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US Election '08 - A Historical Turning Point?

Gordon Campbell Live Blogs The US Election

By Gordon Campbell

(See continuing coverage through the afternoon at...
... what follows is Gordon Campbell's live blog stream as at 3.18pm NZT. It appears that Obama has well and truly won the US election though no formal calls have yet been made by the US TV Networks. - Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson)

3.02pm More wailing, and more wonders, from the Fox panel. We have thought of America as being a centre right country, says one panelist. Are we now perhaps a centre left country? Yes, says Nina Easton of Fortune magazine, and isn't that because the financial meltdown has perhaps shown Americans that free markets do not necessarily produce a healthy economy! Bill Kristol says the outcome in the presidential race, the House race and the Senate will produce the best outcome for the Democrats since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And remember it was from the ruins of the Goldwater campaign of 1964 that the New Right arose for Ronald Reagan to lead, and to the subsequent culture wars that the centre right has used to cloak its economic agenda. This Obama victory really may be a historical turning point for the United States. MSNBC/NBC in the meantime, are shaping as the fastest, surest on the draw in this election coverage. Check them out.


2:30pm Fox News, with what is clearly a heavy heart, also calls Pennsylvania for Barack Obama, and that folks is virtually the end of the contest. All else from here is gravy - and part of the gravy is Obama's lead in Ohio, though that remains too close to call definitively. In the Senate race, where the Dems needed 60 to construct a filibuster proof majority for President Obama's legislative programme, they currently have 54. Which means they need to win 5 out of the remaining six races. Unlikely. By the way, the sad faces on Fox News and the sadness in the faces and voice tone, is priceless. How long have we waited to put the words 'Bill O'Reilly' and 'schadenfreude' in the same sentence?


2.12pm NBC has called Pennsylvania five minutes ago for Obama - based on early returns, though no-one else has done so CNN doing great reporting on McCain under-performing (vis a vis the 2004 scores racked by by George Bush) both in the rural areas of Virginia, and along the crucial I-4 Tampa/St Petersburg corridor in Florida, when he really needs to over-perform there, if he's going to match the likely big response in urban areas of Florida/Indiana/and the northern part of Virginia that borders on DC. Things still looking OK for an Obama victory, though the returns so far in Georgia are a bit disappointing.


1.57pm Conservative pundit Bill Kristol on Fox says the results so far are 'consistent with the polls,' and consistent with a 'comfortable Obama victory.' Virginia and Georgia though are not looking so far as if they are consistent with a landslide for Obama.


1.40pm After 12% of Indiana results McCain is still ahead, but as mentioned before the results from Gary and from Bloomington -not Marion, as I said earlier - have still to come in, so the Obama performance here is actually extremely good, in that he is staying within sight of McCain in the Republican's strongest areas. Here's Nate Silver's take, from half an hour ago, on Obama's performance relative to John Kerry in 2004, even in the rural counties :

Steuben: Kerry 34%, Obama 42%
DeKalb: Kerry 31%, Obama 38%
Knox: Kerry 36%, Obama 54%
Marshall: Kerry 31%, Obama 50%

And in Florida, though after 2% only. Obama is well clear. More on that soon.


1.02pm CNN has just projected two total non surprises : Vermont for Obama (3 electoral college votes) and Kentucky for McCain ( 8 votes ). New Hampshire, which was the one New England state in doubt a month ago for Obama, is clearing out to a firm lead for Obama, and in the New Hampshire Senate race John Sununu (Rep,) looks lost already.

In the Senate race in Kentucky things are currently closer than the outcome for the state itself, with the Republican favourite Mitch McConnell actually now being slightly behind after 9% of votes counted. The race for Indiana, after three per cent votes counted, is deadlocked - which should be OK news for Obama, since the urban areas of Gary and Marion still have to come in.


12.40pm OK, first returns are coming in from Indiana sign of which region but Obama has a slight 51/48 lead. In the Kentucky Senate race, Republican Mitch McConnell has cleared out to a 55/44 lead over his Dem opponent. McCain is, as expected well clear of Obama in Kentucky 61/37%. No trend so far.


12 Noon Hi and welcome to Scoop’s US election day coverage. The first state polls close in exactly one hour, and nervous Obama supporters ( hello, world) could well have a rocky first half hour if this election is at all close, so let’s all be brave. Those first returns from Indiana and Kentucky may be rough.

Reason being, Indiana is at the outer edge of the Obama wishlist, and the first returns should come in from rural Indiana (John McCain territory) while the Obama strongholds ( the city of Gary etc) will come in later. Kentucky is also a McCain state, and the first Senate race of any consequence ( McConnell ® vs Lunsford (D) is tighter, but the seat should stay with the Republicans. Of course if the early Indiana returns go for Obama and Lunsford pulls ahead in Kentucky …its whoopee time !

The first indisputable signpost results will start to arrive around 1:30pm as polls close in Virginia ( seen by many as the litmus contest of the entire election) and in Florida. This morning, Virginia is already experiencing all three of the chief election process problems (a) registration book omissions (b) voting machine mechnical failure and (c) long, long lines of people waiting to vote. Virginia has stubbornly said it won’t extend the deadline for voting – but Florida, thanks to a sterling intervention by the Republican Governor Charlie Crist, has said that it will. Good on him.

The sight on CNN of long lines of people waiting patiently to exercise their right to vote is shameful, in the richest country on earth. Those lines remind me of the elections in South Africa in their first free election, in 1994. People there waited for twelve, fifteen hours or more to excise the precious right to vote. That’s something we should remember here on Saturday.

But in the US ? It has put people on the moon. It has spent hundreds of billions on the war in Iraq, and more hundreds of billions on bailing out the financial system. Yet when it comes to democratic choice, it runs a third world voting system. Bureaucratic hurdles, not enough voting machines, wet ballots in rainy Virginia, long voting lines etc…truly terrible.

Today, I’ll be relying on inputs from the usual suspects : the polling sites ( Five Thirty Eight.Com, RealClearPolitics.Com, and Pollster.Com) the Daily Kos commentary site, Chuck Todd on the MSNBC television site and blogs/commentary on scads of US newspaper sites. In times past, the state websites for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia etc have all been useful, and are recommended.

The exit polls? After 2004 – and the false positives for John Kerry – I think everyone is now aware of the inherent uselessness of exit polls. I’d advise ignoring them totally.

My prediction - An Obama win, with around 325 electoral votes, and a Senate race result with the Democrats winning 58 seats, two short of the magic 60 seats they need to over-ride a Republican filibuster on legislation – though one of those Senate contests ( the Saxby Chambliss Republican seat in Georgia) will almost certainly go into a run-off, so – even if it’s a good night for them - the Dems may have to wait a while to know if 60 is in their grasp. Talk to you again at 12.30ish.


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