Latest updates from our writers (page 5)

Good news for Democrats in the Sunshine State: Senator Bill Nelson has survived a challenge from Rep. Connie Mack IV, the son of a former senator, for his seat, NPR and ABC project. Mack emerged as victor from a brutal GOP primary but was hobbled by revelations about his past and never really gained traction against Nelson; the contest leaned Democratic. That's a blow for Republicans in their likely bid to reclaim the Senate. Meanwhile, in Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly seems to be running strong so far against Richard Mourdock.

Something appears to be rotten on the betting markets:

Meanwhile, economist Justin Wolfers has been chronicling some strange swings. It looks like somebody's trying to manipulate InTrade -- an odd move, as it requires serious money and would appear to have little hope of altering the results.

Bill O'Reilly on Fox News just now: "We're not dealing with a traditional America anymore. There are 50% of the American public who want ... stuff. They want ... things. The white establishment is now the minority."

A whole round of polls just closed at 8 p.m., and we've got a new round of calls for states. CNN is projecting that Obama will win D.C., Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island, and three of Maine's four electoral votes (read this to understand the state's strange 2nd district). Romney, meanwhile, is projected to win Oklahoma; CNN also called South Carolina and Georgia for him a little while ago.

Bottom line for this round: No surprises at all. That's why they're being called so early.


The choice: Romney listens to a question from a reporter in Livonia, Michigan, on February 28, 2012; Obama speaks as a tear streams down his face, at his final campaign stop, on November 5, 2012, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Gerald Herbert, Carolyn Kaster/AP) From Alan Taylor's gallery, "Campaign 2012: The Story in Photos."

"Not tonight." That's the answer I received just now from a Justice Department spokeswoman when I asked her to give me a sense of the voting rights issues federal officials have been dealing with today. There were problems in Ohio and Pennsylvania, to be sure, and there will be litigation no matter what, but there is no evident sense tonight that we are dealing with a calamitous civil rights scenario. This is good news no matter which guy you want to win tonight.

Apparently not even being America's former No. 2 can save a parent from being tweeted by their kid. Here's a shot of former vice president Dick Cheney, via magazine writer Joe Hagan, taken by his daughter.

Did the national press miss the real epicenter of voting problems this year? We've been focused on Ohio, and for good reason: The state has a good chance of being the tipping point for either candidate, and it was a mess during early voting over the weekend. But Pennsylvania is proving to be the night's real problem child -- so far. I've been rounding up complaints elsewhere on the site, and the Keystone State is responsible for the lion's share, with complaints from both sides. Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard gathers more.

What's the story? Well, there are two large cities, in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But there's also the state's voter ID law. Although a judge ruled against that law last month, he didn't strike it down, and the aftermath may be feeding confusion across the state. If Pennsylvania is as close as the Romney campaign has suggested in the last few days, it could be a big mess.

In an excellent piece explaining why he hasn't endorsed anyone in this election, James Poulos says something that everyone who supported Gary Johnson - myself included -- should at least ponder. "Gary Johnson should be running for Senate, not for the presidency. Libertarians need a reality check. Building from the ground up may be a more challenging task, but most things are more challenging than daydreaming about the White House. It's painfully evident that a libertarian presidential candidacy is an inadequate national platform," he wrote. "There is a ghost of a chance that this will change in the next four years. But the best way to maximize that chance is by acting now as if it'll never come true. Run libertarian candidates where the GOP is weak. Colonize state and local parties, as Ron and Rand Paul have done, where it is strong but not too strong. Endorsing Gary Johnson would send a healthy message to Republicans and Democrats alike. It wouldn't send the best message to libertarians. Their country needs them, and they haven't figured out yet how best to rise to the occasion."

Although it can't be avoided, this sort of Twitter repetition is quickly going to become tiresome. Can't we all agree that exit polls are notoriously faulty?


In America, hundreds of millions of anxious people are awaiting the results of the presidential election. Billions around the world are tuning in. In California, there are 725 people with a particular stake in the outcome of this contest. They are the state's death-row inmates. And if Proposition 34 passes, they will no longer be on death row -- their sentences will be commuted to life in prison without parole. Embraced by many conservatives, Prop 34 has a serious chance of passing and if it does it would transform the landscape of capital punishment in America.  

A nice line from CNN's John King about the snow-bird demographics of Florida: "The further south you go, the further north you get."

Nate Silver highlights what may turn out to be the most important district in Virginia -- Fairfax County:

If President Obama is carrying 50 percent of the vote in Fairfax County, Va., the confetti will be flying at Romney campaign headquarters. If Mr. Obama is carrying 50 percent of the vote in Virginia Beach, it would be the Obama volunteers celebrating instead.

