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Chris Vallance | 22:30 UK time, Tuesday, 7 November 2006

midtermssam_small.gifThe Polls are almost closed and we want your help. David Adesnik and Amanda Terkel will be blogging here, but you can join in too. Instant Message us at podallnight (msm,hotmail.co.uk, AIM, and yahoo or 343646794 on ICQ). You can email us to at upallnight@bbc.co.uk. We'll blog the best messages and emails or you can leave a message in the comments.
UPDATE: A big thanks to all our guests. As ever on an election night where timings and topics change there were some we intended to call and didn't and some we tried to call but couldn't get through to. Thanks to all who offered to help us out.

DAVID (7:46 pm):Hello! Welcome to Pods & Blogs on FiveLive. First of all, let me thank Chris Vallance for inviting me back on the show and on the blog. I live in Washington DC and work in Alexandria, VA. On regular nights, you can find me blogging on www.oxblog.com.

It's called OxBlog because it was started up by four American grad students at Oxford in the spring of 2006. I spent three years living in Oxford, working on my doctorate in international relations. These days, OxBlog is still written by current and former grad students at Oxford, but we've diversified to include an Aussie, a Canadian and an aspiring Irishman.

Hope you have a good night and your favorite candidates win.

AMANDA (7:55 pm): Hi all -- will be following the elections with you tonight. When I'm not guest-blogging at BBC, I work at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington, DC. I'm one of the bloggers on ThinkProgress.org and write for the daily progressive newsletter, The Progress Report. I'm originally from NY-26 in upstate New York, which is facing a tight race between Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) and challenger Jack Davis. I've been involved in politics for the past few years and am very excited to see the results from tonight's tight races.

DAVID (8:11 pm): For those who aren't regular visitors to OxBlog, let me offer a quick introduction to my biases and politics, so you know where my commentary is coming from.

A few weeks ago, I registered as a Republican. I was a liberal Democrat for the first 23 years of my life, before I went to grad school in Oxford. Then, the more I learned about American history and current politics, the more I started to question my own beliefs.

A don't forget about my political death wish. Who else would join the GOP at a moment when almost every informed observer expects it to be buried in a landslide? Well, if you want to know why, the short answer is "John McCain". I don't think there is any other politician in this country who has brings to the table McCain's integrity, candor and commitment to principle.

AMANDA (8:33 pm): CBS is reporting that challenger Bob Casey defeated Sen. Rick Santorum (R).

While Casey has been leading Santorum in the polls for awhile, Santorum was, at one time, considered to be a possible for a presidential run. But his strong support for President Bush and his role in congressional corruption -- such as the notorious K Street Project -- ended up hurting him.

Santorum was the Senate liaison Tom DeLay's notorious K Street Project, which was set up in 1995 and largely created the culture of corruption in which Jack Abramoff later thrived. To gain influence over legislation DeLay instructed trade associations and corporate lobbyists to do three things: 1) refuse to hire Democrats, 2) hire only deserving Republicans as identified by the congressional leadership, and 3) contribute heavily to Republican coffers. From The Washington Monthly, 2003:

“The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing,” says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. “It’s been a very successful effort.”

Early exit polls show that 42 percent of voters rated corruption as an extremely important issue -- the highest ranking out of any issue. It's no surprise that Santorum lost his constituents' confidence.

AMANDA (8:34 pm): More updates:

Ohio Senate race: Challenger Sherrod Brown has defeated Sen. Mike DeWine (R), according to CBS News.

New Jersey race: Sen. Robert Menendez (D) held on to his seat.

Massachusetts gubernatorial race: Deval Patrick, the Democratic candidate, has beat Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey to win the state's governor seat. Patrick led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Clinton, becoming only the second black ever elected chief executive of any state.

DAVID (8:42 pm) -- NO, AMERICANS ARE NOT THAT VENAL AND MALIGNANT: I've just been listening to US journalist Greg Palast talk to Rhod Sharp. Greg said that American culture is tolerant of crafty efforts to steal a vote here and vote there by any means necessary.

I have to contradict that assertion absolutely. Americans across the political spectrum are abhorred by any criminal activity designed to alter the outcome of a vote, whether we're electing a president or a dogcatcher. (Actually, I'm not sure we elect dogcatchers anymore.)

