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Special Coverage: The 2012 Presidential Election

President Obama has been elected to another term in the White House. FiveThirtyEight followed developments throughout the night.

2:31 A.M. Not a Big Win for Obama, but a Broad One

President Obama was re-elected, relying on a coalition of voters that was broader than it was deep.

Democrats maintained an edge in party identification, allowing Mr. Obama to win despite losing independent voters by several points. Forty-five percent of those who voted for Mr. Obama were racial minorities, a record number, and he made gains among Hispanic and Asian-American voters.

Mr. Obama’s win carried forth into most of the swing states. Of the 10 states that the campaigns contested most vigorously, he may lose only North Carolina, while winning battlegrounds in the four major geographic regions of the country.

Mr. Obama is also likely to win the popular vote, perhaps by two to three percentage points, once votes from California, Oregon and Washington are fully counted.

While the House of Representatives was called early in the night for Republicans, Democrats performed well in races for the United States Senate. They will control 52 to 56 seats when the Senate meets in January, depending on the outcome of the uncalled races in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota, and whether former Gov. Angus King of Maine, who won his seat as an independent on Tuesday, caucuses with them.

The election also marked a success for gay and lesbian voters. Tammy Baldwin, the Democratic candidate in Wisconsin, won her race and became the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the United States Senate. Ballot initiatives to allow same-sex marriage were adopted in Maine and Maryland, while others in Minnesota and Washington State are too close to call as further ballots are counted.

Thank you for joining FiveThirtyEight’s coverage of the election campaign. There’s a lot more to unpack in the coming days, but first, we’re going to get some sleep and grab a beer.

Nate Silver

1:10 A.M. Senate Races Remain Undecided in West

The Times has called the presidential election for Barack Obama, but there are still several undecided Senate races.

In Montana, incumbent Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, is leading Representative Denny Rehberg, a Republican, 54 percent to 43 percent. But almost three-fourths of precincts have yet to report results.

In North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is leading Representative Rick Berg, a Republican, very narrowly, 51 percent to 49 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

In Nevada, the vote is even closer. Almost 40 percent of precincts have reported results, and Senator Dean Heller, a Republican appointed to fill the remainder of Senator John Ensign’s term after he resigned amid scandal, is leading Representative Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, by one percentage point, 46-45.

Micah Cohen

12:04 A.M. Ballots Still to Be Counted in Miami-Dade County

One of the closest battleground states yet to be decided is Florida, where President Obama leads Mitt Romney — with 96 percent of precincts reporting — by roughly half a percentage point.

Most of the counties have reported most of their results, but one fairly large chunk of ballots that has yet to be counted is in Miami-Dade County, where 83 percent of precincts have reported. Miami-Dade County is heavily Hispanic and favorable terrain for Mr. Obama. He currently leads Mr. Romney there, 62 percent to 37 percent.

Micah Cohen

11:57 P.M. Outstanding Precincts in Ohio Appear to Favor Obama

The votes counted so far in Ohio show an extraordinarily close race, with President Obama only about 1,000 ballots ahead of Mitt Romney as of 11:50 p.m.

But the vast bulk of precincts that have yet to report their results in Ohio are in counties that have gone for Mr. Obama.

Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, has had only half of its precincts report and could yield another 100,000 votes or so for Mr. Obama.

Toledo’s Lucas County, which has strongly favored Mr. Obama so far, has had only 12 percent of its precincts report.

There are also votes outstanding in the Cleveland suburbs, and in Dayton, also areas that have gone for Mr. Obama so far. Conversely, the vast majority of areas where Mr. Romney leads have reported 100 percent of their ballots.

Nate Silver

11:53 P.M. Math Favors Obama in Popular Vote

Some networks have called the Electoral College for Barack Obama, but it will take longer before the popular vote can officially be called.

That’s because the three Pacific Coast states — California, Oregon and Washington — conduct much of their voting by mail, yielding a lag of several days to a week before all ballots are counted.

As of 11:45 p.m., however, Mr. Obama trailed Mitt Romney by only about 150,000 votes nationally, a margin he should be able to make up on the West Coast.

Nate Silver

11:07 P.M. A Boost for Obama in New Jersey

This presidential election is much closer than the 2008 election, so it counts as unusual whenever there are states where President Obama has the chance to run ahead of his 2008 margins.

But one case could be New Jersey, where Mr. Obama may have benefited from his handling of
Hurricane Sandy with the state’s governor, Chris Christie, a Republican. With about half of the vote counted in New Jersey, Mr. Obama leads by 17 points, slightly larger than his roughly 16-point lead there in 2008.

Nate Silver

10:50 P.M. Romney Maximizes Support in Virginia’s Coal Counties

Mitt Romney is running especially strongly in southwest Virginia, that state’s share of Appalachia.

