Obama or Romney? Voters start deciding close race

Updated 07 November 2012
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Obama or Romney? Voters start deciding close race

WASHINGTON: Capping a long and bitter race for the White House, Americans cast their votes yesterday with polls showing President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney neck-and-neck in an election that will be decided in a handful of states.
Polling stations opened across the eastern United States and Midwest, with the West Coast soon to follow, as Election Day dawned. At least 120 million people were expected to render judgment on whether to give Obama a second term or replace him with Romney.
Their decision will set the country’s course for the next four years on spending, taxes, health care and foreign policy challenges like the rise of China and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
National opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, although the Democratic incumbent has a slight advantage in several vital swing states — most notably Ohio — that could give him the 270 electoral votes needed to win the state-by-state contest.
Romney, the multimillionaire former head of a private equity fund, would be the first Mormon president and one of the wealthiest Americans to occupy the White House. Obama, the first black president, is vying to be the first Democrat to win a second term since Bill Clinton in 1996.
Whichever candidate wins, a razor-thin margin would not bode well for the clear mandate needed to break the partisan gridlock in Washington.
Romney voted at a community center near his home in a Boston suburb before dashing off for two last-minute stops, including the most critical of all swing states — Ohio.
“I feel great about Ohio,” he said when asked about what is considered a must-win for him.
Obama, settled into his hometown of Chicago, made a final pitch to morning commuters with pre-recorded interviews broadcast in battleground states.
“Four years ago, we had incredible turnout,” Obama told a Miami radio station. “I know people were excited and energized about the prospect of making history but we have to preserve the gains we’ve made and keep moving forward.” Fueled by record spending on negative ads, the battle between the two men was focused primarily on the lagging economic recovery and persistent high unemployment, but at times it turned personal.
As Americans headed to voting booths, campaign teams for both candidates worked the phones feverishly to mobilize supporters to cast their ballots.
Polls began in Indiana and Kentucky at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) yesterday, with voting ending across the country over the next six hours.
The first results, by tradition, were tallied in Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, New Hampshire, shortly after midnight (0500 GMT). Obama and Romney each received five votes in Dixville Notch. In Hart’s Location, Obama had 23 votes to nine for Romney and two for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
The close presidential race raises the prospect of a disputed outcome similar to the 2000 election, which was decided by the US Supreme Court in favor of George W. Bush over Al Gore. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have assembled legal teams to deal with possible voting problems, challenges or recounts.
The balance of power in the US Congress also will be at stake in Senate and House of Representatives races that could impact the outcome of “fiscal cliff” negotiations on spending cuts and tax increases, which kick in at the end of the year unless a deal is reached.
Obama’s Democrats are now expected to narrowly hold their Senate majority, while Romney’s Republicans are favored to retain House control.
Amid uncertainty over the US election outcome, world stock markets and the dollar held steady yesterday as investors waited for the result.
Despite the weak economy, Obama appeared in September to be cruising to a relatively easy win after a strong party convention and a series of stumbles by Romney, including a secretly recorded video showing the Republican writing off 47 percent of the electorate as government-dependent victims.
But Romney rebounded in the first debate on Oct. 3 in Denver, where his sure-footed criticism of the president and Obama’s listless response started a slow rise for Romney in polls. Obama seemed to regain his footing in recent days at the head of federal relief efforts for victims of superstorm Sandy in the New York-New Jersey area.
The presidential contest is now likely to be determined by voter turnout — specifically, what combination of Republicans, Democrats, white, minority, young, old and independent voters shows up at polling stations.
Weather could be a factor. Much of the nation was dry and mild, though rain was forecast later on Tuesday in the Southeast, including Florida, an important swing state.
Obama and Romney raced through seven battleground states on Monday to hammer home their final themes, urge supporters to get to the polls and woo the last remaining undecided voters.
Obama focused on Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, the three Midwestern swing states that, barring surprises elsewhere, would ensure that he reaches the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Romney visited the must-win states of Florida, Virginia and Ohio before finishing in New Hampshire.
After two days of nearly around-the-clock travel, Obama wrapped up his final campaign tour in Des Moines, Iowa, with a speech that hearkened back to his 2008 campaign.
“I came back to ask you to help us finish what we’ve started because this is where our movement for change began,” he told a crowd of some 20,000 people. Obama wiped away tears as he reflected on those who had helped his campaign.
Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, ended Monday in Manchester, New Hampshire, the city where he started his campaign last year. “We’re one day away from a fresh start,” the hoarse-sounding candidate told a crowd of 12,000.
Obama ridiculed Romney’s claims to be the candidate of change and said the challenger would be a rubber stamp for a conservative Tea Party agenda. “We know what change looks like, and what he’s selling ain’t it,” he said in Columbus, Ohio.
Romney argued he was the candidate who could break the partisan gridlock in Washington, and said four more years of Obama could mean another economic recession.
The common denominator for both candidates was Ohio. Without the state’s 18 electoral votes, the path to victory becomes very narrow for Romney.
Polls have shown Obama with a small but steady lead in the state for months, sparked in part by his support for a federal bailout of the auto industry, which accounts for one of every eight jobs in Ohio, and by a strong state economy with an unemployment rate lower than the 7.9 percent national rate.
That undercut the central argument of Romney’s campaign — that his business experience made him uniquely qualified to create jobs and lead an economic recovery.
Romney’s aides hoped an 11th-hour visit on Tuesday could also boost his cause in Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state that he has tried to put in play in recent weeks.
Obama fought back through the summer with ads criticizing Romney’s experience at the equity fund Bain Capital and portraying him as out of touch with ordinary Americans.