What does happen, is that our political parties attempt to enforce the letter of the elections law rather than its spirit, if they can build an advantage by doing so. But that is a game played entirely inside the law. And even then, most Americans find it very distasteful.

DAVID (8:56 pm) -- A SHAMELESS PLUG: Let me put in a good word for one of my favorites websites, Real Clear Politics. Not that RCP needs any publicitly. It has made a tremendous name for itself by following the polls with almost a religious devotion. Regardless of whether you're Republican or Democrat, Labour or Tory, you will find an incredible amount of information at your fingertips on RCP.

For a quick look at tonight's Senate results, check out RCP's Senate scorecards.

AMANDA (9:10 pm): Voting problems in this election were widely anticipated by government officials and civil rights groups. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an influential non-government organization, wrote to the Justice Department and requested election monitors to key states. The Justice Department has dispatched 850 poll watchers to 22 states. Nevertheless, some problems today:

-- Right-wing radio show host Laura Ingraham told her listeners to crank call the Democratic voting problems hotline. She suggested that everyone call at "the same time" to jam the line. [Link]

-- A polling place in Henry County, Georgia told voters that they needed identification. In reality, "a state court struck down Georgia’s photo ID law, and most voters do not need to show an ID of any kind." [Link]

-- "In a number of states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, voters reported that electronic voting machines were not working properly. Among the errors were voting machines not turning on, failing to scan the ballots, and software that failed to function properly." [Link]

-- A lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) reported that "a trio of men, one with a handgun visible, is harrassing Latino voters as they go to the polls in Tucson, Ariz." [Link]

-- A poll worker in Kentucky was arrested after he was accused of assaulting a voter. [Link]

DAVID (9:11 pm) -- SPEARING BRITNEY: It is often said that gay marriage threatens the dignity, the good name, and the very institution of holy matrimony. As far as I can tell, the real threat to all of those things is Britney Spears (who just filed for her second divorce, as reported on FiveLive.)

Although to be fair to womankind, Kevin Federline is at least as dangerous, if not more so.


AMANDA (9:31 PM):

Full list of races called by the Associated Press:

SENATE:

Joe Lieberman-I elected in Connecticut
Hillary Rodham Clinton-D elected in New York
Herb Kohl-D elected in Wisconsin
Kent Conrad-D elected in North Dakota
Craig Thomas-R elected in Wyoming
Ben Nelson-D elected in Nebraska
Sherrod Brown-D elected in Ohio
Debbie Stabenow-D elected in Michigan
Kay Bailey Hutchison-R elected in Texas
Amy Klobuchar-D elected in Minnesota
Jeff Bingaman-D elected in New Mexico
Ben Nelson-D elected in Nebraska
Debbie Stabenow-D elected in Michigan
Robert Menendez-D elected in New Jersey
Bob Casey-D elected in Pennsylvania
Thomas Carper-D elected in Delaware
Trent Lott-R elected in Mississippi
Bernie Sanders-I elected in Vermont
Richard Lugar-R elected in Indiana
Robert Byrd-D elected in West Virginia
Olympia Snowe-R elected in Maine
Bill Nelson-D elected in Florida
Edward Kennedy-D elected in Massachusetts

GOVERNOR:

Sonny Perdue-R elected in Georgia
Bill Richardson-D elected in New Mexico
Jennifer Granholm-D elected in Michigan
Janet Napolitano-D elected in Arizona
Mike Rounds-R elected in South Dakota
Dave Heineman-R elected in Nebraska
Dave Freudenthal-D elected in Wyoming
Eliot Spitzer-D elected in New York
Brad Henry-D elected in Oklahoma
Ted Strickland-D elected in Ohio
Deval Patrick-D elected in Massachusetts
M. Jodi Rell-R elected in Connecticut
Ed Rendell-D elected in Pennsylvania
Phil Bredesen-D elected in Tennessee
John Lynch-D elected in New Hampshire
Rod Blagojevich-D elected in Illinois

But more notably, NBC is calling Maryland for Democrat Ben Cardin, who was going up against Republican Michael Steele. Many Republicans were holding out hope that Maryland might switch to Republican control, but results so far look more favorable for Democrats.