The Romney campaign sought to maximize his support in reliably red southwest Virginia by attacking Mr. Obama’s environmental policies, which are unpopular in the coal counties of Appalachia.

The strategy seems to have paid dividends. Mr. Romney is far exceeding Senator John McCain’s 2008 performance in western Virginia, while running closer to Mr. McCain’s levels of support in the rest of the state.

Micah Cohen

10:37 P.M. Obama Leads So Far in Denver Suburbs

Early bellwethers in Colorado bode well for Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama leads by about three percentage points so far in Jefferson County, west of Denver, which typically tracks the statewide margins closely. He also leads in Arapahoe County, east of Denver, where he leads by six points with two-thirds of the vote counted.

Nate Silver

10:25 P.M. Deep Red States Go to Romney by Large Margins

The differences between national polls, which often showed a very tight race for the popular vote, and polls of swing states, where President Obama usually maintained an advantage, were a source of intrigue this year.

It could be that Mitt Romney’s performance in strongly red-leaning states, which were sparsely polled this year, accounts for much of the difference, allowing him to rack up votes without helping himself in the Electoral College.

Mr. Romney currently leads by 27 points in Tennessee, by 22 points in Kentucky, by 16 points in South Carolina and by almost 40 points in Oklahoma.

Nate Silver

10:07 P.M. D.C. Suburbs May Prove Decisive in Virginia

More than two-thirds of the vote has been reported in Virginia. At the moment, Mitt Romney leads President Obama by four percentage points, 51 percent to 47 percent. But keep an eye on the Washington suburbs: Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Prince William County, where only a tenth of the vote has been reported so far.

In 2008, Mr. Obama carried Virginia, the first Democrat to do so since 1964, largely based on his strong showing in Northern Virginia. Mr. Romney will need to cut into Mr. Obama’s 2008 levels of support in the socially moderate, affluent suburbs of Washington to turn Virginia red again.

Micah Cohen

9:59 P.M. Wake County Helps Romney in North Carolina

North Carolina remains close, with Mitt Romney leading by about two percentage points statewide, or 60,000 votes, with half of the vote counted.

Almost all of Mr. Romney’s advantage can be explained by one county, Wake County, in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. President Obama won it by 64,000 votes in 2008. This year, Mr. Romney leads by 2,000 votes so far.

Nate Silver

9:46 P.M. Obama Running Well in South-Central Ohio

Ohio has been slow to count its vote, but President Obama has gotten reasonably strong results so far in south-central Ohio, often beating his 2008 margins there.

In Ross County, Ohio, home to the town of Chillicothe, Mr. Obama trails Mitt Romney by only one percentage point with about 80 percent of the vote counted. Mr. Obama lost the county by eight percentage points to John McCain in 2008.

Mr. Obama also leads so far in Pike County and Scioto County, two counties south of Ross County that he lost in 2008, though they have counted less of their vote at this point.

Nate Silver

9:27 P.M. The Florida Bellwether

In every presidential election since 1960, the candidate who prevailed in Florida’s Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, has also prevailed in Florida. There is no guarantee that the pattern will hold in 2012, but the Tampa region is critical in carrying the Sunshine State (which is why the Republican Party held their national convention there this year).

More than 80 percent of the vote has been reported in Hillsborough, and President Obama leads Mitt Romney by five percentage points. Mr. Obama, as we have written, is likely getting a push from Florida’s fast-growing Hispanic community. In Hillsborough, Hispanic residents have grown by 71 percent since 2000, now accounting for a quarter of the county’s population.

Mr. Obama is also leading in another Florida bellwether, Pinellas County, Hillsborough County’s western neighbor. In Pinellas, 99 percent of the vote has been reported, and Mr. Obama is edging out Mr. Romney 52 percent to 47 percent.

Micah Cohen

9:19 P.M. Growth in Non-Cuban Hispanics Helps Obama in Florida

Florida has a significant Cuban-American population, and those voters tend be more Republican-leaning than other Hispanics. In this year’s exit poll in Florida, 50 percent of Cuban-American voters said they voted for Mitt Romney, against 47 percent for Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama had a two-thirds advantage with non-Cuban Hispanics in the exit poll, however — and they made up 10 percent of the voting population, compared with 6 percent for Cuban-Americans.

Thus, early returns show Mr. Obama to win Hispanic-Americans over all by 20 percentage points in Florida, and if he wins that, it’d be larger than the 15-point margin he had in 2008. If Mr. Obama ekes out a win in Florida, this will have a lot to do with it.