British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels

Updated 20 June 2018
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British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels

  • MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019
  • The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a showdown with her pro-EU MPs on Wednesday over parliament’s role in the final Brexit deal, which could influence her entire negotiation strategy.
MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019.
May says she expects to get an agreement with Brussels, but warned that any attempt to tie her hands could undermine the ongoing negotiations.
She averted a rebellion by pro-EU MPs in her Conservative Party on the issue of parliamentary powers last week with a promise of a compromise, but within days they had rejected her proposal as inadequate.
Instead they worked with peers to introduce their own amendment to the unelected upper House of Lords, which agreed it by a landslide on Monday.
The amendment now returns to MPs in the elected lower House of Commons, where Conservative rebels will ally with opposition parties in a bid to finally make it law.
May’s spokesman refused to say if he believes the government has the numbers to win the vote, but made clear that no more concessions would be forthcoming.
“We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords,” he said, adding that it “would undermine our ability in the negotiations to get the best deal for the country.”
“We will be retabling our original amendment,” he said, adding: “We hope that all MPs will be able to support the government’s position.”
The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament.
May commands only a slim majority in the 650-seat Commons, made possible through an alliance with Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.
A victory for the pro-EU rebels would embolden them ahead of debates next month on Britain’s future trading relationship with the European Union, which they are seeking to keep as close as possible.
It would likely anger euroskeptics, who accuse the rebels of seeking to thwart Brexit.
They are also becoming increasingly frustrated with the withdrawal process under May’s leadership.
Leading Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve denied he was trying to undermine the government or stop Brexit, but warned that if parliament rejected the final Brexit deal, there would be a crisis.
“That’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat,” he told Sky News television.
“The very reason I’ve prompted this amendment is to provide a mechanism to make sure that we don’t come to government collapse immediately.”
But euroskeptic Conservative MP Graham Stringer said Grieve and his supporters were only interested in “sabotaging the whole process.”
“The purpose of the latest Grieve ruse is to give parliament the power to delay or stop Brexit,” he said.
Despite agreement on Britain’s financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights, the Brexit talks are progressing slowly, and there are few hopes of a breakthrough at an EU summit later this month.
Both sides are still publicly aiming for an agreement in October, but this is looking more and more difficult.
Negotiations are currently stalled on how to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, and neighboring EU member Ireland when Britain develops its own trade and customs policies.
“Serious divergences” remain over Northern Ireland, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday after a final round of talks between London and Brussels ahead of the European summit.
The British government has also yet to decide on what it wants from the future economic relationship.
It has been clear about one area, security cooperation — but many of its proposals were on Tuesday knocked back by Barnier.
He said Britain could not stay in the European Arrest Warrant, take part in meetings of policing agency Europol or access EU-only police databases.
“We need more realism about what is and what is not possible,” he said.