The Times of Israel live-blogged US election day and night, from voting, to polls closing, to exit polls, projections, results, victory, concession and congratulations. Read how the dramatic night unfolded, complete with a bizarre mini-row over Ohio, a dignified departure by Romney, and the sounds of Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen bracketing the president’s impassioned victory address.

PREAMBLE: “It all comes down to you,” President Obama said yesterday. “It’s out of my hands now. It’s in yours.”

Indeed it is. Americans have today been making their choice of president, and the results will start to come through soon, as polling stations close and exit polls are published.

Everybody worldwide, not just Americans, it can be argued, has a stake in this election. Israelis certainly feel they do. Facing numerous challenges in a notably unstable region, Israel’s relationship with the United States seems particularly critical right now.

Had Israelis voted, a poll last week asserted, it would have been overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney. A poll released last Thursday found that 45% of Israelis would hypothetically choose Romney, while 29% would choose Obama, and 26% don’t have a preference or don’t care.

Why’s that? A variety of factors may be at play. One that’s often underestimated: Israelis’ gut sense of who empathizes with them more. It’s not a partisan thing. Israelis loved Bill Clinton, and felt George W. Bush understood them pretty well too. They didn’t get that sense from George Bush senior, and may not feel it from Obama — even though he got the rock star treatment when he visited here as a candidate in 2008.

Americans in Israel who actually did vote — by absentee ballot — also plumped strongly for Romney, at least according to the findings of another poll last week. Democrats argued that the survey was skewed, and our article here examines that controversy in depth.

To judge by last month’s final foreign policy presidential debate, Israel was a core foreign policy issue, with both candidates insistently talking up their pro-Israel credentials. For Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, however, “Being fought over by our would-be best friends for the immediate presumed benefit of undecided voters in key swing states” was of no great comfort. “If I were an Iranian leader watching Monday’s debate,” Horovitz wrote, “I would draw the happy conclusion that both these men know the American public is deeply resistant to a resort to force in its name, in anything but the most desperate circumstances.”

In the course of that debate, attacked by Romney for not visiting Israel as president, Obama noted nastily that he’d used his visit as a candidate to go to rocket-battered Sderot and to Yad Vashem rather than for a fundraiser. Romney curiously held his silence, choosing not to mention that he’d toured both on previous visits, as we detailed here.

In more recent days, we’ve written a fair amount about the efforts made to win over the Jewish vote. As we noted in a piece well worth reading from Monday, “Candidates have spent more heavily than ever on outreach to Jews, but it probably hasn’t made much of a difference.”

Also worth a read as the evening develops, this piece on the eleventh-hour effort to get those Jewish voters out to the polls. Did it work? Will it make a difference? We shall see very soon.

So here we go, and sorry to start with an anti-climactic opener, but the BBC is already essentially telling us that, er, actually, it’s over. With 90% of the opinion polls showing Obama heading for victory, their World Service special election broadcast presenter has just remarked, if the president doesn’t win the election, there’ll have to be “a major review of the whole polling industry.”

BBC World Service logo

Well, the next few hours will determine how astute that assessment is.

Benjamin Netanyahu is presumably one leader who’s hoping the polls are wrong. Channel 2′s Udi Segal told us on the evening news tonight that the prime minister is hoping his conservative US adviser Arthur Finkelstein, who is reportedly assuring the PM that the polls are wrong, is smarter than all 90% of those other experts and statisticians.

Former PM Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, said Segal, is hoping fervently for an Obama success, and might reenter Israeli politics for the January elections if the White House stays Democratic.

It’s not all about the presidency tonight, lest we forget.

As AP reminds us, voters are also choosing a new Congress — Democrats defending their majority in the Senate, and Republicans in the House. Eleven states picked governors, and measures ranging from gay marriage to gambling dotted ballots.

There were 33 Senate seats on the ballot, 23 of them defended by Democrats and the rest by Republicans.

The GOP needed a gain of three for a majority if Romney won, and four if Obama was re-elected. Neither Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada nor GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was on the ballot, but each had high stakes in the outcome.

All 435 House seats were on the ballot, including five where one lawmaker ran against another as a result of once-a-decade redistricting to take population shifts into account. Democrats needed to pick up 25 seats to gain the majority they lost two years ago.

Israel is sitting this one out — or rather, most of Israel is.

While the two US political parties have unabashedly dragged Israel into the presidential race, most but not all of Israeli officialdom and leaders have been careful to avoid stepping into the election minefield.

Netanyahu raised the Iran issue – and the ire of Democrats – during the US presidential campaign, but was careful in his UN speech and at other  recent opportunities to praise Obama. And he seems to have backed off his criticism in recent weeks, reportedly because he reached some sort of modus vivendi with the Obama White House related to his concerns about Iran’s nuclear enrichment efforts.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, has been unabashed in his praise for Obama’s upgrading of US military cooperation with Israel – something Democrats keep reminding American Jews.

But not all Israeli politicians are taking the responsible path, perhaps because their own political future does not rest in responsibly handling Israel’s relationship with its largest and most important ally.