Polls are now closed in North Carolina, West Virginia, and Ohio.

The press corps at Romney's election-night party in Boston is quartered in the city's convention center, sitting at laptops in a vast room filled with rows of tables, except for an elite few who are in the ballroom where Romney will eventually speak. Here's what Romney's backdrop looks like: IMG_20121106_172007.jpg

Speaking to reporters on his plane this afternoon, Romney said he'd written only one speech, a victory address, and that it was "about 1,118 words." He also revealed that he's planning to get a puppy if he wins: "Assuming I win, one of the benefits would be to get another Weimaraner," he said.

As of 7:30 p.m., Romney is sequestered in a hotel room near the convention center, and the press is getting restless: Although we've paid more than $1,000 each to be here, there is no food. The dinner buffet was abruptly cleared away at 7 p.m.

Over at HuffPo, Howard Fineman calls Nate Silver's rise "the perfect metaphor for a society that seems only to care about winning; it doesn't matter how or even why."

The official "unofficial" Virginia election results can be read here as they come in.

On cable news, political journalists are unanimous in their cynicism. Everyone understands that the campaigns will lie when asked how they feel about early returns -- never has a staffer said, "I'm feeling very pessimistic about our chances, and it's very likely we'll lose when all the votes are tallied."

Yet asking campaigns, "So  how are you feeling tonight?" and relating the answers, is a mainstay of cable news coverage.

The Sound of Silence... from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Last Friday, the feds announced that they were deploying "more than 780 federal observers and department personnel to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states." Today? Mostly crickets. A CBS News colleague this afternoon told me that the folks at Justice had nothing to report on the voting rights front-- despite the stories of voting irregularities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

For the record, on the recount front, I'll briefly say again: if you are rooting for this election to be resolved in the next 12 hours, root for your candidate to get to 270 electoral votes without Ohio. With hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots to be counted after tonight, we might not know the winner of the Buckeye State until the week of Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble.

A whopping two-thirds of Americans say their vote was affected by the way President Obama handled Hurricane Sandy, The New York Times reports.

Citing exit polls -- standard caveats apply -- the Times adds that two-fifths of all voters named last week's storm as an "important factor" in their decision at the ballot box. Crises generally tend to increase support for an incumbent, but to think that over 60 percent of Americans took the White House's response to Sandy into account speaks volumes about the way many voters make up their minds.

Amanda Erickson at The Atlantic Cities on where people have been waiting longest in line to vote.

If you're not winning a state, you can still win hearts and minds. That must have been part of the calculus behind Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson making an Election Day morning visit to Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. The local libertarian intellectual community is perhaps the most powerful concentration of such thinkers in America. The Dupont Circle neighborhood "boasts an electoral history as one of D.C.'s higher-performing Libertarian polling places," according to a release announcing that Johnson would be stumping there with Bruce Majors, the Libertarian candidate for D.C. Delegate to Congress.

CNN's Peter Hamby reports that he's acquired Romney's last internal poll of Ohio and it shows the Republican up by trailing 5 points. Internal polls tend to be more favorable to the candidate, but even allowing for that, it's a promising sign for Romney's ability to hold tough in the Buckeye State. which means this is especially bad for the candidate. If he loses the state, he's unlikely to win the election.

Via Jeffrey Goldberg: 'I'm Keeping My Eye on Virginia,' the Palestinian Refugee Said

Ever wonder why conservative states are red and liberal states are blue? According to Smithsonian Magazine, the color-coded style we're going to see all over cable television tonight wasn't formalized until the 2000 election.

"In the beginning, blue was red and red was blue and they changed back and forth from election to election and network to network in what appears, in hindsight, to be a flight of whimsy," Jodi Enda writes. "The notion that there were "red states" and "blue states"--and that the former were Republican and the latter Democratic--wasn't cemented on the national psyche until the year 2000."

Before the polls close, take a look at Enda's essay.

Obama's National Press Secretary is urging people to stay in line to vote.

A second data point to add to Obama's late-in-day GOTV message on Reddit.

Jim Warren is in Chicago at Obama headquarters, where he reports the mood is ebullient and confident -- even unto hubris. "If we lose this, given how amazingly sophisticated our vote-targeting operation is, it will be one of the best, most amazing political stories since Truman," an Obama confidant told him. Read the whole dispatch.

We may still be waiting for results to come in, but Mitt Romney is already thinking ahead. If he wins the presidency tonight, he told reporters today, he'll celebrate by getting another dog.