Nate Silver

8:42 P.M. A Close Race in Florida

In the final pre-election forecast at FiveThirtyEight, the state of Florida was exceptionally close. Officially, Mr. Obama was projected to win 49.797 percent of the vote there, and Mr. Romney 49.775 percent, a difference of two-hundredths of a percentage point.

The last time a FiveThirtyEight forecast had projected such a close race was in the 2008 senate race in Minnesota, when our final pre-election forecast had given the Democrat, Al Franken, a nominal 0.1-point lead over the Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman. That race ended in a recount, with Mr. Franken winning after several months of ballot counting.

Florida, of course, is known for its recounts as well. We’re tracking the individual counties as they come in from that state, particularly those where there is a decent amount of Election Day votes reported, rather than just absentee ballots. Throughout the state, the vote tallies are coming in about exactly as you would expect in a tied race.

Nate Silver

8:26 P.M. Differences in Political Betting Markets Persist

I wrote in October about the unusual patterns at the popular political betting market Intrade. Throughout much of the year, the chances attributed to Mitt Romney at the market were more favorable than at other betting markets and bookmaking Web sites like Betfair.

One theory that might explain it is that, because Intrade is cited more frequently by the American news media, someone who wanted to influence the tenor of the coverage might have an incentive to bet on Mr. Romney there, even if the other sites offered a more favorable price.

If that were true, however, one might expect the differences to evaporate on Election Day itself, when the voting is over and there is little seeming benefit from affecting the news media coverage.

But instead, the differences have become more pronounced tonight. As of this writing, at 8:10 p.m., Mr. Romney was given a 30 percent chance of winning the Electoral College at Intrade, but a 15 percent chance at Betfair.

British bookmakers are much more in line with Betfair than Intrade, with some already showing Mr. Romney as a 9-to-1 Electoral College underdog.

Nate Silver

8:14 P.M. Keeping an Eye on Chesterfield County, Va.

Just more than three-quarters of the vote has been reported in Chesterfield County, Va., an important suburban and exurban region southwest of Richmond. In the tally so far, Mitt Romney leads President Obama 54 percent to 45 percent. If those percentages hold, Mr. Romney’s performance there would match almost exactly Senator John McCain’s margin of victory in Chesterfield County in 2008: 53 percent to 46 percent. Former President George W. Bush, however, when he carried the state in 2004, won Chesterfield County with 63 percent of the vote.

Micah Cohen

7:46 P.M. Swing State Exit Polls Show Party ID Edge for Democrats

One source of debate this year was the charge that polls “oversampled” Democrats, meaning that they had more voters who identified as Democratic in the surveys than some conservatives expected would actually turn out to vote.

So far, however, Democrats also have an edge in the party identification numbers in the exit polls. In Ohio, 38 percent of voters identified as Democratic in the exit poll as compared with 31 percent of Republicans. And in Virginia, Democrats had a 37-to-33 advantage in party identification. These numbers are similar to what many pre-election polls showed.

Mitt Romney is not necessarily poised to lose, however: he led President Obama among independents in both the Ohio and Virginia exit polls. It may be that some conservative-leaning voters are identifying as independent rather than Republican in the surveys, but still voting for Mr. Romney.

Nate Silver

7:21 P.M. Location, Location, Location

One thing we’ll be paying attention to as vote totals roll in is location. Context matters. 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. Fairfax County is heavily Democratic, and Mr. Obama likely needs a large margin of victory there to carry the state. The same is true for Mitt Romney in Republican-leaning Virginia Beach.

Throughout the campaign, FiveThirtyEight has been profiling the different political regions of each state for this reason. Here are the Presidential Geography profiles for the top battleground states:

In Virginia, It’s Tradition Versus Change

In Ohio, Polls Show Benefit of Auto Rescue to Obama

In Nevada, Obama, Ryan and Signs of a New (Democratic-Leaning) Normal

Iowa: Racially Homogeneous, but Politically Diverse

Obama Leads, but a Romney Comeback Might Start Out West With Colorado

Could Ryan Tip Wisconsin Toward Romney?

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Lean Is Slight, but Durable

Presidential Geography: New Hampshire

In Florida, Tampa Is Essential to Romney Election Hopes

Auto Rescue and Low Home-State Bonus Keep Michigan Out of Play

Micah Cohen

7:16 P.M. Gearing Up for Results

Welcome to the FiveThirtyEight live blog for election night 2012.

We’ve deliberately started this a little late, such that we might focus on the actual returns as they begin to come in — and not on exit polls, which do not always present a reliable take on the race.

Virginia closed its polls at 7 p.m, however, and Ohio will be closing at 7:30, so we’re going to have some real data to look at very soon. In fact, we will be running an update periodically throughout the night, called our “livecast,” which will adjust our final FiveThirtyEight pre-election forecast based on the actual returns as they come in.

Nate Silver

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.