Danny Danon, left, attends a Knesset debate. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We do not interfere [in the US elections],” Likud firebrand Danny Danon told the right-wing Arutz Sheva this evening (Israel-time), and then continued: “Now we can say that President Obama was not good for Israel. We should not be hypocrites and say that everyone is good. Obama greatly supported Islam and he will pay a very heavy price; he lost sympathy in the Jewish street and in Israel, and also many Christians are disappointed in him.”

Efraim Halevy (photo credit: Flash90)

Danon is following former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, who also unabashedly waded into the US election in Israel’s name, slamming Romney’s policies on Iran (and using his gravitas as a former Mossad chief.) He told Al Monitor (http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/israelsecurityiran.html#ixzz2BTnoLfbm) last month that, “Making foreign policy on Iran a serious issue in the US elections — what Romney has done, in itself — is a heavy blow to the ultimate interests of the United States and Israel.”

Halevy added in a New York Times oped in October (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/opinion/who-threw-israel-under-the-bus.html?gwh=385C742992EC06AB16A1823111A8C744) that recent Republican presidents have been worse for Israel than Democratic ones.

Even before the polls close, it turns out, the parties are already arguing over how to count the votes cast by American Jews.

The Republicans are set to publicize exit polls by pollster Arthur Finkelstein on Wednesday at 2 pm Eastern. A J Street conference call for its own commissioned exit poll will only take place at 8:30 pm Eastern on Thursday. All surveys were being taken Tuesday evening, after the polls closed.

But Democrats were already hitting away at the Republican poll’s methods Tuesday afternoon, sending around news articles from 2006 and 2010 that criticize RJC polling methods. The argument, as we report here, has to do with how one counts the Jewish community.

The elections are over. The younger man has won by a landslide.

Relax.

Elections for Israel’s somewhat revitalized right-wing and religious Jewish Home party, that is.

Naftali Bennett, running for leader of the Jewish Home party, votes in the primary elections, in Ranana on November 6, 2012. (photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)

Relative newcomer Naftali Bennett defeated veteran MK Zevulun Orlev in a leadership battle whose result has just been released, winning an estimated 70 percent of the votes.

The party has three seats in the outgoing Knesset.

Orlev, a 67-year-old who headed the party in the past, was regarded by many as the face of the party, once the National Religious Party, as it has been known for decades. Bennett, a 40-year-old hi-tech entrepreneur who headed Netanyahu’s office when he was opposition leader in the 1990s, was seen as a newcomer who could shake things up.

Next week, the 54,000 party members head to the polls again to select the party list for the January 2013 national elections.

Israeli talking heads are busily asserting that, whoever wins the presidency, US policy on Iran won’t change.

Won’t Obama open direct talks with Tehran tomorrow morning, while Romney wouldn’t dream of it, an election panel is asked on Channel 2?

Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s longtime right-hand man, says “I promise you” there’ll be no differences under a president Romney, no matter how tough he has sounded in the run-up to the elections.

Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom assures viewers “there’s no argument over Iran” between Israel and the US anyway. Both allies see the threat in exactly the same way, he insists. Long pause. “There is a difference over the timing…”

Israel’s concerns about Iran, and its difficulties in coordinating with America on how to stop the Islamist regime, came to a head last night in a remarkable TV documentary, “Uvda” (Fact), on Channel 2.

In the show, Netanyahu vowed to put a stop to Iran’s nuclear program by whatever means necessary — even in outright defiance of American objections — if neither sanctions, nor other international action, achieves that goal.

When it was put to him that the US has opposed a unilateral Israeli resort to force, Netanyahu said Obama had stated that Israel has the right to defend itself as it sees fit, and that Israel dare not entrust its future to others, even to the United States. Israel’s prime ministers had ignored US disapproval in establishing the country in 1948 and preempting the Arab attack in the 1967 war, Netanyahu noted.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert arrives to the District Court in Jerusalem, September, 2012 (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)

A major theme of the hour-long program featured withering criticism by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is considering making a political comeback ahead of January’s general elections, of the handling of the Iranian threat by Netanyahu and Barak. Olmert also blasted Netanyahu for damaging Israeli ties with the Obama administration.

Lambasting Netanyahu’s evident readiness to strike at Iran if all else fails, even in defiance of the United States, Olmert asked mockingly which planes, bombs and special technologies Israel would use — underlining the centrality of American military hardware to Israel’s military capacity. Without naming names, he wondered who Netanyahu would turn to “if something is missing” from the range of equipment needed for an attack or the re-supply needed to sustain one. “Would it be to the people in whose faces we’re spitting,” he wondered, “those who we’re trying to prevent being president of the United States?”

Olmert was reviving allegations that Netanyahu has sought to undermine the Obama presidency and encourage Romney.

Responding directly to Olmert’s comments, Netanyahu said such an approach could require Israel, unacceptably, to subcontract its destiny to others. “We’re supposed to say there’s nothing we can do?” he asked rhetorically, rejecting the notion. “If our backs are to the wall, we’ll do what’s necessary,” he said.

More on the program in our report here.

It’s the economy, again, stupid: Preliminary results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press show that the presidential election hinges once again on the economy.

The survey of voters as they leave polling places shows 6 in 10 voters say the economy is the top issue facing the nation, with unemployment and rising prices hitting voters hard.

About 4 in 10 say they think the nation’s economy is on the mend, but more say that things are getting worse or are bad and stagnating.

That sounds bad for Obama? Maybe.

