US presidential election 2012

When will we know the result?

Election nights are pure drama, and for me, it is a little like watching a sporting event. The dramatic intensity is heightened, because election results have far wider and more lasting consequences, therefore more important, than a sports match. In sports we often identify with a team or an individual, and so it is with political parties and politicians: we wish that our side wins, and while the outcome may be predicted with varying degrees of confidence, we are never sure of the outcome, until the votes are counted. There is elation when our side wins, and deflation when our side loses.

In this instance, I am following this election avidly as a spectator from afar. It isn’t exactly a game where my team or player is playing. That does not mean I do not have a preference: I’m more inclined to think that President Obama is a better candidate for the office than Mr Romney, but it is up for the American people to choose their leader.

As soon as polls close in some location, and information start to trickle in, which would about midnight UK time, I will be glued to the television screen and obsessively refreshing my computer screens, following the exit polls, the count, and the punditry. I am prepared to be up for a good few hours, but I do hope that result will be known sooner than later, and that means the fate of the election being decided in the eastern half of the continent, rather than, for example, depending on the outcome of the votes in Colorado.

If the margin of victory for President Obama is projected to be higher than for Mr Romney in the exit polls across the US than the polls had hithrto suggested, and if it becomes clear that President Obama will retain Florida, or Virginia and New Hampshire, for example, then that could mean a shorter, perhaps an anti-climactic night. If Mr Romney takes Florida and Virginia, and a few of the other battleground states, then it will likely to be a very long night, and as mentioned above, may come down to the results in Colorado. But above all, Ohio is likely to be the key. It was before 4 AM (UK time), that it became incontrovertibly clear that Mr Obama had won in 2008. Given the closeness of the race, it may take much longer this time around.

At the point of writing, it seems that President Obama is the clear favourite to win the election, according to many predictions, but opinion polls are just that: will it be a comfortable win for Mr Obama, will it be a tense and uncertain night, or will it be a surprise victory for Mr Romney? Tomorrow, or technically the day after tomorrow in my time zone, we will know the answer, unless there is a repeat of Florida 2000, which I hope will not happen.