DAVID (9:50 pm) -- DEMS HOLD THEIR GROUND, GO ON OFFENSIVE: Some Republicans hoped for surprise victories in the New Jersey and Maryland Senate races. New Jersey and Maryland were the only Democratic seats the GOP felt it had much of a chance to pick up.

If the GOP had taken either, the Democrats would've had almost no chance of taking the Senate. But now the Democrats have secured their backfield and can start marching toward the magic number of six pick-ups in the Senate. Right now they have three: Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Now the battle moves to Virginia, Missouri and Montana.

AMANDA (10:03 PM):

CNN and ABC are calling the Rhode Island Senate race for Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse over incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R). Chaffee was one of the most moderate Republican senators, voting against the war in Iraq and against President Bush in the 2004 presidential election. But Rhode Island has one of the highest disapproval ratings of Bush in the nation and Democrats far outnumber the Republicans.

As early exit polls showed, 62 percent of voters said that national issues were more important than local issues to them this year. Chaffee's association with the conservative leadership was enough for Rhode Island voters.

AMANDA (10:15 PM):

CNN is reporting that ballot measures to raise the minimum wage are likely to pass in Ohio and Missouri:

In Ohio 65% of the voters voted yes to raise the minimum wage at $6.85 an hour.

In Missouri, 74% of the voters voted yes to raise the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, or to the federal minimum wage level if it's higher.

Voters in Ohio and Missouri stepped forward and acted where Congress and the Bush administration have failed to.

Today, eight million Americans are still living on $5.15 an hour and the federal minimum wage is currently at its lowest level in 51 years. Since President Bush took office, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million. (Unemployment and poverty rates fell after the 1996 legislation.)

DAVID (10:28 pm) -- FROM THE GREAT WHITE NORTH:

I'm at the Republicans Abroad event in Toronto. Dinner was great .... but then again, I hear the food was pretty good on the Titanic, too.
That's a quote from GOP Progress, which is liveblogging the election.

DAVID (10:28 pm) -- I JUST SPOKE TO MR. BURNS! Wow, what an honor. I am a die hard Simpsons fan. The only thing better than talking to Mr. Burns would be an amplifier that goes up to eleven. Three cheers for Harry Shearer, who you just heard on FiveLive.

AMANDA (10:51 PM): Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has conceded. Watch his speech here.

DAVID (10:52 pm) -- WHAT WILL THE DEMOCRATS DO ABOUT IRAQ? Democratic analyst Suzanne Nossel says not to expect too much.

As FiveLive noted a bit earlier, Howard Dean got himself in a bit of hot water for saying the same thing. Not because it isn't true. But because the Democrats have run this entire race by promising, either implicitly or explicitly, that they could do something about Iraq.

AMANDA (11:01 PM): ABC, NBC, and MSNBC are all predicting that the Democrats take the House. MSNBC is predicting a minimum pickup of +29 seats with a margin of error of +10 seats.

DAVID (11:35 pm) -- EVERYONE'S FAVORITE COMMUNIST DICTATOR: FiveLive has been reporting regularly on the victory of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua's presidential election. In the Washington Post, Latin America expert Michael Shifter has criticized the Bush Administration for meddling in the Nicaraguan campaign.

It's rarely a good idea to take sides in foreign elections, especially given that the usual result is a backlash against the "American" candidate. On the other hand, there was nothing illegal or immoral here, so the US hasn't exactly embarrassed itself in the way Shifter suggests.

AMANDA (11:42 PM): AP is reporting a significant shift in Americans' voting patterns this year:

Almost a third of white evangelicals, a key part of the GOP base, voted Democratic. Middle class voters who defected to the Republican side a dozen years ago came back into the Democratic fold Tuesday. Republicans had won their votes in 2002 and 2004.
Democrats also got almost three fourths of the Hispanic vote despite an intense Republican effort to win their support. Whites split their votes between Republicans and Democrats after tilting heavily toward Republicans in the 2002 midterms...

After revelations that the Bush administration didn't take its faith agenda seriously, lost legitimacy on the economy, and failed on immigration efforts, this shift isn't entirely surprising.

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