But then about half of voters say the previous president, George W. Bush, shoulders more of the blame for economic challenges than Obama.

Just a quarter of those surveyed in the exit poll say they are better off than four years ago.

Some Election Day 2012 nuggets from AP:

PAUSING FOR HOOPS

President Barack Obama has paused his Election Day schedule for a moment for something he loves — basketball.

The president’s motorcade made a 10 minute drive to Attack Athletics, a sports complex, to play hoops with friends and staff. Dozens of people lining the streets waved and cheered as Obama made his way to the complex.

Among those playing alongside the president: Mike Ramos, a childhood friend from Hawaii, and Marty Nesbitt, a friend from Chicago.

QUICKQUOTE: SEEKING GOD’S HELP

“Dear God in heaven America vote Mitt Romney Paul Ryan Republican and save America.” — Classic rocker Ted Nugent on Twitter.

CHRISTIE’S PLAIN TALK

Count on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to put it plainly.

Some complaints and confusion arose after a last-minute provision in his state allowed people displaced by Superstorm Sandy to vote via email or fax.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s New Jersey office asked a judge to intervene in the email voting process in Essex County, saying about two dozen voters complained they had not received their ballots.

An election official in Hudson County said a backlog was created by voters requesting email ballots even though they weren’t forced from their homes by the storm.

Christie, as is his wont, put the matter in simple terms during his briefing Tuesday.

“If you haven’t been displaced by the storm, get off your butt and go vote,” Christie said. “I voted. There’s no reason anybody else shouldn’t vote. I’m pretty busy.”

‘GANGNAM STYLE,’ OBAMA STYLE?

Yes, those hard-hitting questions keep coming for the candidates, even on Election Day: President Barack Obama was asked by one interviewer Tuesday about the “Gangnam Style” dance craze.

During a radio spot with WZID-FM in New Hampshire, the commander-in-chief was pressed on whether he and first lady Michelle would do a rendition of the South Korean rapper PSY’s hit, which has hundreds of millions of views on YouTube.

“I just saw that video for the first time,” Obama replied. “I think I can do that move. But I’m not sure that the inauguration ball is the appropriate time to break that out.”

“Maybe,” he concluded, “do it privately for Michelle.”

THE SCENE IN HOBOKEN

Standing in front of a pile of junked refrigerators, a flood-destroyed car and a curbside mountain of waterlogged debris in front of his Hoboken home on Tuesday morning, Anthony Morrone didn’t even realize it was Election Day. Since immigrating to New Jersey in 1967, the 76-year-old retired mechanic had never missed a vote. Until today.

“No time, no time to vote, too much to do,” Morrone said, rattling off a list of things he needed to do after Superstorm Sandy ravaged his home last week, including mucking out the first floor, ripping out drywall, scooping Hudson River debris out of his driveway in a home a good quarter-mile from the river. “Too much going on,” he added.

At Hoboken’s city hall, an American flag was draped over the railing where a huge board covered with handwritten instructions on where to get ice, hot food or other types of assistance was flanked by a printed sign saying “vote here.” A steady stream of voters were climbing the steps, despite the FEMA and National Guard trucks that still form a ring around the building a week after the storm.

TASTE OF DEMOCRACY

It’s not at all scientific, but it is delicious: A Roseville, Minn., bakery is offering Obama and Romney cookies to test its customers’ preference in the presidential race.

Roseville Bakeryin Roseville, Minn. has been selling Obama and Romney cookies and tallying sales as part of a decidedly unscientific cookie poll. Roseville Bakery owner Amy Johnson says she's done her cookie poll in the past two elections, and it correctly predicted the winner both times. (AP Photo/Amy Forliti)

Roseville Bakery owner Amy Johnson says she’s done her cookie poll in the past two elections, and it correctly predicted the winner both times.

It boosts cookie sales, too. Customer Muriel Sharpe read about the cookie poll online and when she heard Obama was behind, she drove in Tuesday morning and snatched up two dozen Obama cookies.

She passed some out to other customers. Then she bought eight more.

Despite her efforts, Romney still held an 830-to-731 lead over Obama in cookie sales.

Johnson says the political cookies have sparked some heated discussion between customers and gotten her young staff more engaged in what’s going on.

AUTHOR’S ADVICE: VOTE

Judy Blume has been writing for young readers for decades, and she posted an election-day message to them on Facebook.

“I’m voting because voting is a privilege and I’ve never missed an election since I turned 21 and got the right to cast my vote. (Yes, you had to be 21 to vote then),” the author writes. “It makes me crazy when I hear young people say elections have nothing to do with them. I’ve got news for you if you think this election has nothing to do with your life. It has everything to do with your life.”

Blume says the issues most important to her this election are women’s rights, the environment, health care, foreign relations and “to have a say in who will be appointed to the Supreme Court.”

“I’m voting for the candidate I trust more,” she says.

We’ve just published a lovely piece on Jewish voters in South Florida.

Five Jewish women at the Bagel Tree cafe in Delray Beach said they firmly support President Obama's re-election. (Ben Harris/JTA)

As in past elections, the bulk of the Sunshine State’s more than 600,000 Jews are expected to support the Democrat, it notes. But Republicans have shelled out millions to peel off some of that support — mainly by impugning the president’s record on Israel — and on the eve of Election Day, they were brimming with confidence.

