US Election night: get ready for the greatest political show on earth

We may not get to vote, but Brits can still enjoy the show, argues Will Dean

For psepholophiles, there's nothing more fun than pulling an all-nighter and staying up for that vote's Portillo Moment. The mass coverage of polling queues from Akron to Zanesville makes the US election the biggest event of the lot. So – whether you're having a party for one on your sofa with the volume down, or attending an organised bash – here's the ultimate guide to hanging out like a Miami-Dade chad…

Food

Fuhgeddabout Thomas Keller, Mario Batali and even Martha Stewart; any fool knows an authentic American banquet can be bought for £7.95 at Asda. Simply combine any of the following key items: Butterkist Popcorn, deep-pan oven pizzas, marshmallows and an "American-style" cola.

Drinking

As soon as your TV network of choice calls a state as red or blue – take a drink of that colour. This may be red or blue packaging (eg, Budweiser and Brooklyn beers) or the drinks themselves (eg Chambord and curacao). If you opt for the latter pairing, don't expect to be conscious when they call Colorado at 5am.

Staying awake

In 2008, the prospect of seeing history being made as Barack Obama took the stage in Grant Park was stimulus enough to keep GMT viewers awake. This time, things might be a bit trickier. A tactical 10pm-1am nap might help refresh the eyelids. Otherwise, you're likely to be relying on caffeinated drinks and bafflement at Jeremy Vine's graphics to keep you awake.

Music

Real electionites will insist on silence for Dimbleby/Blitzer/Cooper et al, but if music is insisted on by guests with social skills, Democrat-leaning parties can take their pick from Jay-Z, below, Springsteen, Paul Simon, Aretha, Kanye and the other great musicians backing the incumbent. Red parties may play Kid Rock.

Guests – dos and don'ts

Expat Republicans: Unless they're throwing your party and providing you with free drinks all night, best avoided. Though you may want to tell them how important it is for the world that America re-elects Obama. They love that.

Other Americans: Not vital for a party – but a good point of context for students of American cultural hegemony. Simply place them next to a British election wonk who can drone on for minutes about early voting difficulties in Adams County, Colorado, and then ask them who the leader of the Labour Party is.

Brits obsessed with the American election: Again, best avoided. They know who they are.

Waking Up

…is hard to do. Especially if you stayed up waiting for CNN's Wolf Blitzer to point at a giant screen and call Ohio. But don't worry. Just remember: no one in your office will think that staying up all night to watch a foreign election is madness. No one. So don't worry about shaving, showering or brushing teeth on Wednesday morning. Your odour will remind others of your respect for the democratic process.

Key moments through the night

The outcome of the election will hinge on a few key results. Here’s what to look out for, and when to expect it. (All times GMT.)

Midnight (7pm EST) As polls close in the first six (eastern) states, the one to watch is Virginia, the first of the key battleground states to begin reporting provisional results. Voter turnout in the state’s northern Democrat-leaning areas may offer clues as to which way Virginia and its 13 electoral votes will swing.

12:30am (7.30pm EST) Polls close in three more states, including closely-fought North Carolina (15 votes) and the critical battleground of Ohio (18 electoral votes). No Republican has ever won the White House without taking Ohio, and if he loses it, Romney will need victories in nearly all other battleground states. If the outcome is close, the state’s final result may not come until after election day.

1am (8pm EST) The crucial state of Florida (29 electoral votes) and the competitive New Hampshire (four votes) are the next to close their polls. But don’t put too much stock in early numbers from the Sunshine State – its Democrat areas are slow to report their results.

Former Obama stronghold Pennsylvania is worth watching too. If it swings to Romney, he would be the first Republican presidential candidate to carry it in almost 25 years.

2am (9pm EST) Polls close in 14 states, including battlegrounds Colorado (nine electoral votes) and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin (10 votes).

Minnesota and Michigan – which had been considered safely blue – could turn red after last minute Romney campaigning. By this time in 2008, Obama had taken Pennsylvania and New Hampshire – big blows to John McCain.

3am (10pm EST) Polls close in four states, including the last of the key battlegrounds – Iowa (six electoral votes) and Nevada (six electoral votes) – which Romney will need to win if Obama takes Ohio and Wisconsin.

4am (11pm EST) Polls close in five western states, but most are foregone conclusions – Obama is predicted to take 78 electoral votes from California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, and Romney is expected to take four from Idaho. But this is still an important moment in the night.

States can only begin to declare their results officially when California closes.

6am (1am EST, Wednesday) Alaska, where Romney is due to take three electoral votes, is the last state to close.

How to follow it

ON TELEVISION
BBC1
David Dimbleby in Washington anchors coverage from 11:35pm to 6am, with back-up from Katty Kay and Jeremy Vine.

ITV1 Also 11:35pm to 6am, anchored by Alastair Stewart.

Sky News in-depth coverage from 10:30pm onwards, presented by Jeremy Thompson, with Kay Burley in Washington.

CNN in the multichannel age, it makes sense to get your presidential coverage direct from the US, and such coverage doesn’t get much more comprehensive than CNN’s Election Night in America.

ONLINE

For live news, results and analysis on US Election night, plus a fully interactive map including the crucial battlegrounds, visit www.independent.co.uk/USelections

For additional information, we recommend

http://www.washingtonpost.com and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/

Eyes down: Election night bingo

Add a sense of purpose to your all-nighter by ticking off these classic phrases of US electoral punditry as you hear them in the broadcast coverage. First one to a full house avoids a forfeit. (See Drinking, above.)

* Too close to call

* Midwestern firewall

* Ohio, the 'Buckeye' state

* Michelle Obama/Ann Romney is wearing…

* It's the economy, stupid

* In-play

* The magic number (ie, 270)

* Red state/Blue state/Purple state

* The enthusiasm gap

* The people of the great state of (xxxx) have spoken

* Jubilant atmosphere/sombre atmosphere at "X" party HQ

* The 47 per cent

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker