After holding back longer than they might have before 2000 -- when the US networks had to retract their Florida projections after going off half-c-cked -- the networks are calling the presidential election for Barack Obama as I write, at 3.20pm AEST.
Combining safe Democratic states with swing states where an Obama victory seems beyond dispute (Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania), Obama has 269 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory, with further wins sure to come.
Obama also appears far more likely to win than lose the 29 Electoral College votes in Florida. Anything beyond that would be icing on the cake, which Colorado, Iowa and Nevada look likely to provide.
The Republican hope that they were being short-changed by pollsters’ turnout modelling, which they claimed was hewing too close to the 2008 result, has not been realised. Exit polling showed Romney leading among independents but with the Democrats enjoying the higher turnout share, just as the polling consensus had indicated. Turnout among minorities, particularly among African-Americans, appears to have been extremely strong, whereas the Republicans were hoping it would slacken after the Obama-driven euphoria of 2008.
Much of the attention in the early count was lavished once again on Florida, whose penchant for tight results hasn’t diminished any over the past 12 years. The lead on the raw vote bounced back and forth about seven times, but a more nuanced reading of the figures suggested slow-reporting Broward County (home to Fort Lauderdale) would swing the total in Obama's favour. As the final 15% of the vote count has trickled in, Obama's very tight lead has slowly widened.
Meanwhile, states which had been the occasional subject of Republican fantasies were going solidly Obama's way -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and especially Pennsylvania, where Romney spent time campaigning at the close of the campaign in an evidently desperate attempt to open a path to victory that didn’t involve Ohio. Also in the Obama column early was New Hampshire, a very close swing state on any analysis.
Romney performed better in Virginia, which polling had in fact suggested was a marginally better prospect for Obama than Florida. However, the result is still far from clear. At the time of writing Obama leads 50% to 49%, with the trend running his way as results come in from the outskirts of Washington DC. Romney looks set for a very narrow victory in neighbouring North Carolina, the only swing state where polling consistently had him ahead.
The congressional results have likewise played broadly according to script, with the Republicans on track to retain control of the House but with no chance of seizing control of the Senate. In results that nicely underscore the urgent need for the Republicans to reorient to the centre, Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, famed for their observations about r-pe and abortion, have been defeated in the races for Missouri and Indiana.