Bottom line though: On one topic, they all agree: They’re ready for this election to be over.

Is the Onion channeling a bit of Israel fatigue on the Left?

In the third presidential debate focused on foreign policy, no country came up more often than Israel. Republicans spent the campaign attacking Obama over his at-times tense relations with the Netanyahu government. In response, Democrats spared no effort and no expense talking up Obama’s apparently intense love affair with the Jewish state.

Could all that limelight already be backfiring on Israel? Could Democrats be getting a bit of “Israel fatigue?” The Onion is satire, but it gets its satirical resonance by highlighting real-life dissonance and channeling real emotions.

In its “Issue-By-Issue Candidate Guide” published last week (http://www.theonion.com/articles/the-onions-issuebyissue-candidate-guide,30184/?ref=auto), the Onion listed both candidates’ positions on many issues, including Israel.

Here’s how it described Obama’s position on Israel: ”Recognizes there are 41 actual US states that demand less of his attention than this obnoxious, self-important little puke of an ally.”

And Romney’s: ”Adamantly ‘pro-Heeb’ and lovingly refers to the nation as ‘his little Jew-Jew-Be.’

Obama, the Onion suggests, is tired of constantly having to come back to the issue, while Romney is so affectionate he’s insulting.

Food for thought.

The first poll closings:

In crucial battleground Virginia, NBC says it’s too close to call. Fox says the same. CNN puts it even.

Indiana to Romney. Kentucky: Romney. Vermont: Obama.

 

Virginia vote breakdown shows 52-45% male voters for Romney. Females:  52-47% for Obama.

Most important issue for Virginia voters, according to a breakdown on SKY News: Foreign policy 0%!!! Economy 57% for Romney. Health care 79% Obama.

Ohio too close to call, on CNN and NBC, though SKY gingerly puts Obama 3% ahead in exit poll — within the margin of error.

CNN gives West Virginia to Romney.

CNN telling us Florida, closing in about half an hour, is 50-50 — just a few hundred votes between the candidates.

Fox points out how critical the big cities are; last time, all of Ohio went Republican — except for the big cities, which gave Obama the entire state.

South Carolina for Romney.

North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio all too close to call means bad, bad news for Romney, says Channel 2′s Yonit Levy.

Still, in Virginia, notes the Guardian, “the exit polls shows Obama winning just 34% of the white vote. In 2008, he won 39%. If that sort of slippage continues throughout the swing states, then Obama’s margins will be dangerously thin.”

Two million-plus votes counted so far in Florida — 29 electoral college votes. The biggest of the swing states. Swinging back and forth.

Florida and New Hampshire — too close to call.

Rhode Island, Delaware (Biden’s home state), District of Columbia — all to Obama.

Pennsylvania too early, but Obama has a lead, says NBC.

New Jersey, Missouri — too early to call.

Exit poll for Florida: 50-49 Obama, says SKY — but too close to call.

17 states closed their polls at the top of the hour, Florida among them.

Some thoughts on how the result might affect US Jewish organizations: Many Jewish organizations see advocacy as a major part of their work. That’s as true on issues of food security and Medicare as it is about Israel, religious liberty or tax deductions for charitable contributions.

To advocate in Washington, Jewish groups often choose leaders who can connect well with the current leadership in Washington. It was no accident that Alan Solow, one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters in the Jewish community, was elected the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations shortly after Obama entered the White House.

J Street conference logo. (photo credit: Courtesy)

An Obama presidency would likely leave the Washington constellation of Jewish political advocacy where it is: J Street, though young, enjoying pride of place at the table. ZOA not so much.

But a Romney presidency could reshuffle that, as folks like Dan Senor become the key go-betweens connecting a Romney White House and the Jewish community.

Lots of projections coming through now. NBC summarizes, though, that “there’s nothing we know now that we didn’t know before” — that is, nothing that has definitively shattered the thrust of surveys inclining toward an Obama victory.

CBS gives Obama Maryland and Maine, Romney gets Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia.

“Things are looking pretty good for us,” says Democrat strategist Morris Reid on SKY.

At Romney HQ, says SKY, “they know it’s not going Mitt Romney’s way.” He’s not ahead in any of the key swing states where he needed to be ahead. The young voters have come out for Obama. The mood is subdued.

On genuine votes counted so far in the key swing states, SKY adds, if the counts continue as they’ve begun, it’s game over for Romney.

Meanwhile, updating our earlier story, the Republican Jewish Coalition has confirmed tonight that it will poll unaffiliated Jews alongside affiliated ones in its exit poll tonight, which should be released tomorrow at 2 pm Eastern to the press.

The fact that both Democrats and Republicans (or rather, J Street and the RJC) will be polling both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews should make their numbers comparable. It will be interesting to see if there are differences between the two tomorrow afternoon.

Until the Jewish-focused exit polls are out, we won’t be able to know much about the Jewish vote. The US Jewish population is so small (roughly 2% of the population) that general exit polls don’t have enough Jews in the sample to offer a statistically reliable indication of how Jews voted.

