01:00:24 – It doesn’t get much more dynamic than this. In a little under 1 hour I will be liveblogging with comment as the results from Wisconsin and Hawaii come in. Check back then to join the fun
01:13:51 – Tonight expect the focus to be on Wisconsin with its 74 pledged and 18 unpledged delegates rather than Hawaii (20 pledged, 9 unpledged) which is after all Barack Obama’s home state. The most recent polls put Barack about 10 points clear and given that he has also significantly outspent Hillary in Wisconsin he is expected to win.
The question is by how much: should Hillary hold him to within 4 or 5 points she could claim to have stalled his momentum and be in a much better position heading into Texas and Ohio in two weeks time.
On the other hand, if Barack wins by double digits Hillary’s campaign will need big wins in both March 4th states to prevent the nomination slipping out of sight. For the Republicans John McCain is looking to wrap up the nomination having secured more key endorsements in the last week (including George Bush senior) as he attempts to convince the GOP that he is conservative enough.
01:26:08 – And if you want to get in touch just click on my name and send me an email: questions, comments, whatever. Alternatively, leave a comment below.
01:52:52 – Polls close in 7 minutes. For those of you asking I’ll be following this one with Fox News.
01:54:45 – And we join Fox News near the end of The O’Reilly Factor (which I will definitely be blogging about at some point) – he’s currently questioning whether Michelle Obama loves her country.
01:56:41 – Predictably O’Reilly’s outraged and doesn’t believe Michelle loves America. He’s interrupted though with early data from exit polls. Women voters: 49% Clinton, 51% Obama, Low income: 49% Clinton 51% Obama, Union members: 50% Clinton, 49% Obama, Seniors: 60% Clinton, 39% Obama. The analysis from the "decision room geniuses"? Clinton needs lots of seniors to turn out in order to win. You think?
02:00:55 – Polls closed. Fox News immediately calls for McCain. No call in the Democrat race.
02:02:36 – More exit poll fun. McCain’s being widely ignored by those describing themselves as ‘very conservative’ but otherwise high numbers all round.
02:05:47 – McCain out already to speak as he grabs some primetime over in the States. He’s in Ohio readying himself for March 4th. McCain praises Huckabee who he says he has "come to admire very much" and then thanks his wife Cindy. She’s been making news for the first time this week after her comments about Michelle Obama. McCain says he will be the nominee.
Turns fire on Barack – though not by name – calling him "an eloquent but empty call for change" and pleading with voters not to "ignore the lessons of history." Big applause at McCain camp but clearly Barack is now being seen more and more as the Democrat nominee.
02:10:44 – McCain references the elections today in Pakistan where the two opposition parties won big and adds he hopes that "freedom might someday come to the people of Cuba." Namechecks Venezuela too; he’s playing the experience card here and his strength in foreign policy. In both areas he’s consistently polled higher than Barack. McCain goes on to say that, "the most important job for the next President of America is to provide security against the threat of extremist terrorists."
02:14:04 – More talk of the grave threat of terrorism before McCain moves on to the economy, a key issue in a time of foreclosures and recession fears. First votes are coming in from Wisconsin now: Barack’s on 61% to Hillary’s 38% but don’t get too excited just yet, only 523 votes have been reported.
02:16:47 – Fox News are still sticking with McCain’s speech; he’s done well to jump in early this evening and bag himself a hefty chunk of airtime. He’s clearly been reading Cherwell too, admitting "I’m not the youngest candidate."
02:18:46 – Scrap that focus on Barack, it’s Hillary’s turn to come under fire. McCain hits out at dynasty fears, "I don’t seek the presidency out of a sense of entitlement."
And now Fox News has called Wisconsin for Obama, but – as they say – it’s the lead that matters. In their exit poll it finished 55% Barack, 43% Clinton. Double digit lead would be good for Barack. However, exit polls have consistently shown higher numbers for Barack during this election. Remember New Hampshire where Barack was given a 7-point lead in the Fox exit poll and didn’t actually win the state when the night was over.
02:25:20 – Democrat exit poll breakdown: Obama has cut further into Clinton’s core support groups. Clinton won 51% to 48% amongst women but lost 2:1 amongst men. Clinton won 59% to 39% amongst seniors while Obama did well as usual amongst high earners and the youth vote. More interestingly Obama actually won amongst low-income voters, usually a key Clinton demographic (53% to 46%). In more bad news for Hillary, Obama also won as "most qualified to be commander in chief" 50% to 48%. This is pretty surprising given that this has been the backbone of Hillary’s message since she begun – she is meant to be the experienced candidate. Some Obama rhetorical magic is expected soon. No word on why some of those numbers are different from the exit poll numbers Fox News gave about 30 minutes ago.
02:31:28 – Clinton’s coming out to speak in Youngstown, Ohio. She has her new slogan on her podium "solutions for America" but no change in her recent rhetoric; you should vote for who should be the best president apparently. Clinton goes on to clarify who that is – I’ll give you a clue; she means her, not Barack – someone who relies "not just on words, but on work." "The best words in the world aren’t enough unless you match them with action." The message here is everything is a-ok. Hillary picks up on the recent story that she lent her campaign $5m and says that she’s been receiving plenty of money. The credibility of this is slightly weakened by her subsequent plug to go to her website and donate.