Asked what kind of critter he'd want, Romney said he's angling for another Weimaraner.

Romney didn't elaborate on how he would name his new pet, but one thing seems certain: He won't be going with "Seamus" again.

Voting in the quiet Orange County neighborhood where I grew up, I was struck by the ease of it all. There were no lines, as there have been in years past. Numerous open stations were available when I arrived. It made it a lot easier for me to vote than all the Ohioans and Floridians who've been standing in hours-long lines in recent days. I was in, out and driving off in ten minutes. The poll worker asked if I wanted to use an electronic voting machine or cast a paper ballot. She acted surprised when I chose the latter. Behind the curtain, I filled in the square next to Gary Johnson's name. No mysterious force altered it.

On my way to Romney headquarters in Boston, I stopped at a polling place in Bedford, New Hampshire, to talk to voters. Bedford is a wealthy bedroom community that leans Republican; polling was being held in the high-school gymnasium, with a line that wrapped almost all the way around the building. Voters exiting the polling place told me it had taken between half an hour and an hour and a half to get to the front and cast their ballots. IMG_20121106_124915.jpg

Shirley L., an older white woman in a pink sweater, told me she made up her mind to vote for Romney just two days ago. She voted for Obama four years ago, but "I'm disappointed," she said. "I felt he put the cart before the horse" by focusing on health care before fixing the economy. But she wished she had different choices; she found both candidates too extreme, right and left. "I'm a moderate," she said. "I don't like all the swings."

Dueling messages from within the Republican braintrust. First, from Jonathan Martin:

And a counterpoint from Jen Rubin, a staunch Romney partisan: Pick your own adventure and sit tight.

Miss him yet? Apparently not. Exit polls suggest that more than half of Americans still blame George W. Bush for the state of the economy, Politico notes.

Romney told reporters on his campaign plane this afternoon that he's only written one speech for tonight -- a victory speech, the AP reports. "It's about 1,118 words. I'm sure it'll change before I'm finished because I haven't passed it around to my family and friends and advisors to get their reaction. But I've only written one speech at this point," he said. 

Perhaps reassuringly, "forgot" is only the 10th-most-common reason why eligible citizens don't vote:


The dominant factors: being too busy, illness or disability, apathy, and dislike of the candidates. Via Derek Thompson. Brad Plumer has more.

The number of voting problems we've been hearing about today, I can't imagine this is an uncommon response.

Minutes ago, President Obama put up a post on Reddit with a single request: vote. Although the president did an "ask me anything" session on the popular website last August, it's an awfully big surprise that he returned tonight. His message is posted below, in full:

"I want to thank you all again for the reception you gave me in August for my AMA. Good questions. Definitely not bad. I'm checking in because polls will start closing in this election in just a few hours, and I need you to vote. Millions of Americans have stepped up in support of this campaign over the last 19 months, and today we decide what the next four years look like -- but only if we show up. I ask that you go out there and cast your vote, whatever your political persuasion. You can confirm your polling location here: If you've voted already, don't stop there -- spread the word to your friends, roommates, and neighbors. Think of it as upvoting."

A reference to his meme likeness? And an upvote joke? Reddit's going to love this.

Here's an important tip for the political novice: Don't trust exit polls. Pollster Mark Blumenthal runs down the reasons: "First, an exit poll is just a survey .... Second, the networks almost never "call" truly competitive races on exit poll results alone .... Third, the initial results of the exit poll interviews have had frequent problems with non-response bias, a consistent discrepancy favoring the Democrats that has appeared to some degree in every presidential election since 1988."

If you must, however, Political Wire has a roundup.

In 2000, several major news organizations got egg on their face when they called the race for Al Gore, then had to reverse themselves, uncall it, and declare George W. Bush the winner. Thanks to the wonders of Twitter and other social networks, we all have the opportunity to make that mistake. Read Garance Franke-Ruta's guide to how to tweet responsibly during a breaking news-event and avoid the embarrassment of getting it wrong and the shame of misleading others.

It's a landslide for Obama -- in Guam. The tiny island, a U.S. territory, doesn't get a real vote on the president, but it does hold a straw poll every election. The UPI reports that Obama won more than 23,000 votes, good for 72 percent of the vote. But even though Guam's vote isn't binding, it is a bellwether of sorts. The island has voted in favor of the eventual winner in every straw poll since 1984.

Fox News reports "concerns" about voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia:

You might think this footage shows someone holding doors for people, but "some critics say it looks like intimidation."


The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."


What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

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