Florida after 56% of votes counted: Obama 3% ahead. In Ohio, with 20% counted, 58-40% to Obama. Romney said before he’d only written one speech, a victory speech. “Maybe he should write another one,” Israel’s Channel 2 presenter suggests. (Though he’s 52-47 ahead on the popular vote, with 5% counted.)

The samples are too small to mean much, but for what it’s worth: Florida Jews shift significantly toward Romney in exit polls, though Obama retains the traditional huge Democratic lead.

CNN exit polls in Florida show Jews making up 5% of the state’s electorate, and breaking 66% to 31% for Obama. It’s important to note that Jews probably make up a very small sample size in those exit polls, so the margin of error is likely very high. It’s still too early for Republicans to celebrate.

Rhode Island, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and Massachusetts for Obama. Alabama for Romney.

That single speech Romney comment, made on his plane: “I’ve just finished writing a victory speech… I’ve only written one speech at this point.”

NBC latest projections: 153-114 electoral votes overall for Romney over Obama so far.

New Mexico, Michigan, New York, New Jersey for Obama. Wisconsin, Obama ahead.

Running out of ballots in Wisconsin!

Colorado too close.

Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska (4 of 5 electoral votes) for Romney.

Arizona, Romney ahead. Minnesota and Pennsylvania, Obama ahead.

Steve Rabinowitz, a Democratic operative working on outreach to the Jewish community, says the results are “Pretty good” for Obama, “considering all the money the Republicans spent and that Obama is still trailing Romney by two points. Exits will be adjusted later to reflect actual overall results.”

Nationwide, polls suggest, Jews are going for Obama 68-31, showing a decline from 2008, but not an abandonment of their traditional Democratic home. As just 2% of the electorate, sample sizes are still small, and margins of error probably fairly big. We’ll know more as more Americans are polled.

In Florida, AP reports, hundreds of people remained in line waiting to cast ballots at some locations even as polls closed — at 7 p.m. in most of the state, 8 p.m. in the western Panhandle counties. Under state law, anyone already in line when the polls closed was permitted to vote.

Shortly before polls closed in Virginia, meanwhile, the Obama campaign sent out text messages saying that volunteers were needed “right now” to make sure that everyone who was still in line as polls closed got to vote.

More results from AP’s national exit poll:

– 52 percent of voters said Obama is more in touch with people like them, compared to 44 percent for Romney.

– About 4 in 10 voters said the U.S. economy was getting better, while 3 in 10 said it was getting worse, and 3 in 10 said it was the same.

– Just under 50 percent of voters favored repealing some or all of Obamacare. Forty-three percent preferred that the health care law be expanded or left as is.

– Only 3 in 10 voters said that most illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be deported, while nearly two-thirds said such people should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.

NBC gives Pennsylvania to Obama. “Romney’s pathways to 270 (electoral votes) are closing, and they’re closing fast,” says Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on NBC.

People still in long lines in several states where polls have closed, being told to wait in line.

More from Romney on his “victory speech” and other thoughts: “It’s about 1,118 words. I’m sure it’ll change before I’m finished because I haven’t passed it around to my family and friends and advisers to get their reaction. But I’ve only written one speech at this point.

“I feel like we put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end and I think that’s why we’ll be successful.”

“I think about my dad from time to time. And my mom. I sure wish they were around to be part of this,” he said. “I hope they’re able to watch in their own way.”

Steve Rabinowitz, mentioned earlier, is a Washington PR exec and former Clinton White House press aide who ran “a Jewish media hub in support of the president’s reelection.”

NBC gives Wisconsin to Obama. “Republicans thought they might have a real shot” there, it notes.

“This is no Yom Kippur for the pollsters,” says a commentator on Channel 2. “It’s Rosh Hashanah.”

With 81% of votes counted, it’s 50-50 in Florida — which Obama can live without, but Romney needs.

At Obama HQ in Chicago, Channel 2′s Yonit Levy suggests Obama’s victory speech is getting nearer.

Tzachi Hanegbi, would-be Likud MK, ex-Kadima, ex-ex-Likud, says the Palestinians “must be happy” at the growing prospect of Obama reelection.

Bill Nelson (courtesy)

The NJDC congratulates Bill Nelson on his reelection to Senate, calling him “a key ally to the Florida Jewish community and a close friend of NJDC throughout his tenure in the United States Senate. We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue working closely with him and wish him the best of luck.”

On omen for Ohio? Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, the Guardian notes, has won re-election to the Senate, as the polls forecast.

Channel 2 is deep into a debate now about what it will be like for Israel in a second term Obama presidency.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Teacher, clergyman, scholar, and possible congressman (photo credit: Courtesy)

Defeat looms for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who was fighting an uphill battle in New Jersey’s 9th congressional district on an Republican ticket. With about 45% of the votes counted, he’s got less than a third of the votes. Democrat Bill Pascrell, the incumbent, has 74%.

“This seems to be Obama’s night,” says Channel 2′s Udi Segal, though warning that “we need to be cautious.” Romney “would need to get California” to win now, chimes in another analyst. He’ll need all the rest of the swing states, echoes Aharon Barnea in Washington.

Utah and Montana for Romney, says NBC. CBS gives Romney Missouri. CNN gives New Hampshire to Obama.

Fox: Republicans will retain the House.

The Guardian: “For Mitt Romney to win the presidential election from this point, he has to win each of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado.”