She’s said "commander in chief" twice already but as we’ve just seen she was not ahead on this issue today. Nevertheless she plugs away listing her foreign policy experience and declares she is ready to end "this era of cowboy democracy."
02:38:19 – Obama has come out to speak to, this time in Houston. Fox News cuts through Hillary to pick up Barack’s speech. This is slightly unusual – normally candidates wait for the other to finish speaking – however Hillary failed to reference the days events and was just delivering her standard speech.
02:39:36 – And Barack is in a packed arena – there must be at least 20,000 screaming supporters in there. It’s opening line time and he’s gone for the classic: "Houston, I think we’ve achieved lift-off here." With 8% reporting Barack leads 55% to 44%. Interestingly, the networks continue to cover Barack despite the fact he’s just going through the thanks as he seeks to remind Texans that he is patriotic and religious. Obama mentions early voting in Texas, "I want you to go ahead and start voting tomorrow." Clearly he’s keen to turn his momentum from this evening in to hard numbers. At the same time however he doesn’t want to lose his advantage in caucuses so he asks supporters to go along to those as well and persuade others. The speech proper hasn’t started yet but already there’s a "Yes, we can" chant.
02:44:52 – "The change we seek is still months and miles away." Obama talks about the election in November, but is keen not to appear presumptive: "if we’re blessed and honoured to win the nomination" – no superstitions there then.
Following Clinton’s attack on Obama’s rhetoric this week the Illinois senator turns to offer his retort. He admits that "it’s going to require more than big rallies" and "rousing speeches" to be an effective president, but adds that it needs more than "policy papers, and positions, and websites [too]." "The problem is not the lack of good ideas, but that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die." And here’s his argument – that his ability to "The problem is we haven’t had leaders who can inspire the American people to rally behind common purposes".
Obama is wearing a bracelet given to him by the mother of an American casualty in Iraq – definitely wouldn’t get that in Britain. Obama explains why he’s running, deftly hitting out at Hillary – "I don’t feel it’s owed to me" – and the mentions of the primary school essay where he wrote that he wanted to be president. He declares that he’s running because of, what Martin Luther King terms, "the fierce urgency of now. There is such a time as too late."
03:01:17 – Still with the Barack speech on Fox News. With 22% of the votes in the gap is widening for Obama – 56% to 43%.
03:08:05 – The speech continues as Obama goes through all the big policies, and some not so big ones, in a fair bit of detail. The networks appear to be showing his standard stump speech. Now Obama mentions being "commander in chief" (see below) and goes on to assert that he has the strength to make the necessary decisions: "I will not hesitate to strike against those who would do us harm." However, he adds that caution is required.
Even homeless veterans are getting into this speech: it would seem that Hillary’s attack on his rhetoric has touched a sore point and he’s packing this one with policy and positions.
03:13:10 – It’s been a feature of commentators in describing Barack’s charisma to mention his similarities to JFK and now he mentions him by name. Here it’s in reference to Barack’s policy that he will meet with enemy leaders; as JFK said "[the president] should never fear to negotiate."
03:15:35 –No change in the Wisconsin numbers with 32% reporting (56% to 43%). Still no word from Hawaii which Obama is expected to win. Obama now turns to claim his inspiration will turn to disappointment. His answer: " the only way we can bring about change in America is if we can bring new people into the process." "I want to form a working majority for change," he adds.
03:17:57 – Barack finally starts to wrap up a 40-minute speech with a mention of the audacity of hope. Now available from all good bookstores.
03:25:27 – Some quotes as Barack ends what is now a 45-minute speech. "Hope is not blind optimism…I know how difficult it will be." "We’re willing to reach for what we know in our gut is possible…It will not be easy, but at some point in our lives we all have to decide…to join together…and go about the difficult, but noble, task of remaking this nation."
"Houston, this is our moment. This is our time. And if you are willing to vote for me, if you are willing to stand with me, if you are willing to causus for me, then I truly believe we will not just win Texas, we will win this nomination, we will win this general election. You and I together will change this country and change this world."
03:27:31 – We’re back with the pundits on Fox News who don’t know what to make of the length of that speech. Barack seems to have decided to deliver almost his entire stump speech as his victory speech and, more surprisingly, the networks were willing to cover it.
03:28:29 – Well, it’s 3.30am and it&
39;s time to wrap up here. With 48% of the vote in Obama is ahead with 56% of the vote to Hillary’s 43%. Obama is now the clear frontrunner but Hillary is not quite out of it yet. Should this 13-point lead hold (or even double digits) the senator from Illinois has won big this evening and Hillary is going to need more and more delegates from Ohio and Texas.
Meanwhile, the speeches have given McCain, Clinton and Obama a chance to address recent criticism and begin to challenge each other, setting the possible narratives for the general election. Obama criticised McCain for holding the views of the past while both Clinton and McCain accused him of empty rhetoric.
I’ll be back on March 4th with a liveblog for the crucial Texas and Ohio primaries. For now though, goodnight.
Click refresh for the latest update and go here to avoid returning to the Cherwell homepage each time