaska, at 1 a.m. EST.
Want more on poll closing times? Check out the greenpapers.com

IN PICTURES: Election Day - America votes!

Tuesday 4:25 p.m.

In this election, don't expect a repeat of the Republican sweep of 2010 at the state level. But don't expect a Democratic sweep either.

Twenty state legislative chambers  are forecast to switch parties – higher than the average of 13 that typically switch every two-year election cycle. But unlike 2010, when all 22 chambers that flipped control turned Republican, both Democrats and Republicans could make gains on Nov. 6, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a research organization in Washington.

For Mark Guarino's full story, click here.

Tuesday 4:05 pm 

For all the talk about delayed results in the presidential election, Politico.com’s Mike Allen says it’ll be an easy night with the networks calling the presidency around 11 p.m.

And on his regular morning e-mail to political junkies, here’s how Mike Allen says to know who won before the networks tell you:

“Watch Prince William and Loudoun counties in Virginia's increasingly diverse D.C. exurbs. Old Dominion polls close at 7, and the Commonwealth tends to count pretty fast.

Obama won both counties in 2008. Romney is a collar-county kind of guy, and he has to take back territory like that if he's going to win. If they split, he's in trouble. And if he loses Virginia, there's no point worrying about Ohio. Tell me who won Prince William and Loudoun, and I'll tell you whether we have President 45 or President 44, Part II.”

– Brad Knickerbocker

Tuesday 3:35 p.m.

Media outlets warn reporters: Be careful with election night tweets.
 
Before Election Night even got underway, news organizations warned their reporters to be careful how they use Twitter to share their thoughts about Tuesday night’s results.
 
In the 2012 election, Twitter became a major outlet for political reporters.  It allows journalists to tweet their thoughts quickly and without having to go through an editor, so the risks for appearing biased or sharing incorrect information are significant.

On Monday evening, Wall Street Journal Assistant Managing Editor Karen Pensiero cautioned colleagues to “please remember that we have a longstanding tradition in our newsroom of refraining from partisan political activity, including partisan commentary in social media.”
 
The Journal memo, reprinted on Jim Romenesko’s website continued, “thanks in advance for remembering that we all have a responsibility to uphold this tradition and need to avoid even the appearance of bias, including in our choices of what we re-tweet.”
 
Tom Kent, standards editor for the Associated Press, warned his co-workers over the weekend to avoid retweeting data and analysis from other news organizations whose journalistic standards and skill at calling close races might not match the AP’s.
 
“We encourage you to retweet and post AP’s careful race-calling and explanations, and not to blindly retweet what others may be saying. It would be akin to retweeting a story by a competitor when we know we have the story dead-to-rights ourselves,” Kent said in an email co-authored by Eric Carvin, the AP’s social media editor.
 
Reporters at the Washington Post were warned Monday by executive editor Marcus Brauchli against appearing to call races before the Post’s decision desk did so.  “Because many of you will be using social media, it’s important to keep in mind that The Post will make calls on the outcomes of specific races centrally. Until we have made calls on those key races, you should refrain from posting, tweeting or writing about a race’s outcome, except if you are attributing that assertion to other sources,” said the Post memo, obtained by Romenesko.
 
In addition to warning about the evils of inaccurate tweeting, the Post’s top editor also counseled journalists to be mindful that their actions could be captured on camera.  “Remember that the Newsroom on election night is a public space. In addition to extensive live video reports from the newsroom, there will be cameras set up capturing the scene as we work and streaming those images,” he said.
 
The call from top journalistic organizations to exercise care in tweeting about politics appears to run counter to what the general public is doing.  The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported Tuesday that 22 percent of registered voters have announced on a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter how they voted.

 ---David Cook, Washington.

Tuesday: 2:48 p.m.

ABC News' Sr White House Correspondent. Jake Tapper tweets:

"POTUS currently playing basketball with friends and staff at Altgeld Park, an Election Day tradition/superstition."

The one time he skipped the game, the day of the New Hampshire primary in 2008, he lost badly. “We made the mistake of not playing basketball once. I can assure you we will not repeat that,” adviser Robert Gibbs told the Wall Street Journal. 

Tuesday 2:20 p.m.

In case you're wondering if Romney really is a man of the people, well, on Election day, he and his running mate stopped for lunch at Wendy's in Richmond Heights, Ohio: Romney ordered a single (quarter-pound) burger, chile and a Frosty. The pool press report did not indicate whether he chose the chocolate or vanilla frosty. These are the kinds of details that could swing the election.

Actually, fast food stops are relatively common on the campaign trail. Romney visited a McDonald's after the foreign policy debate in Virginia, and visited a Wendy's in Ohio last month, where he ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, ordered a small chocolate Frosty, and sat down and helped himself to a french fry from a surprised diner.

Check out the video here.

Tuesday 2 p.m.

Can Obama get the youth vote? He's going to need it, writes Amanda Paulson.

Four years ago, President Obama got nearly 16 million votes from so-called Millennials – young voters between ages 18 and 29. Not only did they vote for him over the GOP's John McCain by more than a 2-to-1 margin, but more of them voted than in almost any previous election since 18-year-olds were granted the vote in 1972. In three states – Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana – Mr. Obama won the state because of voters under the age of 30.

This year, with polls showing the race much closer than in 2008, Obama needs that youth vote more than ever. But it’s not clear if he’ll get it, at least in the numbers he’d like.

Obama “has a number of different pathways that I think can get him [to victory], but this is an important group,” says Scott Keeter, survey director for the Pew Research Center. “And I think the fact that it’s more up for grabs, both in terms of the split in vote among young people and in terms of the enthusiasm, is one reason the Obama campaign has been stressing social issues more at the end of the campaign.”

Tuesday 1: 50 pm

All campaign aircraft lead to Ohio?

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan crossed paths with Vice President Joe Biden on the airport tarmac in Cleveland Tuesday. While Barack Obama worked the phones and did interviews on Election Day, Romney voted in Massachusetts, then stopped the battleground state of Ohio.  Biden's visit to Ohio was "unscheduled."

The rush for Ohio and its 18 electoral votes highlighted the importance of the state to both campaigns' victory plans. Polls going into Election Day showed Obama with a narrow lead there, and Romney said the eleventh-hour campaigning was meant to leave him with no regrets. "I can't imagine an election being won or lost by, let's say, a few hundred votes and you spent your day sitting around," Romney told Richmond radio station WRVA earlier in the day. "I mean, you'd say to yourself, 'Holy cow, why didn't I keep working?' And so I'm going to make sure I never have to look back with anything other than the greatest degree of satisfaction on this whole campaign," reported the Associated Press.

Romney is headed for Pennsylvania next.  He's got a 2:55 pm campaign stop in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday 11:50 a.m.
 
Chicago has dark skies and brittle temperatures for election morning. President Obama, who arrived in his hometown at midnight, showed up at a campaign field office near his home in Hyde Park around 9 a.m., greeting volunteers and making phone calls to both campaign staffers in Wisconsin and voters in battleground states including Ohio.
 
“The great thing about these campaigns is after all the TV ads, all the fundraising and all the debates and all the electioneering is it comes down to this," Obama said. "One day and these incredible folks who are working so hard, making phone calls, making sure the people go out to vote,” he told reporters.
 
His motorcade then proceeded to a downtown hotel, where the president will be rotating through a series of television interviews.

– Mark Guarino

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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
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