Up pops Sarah Palin on Fox warning that Obama “doesn’t seem to have the desire” to unify the nation. How will the candidates be feeling right now? “You leave it all there on the ice… You do your best,” she says. “I just cannot believe though that the majority of Americans think incurring more debt” is the way to go. “It’s a perplexing time for many of us right now if things continue in this trend.”

Republican heavyweight Karl Rove is arguing on Fox that the projections giving Obama a lead in Ohio are wrong because they over rely on early voters, who were disproportionately Democratic.

As Tuesday votes are entering the count, the numbers are shifting Romney’s way, he claims. “We’ve got a long way to go.” Of course, he’d still need to win Virginia, Florida and “one of anything else.”

“Is this just math… or is this real,” the anchor asks him. “This is real,” Rove insists.

“I’d rather be us than them right now,” says ex-Obama chief of staff, now Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel… not on the same network. Earlier tonight, he was on Channel 2, assuring Israel that Israel has “no better friend” than President Obama.

Channel 2′s headline now: “Obama is on his way to victory.”

“The pollsters will get lots of compliments,” says the channel’s US correspondent Aharon Barnea. “It looks good for Barack Obama.”

“There’s a very high likelihood that Barack Obama will win,” says the usually ultra-cautious ex-Israeli ambassador to the US, Sallai Meridor, adding, “he’s a president who supports Israel.” If as noted earlier only 68% of Jews voted for Obama, he notes, that’s quite a fall.

Here is a completely unrepresentative sample of two Jewish Florida seniors who have spoken to the Times of Israel about their own vote. One voted for Romney today, the other for Obama.

Dr. Irwin Pasternak, 76, of Hallandale Beach, Florida, voted Romney “because he’s a good friend of Netanyahu. Obama didn’t like him at all.” Pasternak is no knee-jerk Republican, he adds. “I voted for Clinton twice.”

The Obama voter asked not to be named, but said she felt “Obama has a Jewish platform. He supports Israel. I believe all Americans should have healthcare. What Romney wants to do with social security is awful.”

For the challenger, “It looks like lost cause,” says Arad Nir, at Romney HQ.

“The feeling here is that it’s over,” reports Yonit Levy from Obama’s HQ in Chicago.

It looks like “David Axelrod does not have to shave off his mustache,” says NBC of the Obama strategist. Axelrod himself says he’s upbeat about Ohio and Virginia, and “very hopeful” about the outcome overall. Obama’s decision “to intervene to save the American auto industry… has been a key to the economic revival.”

Susan Rice is likely to be the next Secretary of State, Channel 2 suggests. Not sure how well that would go down with the Senate, says Meridor, unpersuaded.

Josh Mandel, the Ohio state treasurer, is the Republican candidate for United States Senate. (Citizens for Josh Mandel/JTA)

Josh Mandel, the 35-year-old Republican Jewish Ohio State Treasurer, has almost certainly lost his Senate bid to incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. An Iraq vet, Mandel has pushed divestment from Iran as an Ohio state representative. He is considered a rising star among Jewish Republicans.

With 63% of the vote counted, Brown leads Mandel by 50-45.

NJDC welcomed Brown’s victory Tuesday night, saying Brown “has been a staunch defender of America’s middle class and a true ally of the Jewish community on a variety of domestic issues, and when it comes to ensuring a strong and secure Israel as well. Despite an onslaught of outside funding from those determined to knock him off message, Senator Brown remained steadfast and true to his ideals — and true to the values that he shares with the vast majority of American Jews in Ohio and nationwide.”

CNN has given Iowa to Obama. Big, big blow to Romney.

Earlier, NBC gives California, Hawaii, Washington, to Obama.

North Carolina, Idaho and Montana, to Romney.

228 electoral votes to Obama, 176 to Romney, says CNN. SKY has it 244-203.

Comparing the Jewish vote now and four years ago is going to be interesting. If it is 68% for Obama this time, that would be a fall of about 6 percent. Ira Sheskin, the nonpartisan demographer, says it was around 74% last time.

Unlike Romney, Obama is said to have prepared two speeches. Unlike Romney, it looks increasingly likely, he will get to deliver the victory one.

Word is that Obama is somewhere near his pulsing, packed, delirious Chicago HQ. At Romney’s Boston HQ, by contrast, “you imagine there’s some rewriting of his speech going on now,” says the SKY reporter. “A pretty somber mood for the last hour,” he reports.

Alan Grayson, the Jewish former congressman from Florida who campaigned against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but has voted with Republicans on fiscal restraint measures, has won Florida’s 9th Congressional District House seat. A Democrat and Harvard-trained attorney, Grayson is a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in the telecommunications industry.

It’s Grayson’s second nonconsecutive term in the House. He served in 2008-10 as a representative from Florida’s 8th Congressional District. With 91% of the votes counted, Grayson won the district 61-38 against Republican Todd Long.

NBC projects that Obama has been reelected.

Channel 2: :”It’s over. Barack Obama wins another four years.”

Obama has sent a “thank you” tweet to his supporters.

Exit polls among Jewish voters now ticked up to 70-30 for Obama.

Ohio win put Obama over the top. Left Romney with no realistic path left to 270 electoral college votes. Romney’s 1% behind in the popular vote nationwide.

NBC shows cheering outside the White House.

Recriminations and wound-licking reported from Romney HQ. His dissing of 47% of the electorate was almost suicidal, says NBC, quoting folks there. That, and Hurricane Sandy.

Aaron Keyak, Democratic operative working on outreach to Jewish community: “Despite unprecedented Republican efforts and millions of dollars spent to win over the Jewish vote, Republicans performed within the margin of error of their 2008 performance when Obama got 74%. That’s not even to mention that their wasted money targeting Jewish voters helped usher in the second term for President Obama by having taken away much needed resources from other persuadable voters and swing states.”

NJDC Chair Marc R. Stanley and NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris issued the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s reelection: “On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s leadership and staff, we are thrilled that President Barack Obama has won reelection and will serve as President of the United States for four more years. In his first term, President Obama signed historic legislation into law, appointed outstanding Supreme Court justices and reflected Jewish values at every turn – all while being Israel’s most important friend and most persistent advocate in the world. We know that he will continue to build on his outstanding foreign and domestic record in his second term, and that he will continue moving our country forward.”

Obama thanks supporters on Twitter; ‘We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned’

Donald Trump: Election is “a shame and a travesty,” says NBC.

On Fox, Rove says call of Ohio for Obama is “premature”.

Romney campaign is not conceding Ohio either, NBC reports.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has tweeted congratulations to Obama.

NBC says Romney campaign “believes Ohio is not beyond its reach,” and so it’s not conceding.

NBC is sneering at “the talent” at Fox — Karl Rove — who is trying to get Fox to reverse its own call of Ohio for Obama. “They don’t believe it,” says the NBC anchor. “They’ve been told that the polls were skewed for weeks.”

Steve Rabinowitz, the Washington PR exec and former Clinton White House press aide, who ran a Jewish media hub in support of the President’s re-election: “We were out spent by Jewish Republicans by over $40 million dollars and they only have four points and another four years in exile to show for it. Some mazel.”

Romney currently has a lead of about 200,000 in the popular vote nationwide. NBC pollsters project Obama will have a 1 or 1.5% popular vote victory when all is said and done.

Rove seems to be inclining toward accepting the Ohio call now, having seen some more numbers. It was just “a polite intellectual discussion,” he says.

NBC is explaining how it called Ohio — because of levels of outstanding votes in the respective Republican and Democratic areas. “The evidence that we see in front of us” explains the call, it says.

Word from the Romney camp is that he might speak 15 minutes to an hour from now — speak, as in concede.

There’s no word yet of an phone call from Romney to Obama. Fox: “We do expect the phone call to happen… and shortly thereafter we’ll see him at the podium.”

Colorado goes to Obama. Even Fox now has Obama on 290 electoral college votes. There wasn’t one swing state so far that went to Romney, says a baffled-sounding anchor.

Romney “ran a classy campaign by and large,” responds a panelist. “But ultimately it didn’t provide enough of a contrast.”

The first (nonpolitical) Jewish response to the election figures is in.

William Daroff, the influential former Republican operative now working as the Jewish philanthropic world’s nonpartisan Washington lobbyist, hopes Washington can get back to business.

“If the likely scenario happens,” he says, referring to an apparent status-quo election, with Obama still in the White House, Democrats still controlling the Senate and Republicans holding on to the House, “the remarkable thing is that after spending hundreds of millions of dollars, it is likely that Washington will look exactly the same.”

Daroff, whose title is Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America, said there was at least one advantage to that outcome.

“The advantage will be that tomorrow all the players know where they stand, and we’ll be able to shift away from the election era that has paralyzed governing for the last many months and deal with the fiscal cliff.”

Obama has tweeted: “four more years”.

Nevada for Obama.

Pollster extraordinaire Nate Silver on that Ohio dispute: “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 11.50pm. But the vast bulk of precincts that have yet to report their results in Ohio are in counties that have gone for Mr. Obama.”

NBC is wondering from Romney HQ who, when, if, anyone is coming to give a concession speech.

Republican Michael Grimm, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus and a representative from New York’s 11th Congressional District that includes the flood-hit areas of Staten Island, was reelected by a large margin Tuesday night.

Grimm, a former US Marine and FBI agent, is not Jewish, but has held staunch pro-Israel views in Congress, including calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard.

Grimm is one of a very few members of Congress (together with returning Florida Congressman Allen West and defeated Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh) who do not support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Romney is now reported to be about to concede.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon says in an interview to Israel’s Channel 2 that he thinks Obama will be much more effective on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program because he already has people working on it. Ayalon said he anticipates Obama will do two things as he begins his second term: enter direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic and increase economic sanctions on the regime. “We are in favor of preventing a nuclear Iran. How we go about doing it is not as important,” he says.

CBS News’ reporting of exit polls curiously distinguishes between “Jews”  who favor Obama 70-30, and “white Jews” who seem to favor Obama slightly more, 71-29.

Does that suggest non-white Jews – are these Hispanics? Black  Hebrews? – favor Obama a bit less?

Obama is now 80,000 votes or so ahead in the popular vote.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Danny Danon (Likud), a very bitter Obama critic, on Wednesday sent congratulations to the president.

“It is my hope, and that of many Israelis, that the President resets his course relating to Israel and our region for the next four years,” he also said. “Rather than dictating ill-advised policies that endanger the well-being of America’s only true ally in the Middle East, now is the time for President Obama to return to the wise and time-honored policy of ‘zero daylight’ between our respective nations.

“This is especially true as it pertains to the existential threat posed to Israel and the West by the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Instead of wasting time and resources to impose housing zoning laws on Israel that can be described as nothing less than ‘racist,’ now is the time for our two nations to come together to combat the greatest threat to freedom in our time.

“I call on the President, who has already visited so many of our neighbors here in the Middle East, to finally visit Israel, thereby sending a strong and visible message to everyone about the deep and meaningful relationship between the US and Israel.”

Romney has called Obama to concede, and is set to make his concession speech shortly.

The Democrats say Jews stuck with Obama, despite Republican talk of a shift.

National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President and CEO David A. Harris issued the following statement in response to what they called this sweeping support for Obama among American Jews:

“We now know that the Jewish community today was once again solidly behind President Barack Obama, and that the only so-called ‘Jewish problem’ he has is that there aren’t more Jewish voters in America, given the overwhelming support for the President in our community. Indeed, statistically there is no difference between tonight’s results and the Jewish vote share for the President in 2008.”

“The powerful support given to the President today by American Jews shows that the more than $15 million campaign undertaken by Republicans to woo Jewish voters with negative advertising, scare tactics, and outright lies simply did not work. Since the New Deal, the Democratic Party has been the political home for the overwhelming majority of Jewish voters — and tonight’s data affirms that the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party is as strong as ever.”

The press release reads: “Tonight’s results run counter to the false claims made about the President’s strong Jewish support — claims made by Republican leaders like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), former Senator and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Ari Fleischer, former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, Emergency Committee for Israel Board member and former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer, and leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition, among many, many others. Click here to view a “greatest hits” roundup of dozens of false predictions of a nonexistent shift in the Jewish

vote in 2012.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gives his concession speech in Boston, Wednesday (screen capture: Channel 2 News)

Romney is on stage at his campaign HQ. “I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory… This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”

Romney calls Veep candidate Ryan “the best choice” he ever made apart from his wife Anne, “the love of my life… She would have been a wonderful First Lady.”

He praises his campaign team, and everyone who worked on the campaign nationwide. “Thanks for all the hours of work… you gave deeply from yourselves… you inspired us and you humbled us.”

“We can’t risk partisan bickering,” he says, speaking about reaching across the aisle, and about the importance of spiritual guidance from religious leaders including rabbis. We must “put the people before the politics,” he says.

“I believe in America. I believe in the people of America. And I ran for office because I’m concerned about America…

“Paul and I… have given our all to this campaign. I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction.” But the nation chose differently, says Romney, and he says he prays for the president’s success. He ends with a “God bless America.”

That was a dignified speech. He looked almost relieved. Certainly not humiliated or battered.

NBC praises him for declaring that “the election is over” and in so doing attempting to start a healing process. Fox calls the concession “gracious” and says Obama “has a difficult road ahead.”

Now we await Obama’s victory speech.

 

NBC projects Virginia for Obama, taking him to 303 electoral college votes.

Already the most popular tweet of all time, says Buzzfeed

Word is that Obama said Romney’s call was “very classy.”

As soon as he hung up on the Republican challenger, Obama immediately called former president Bill Clinton to thank him for his help. That’s sparking immediate speculation of whether Obama will back a Hillary presidential campaign next time.

In Channel 2, where they’ve been deep into a debate on how Obama is now going to treat Israel, a rare non-parochial voice declares, “I don’t think we understand quite how utterly irrelevant Israel is to Obama right now.”

Labor party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich congratulates Obama on his victory — doubtless a great relief for the president — and reminds viewers that he has maintained the “historic alliance… and there’s no doubt that it will continue.” She praises his policies on Iran, and then, asked if she envisages Obama seeking to influence Israel’s elections, says she “utterly rejects Israeli intervention in American election politics and American intervention in Israeli election politics.” And doesn’t think it’s going to happen.

In summary, “the deep friendship” between the two countries “will continue,” she says.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar adamantly rejects claims that the Obama victory spells bad news for Netanyahu. In an interview to Channel 2 news, Sa’ar says Netanyahu had “not bet on Romney as some have suggested, and the fact that the accusation is repeated over and over doesn’t make it true.”

Defense minister Ehud Barak has congratulated Obama on his reelection.

“I have no doubt that the Obama government will continue with its policy that is founded on Israel’s security and in its efforts to meet the challenges that the region presents to all of us, while striving for progress in the peace process,” Barak says. ” I believe the deep friendship with Washington will strengthen even if there are differences in position.”

In Wisconsin, Paul Ryan has been reelected to the House.

Voters in Maryland passed a law upholding same-sex marriage. Same looks to be true in Washington. Similar trend in Maine.

The Obama family takes the stage in a delirious Chicago, to strains of Stevie Wonder’s, “Signed, sealed, delivered I’m yours.”

Ecstatic applause. The president applauds the applauders. A thousand cameras flash. Flags wave. He waits. Smiles. “Four more years,” they chant. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” he says.

He then delivers a long, impassioned address, of which the following are snatches, as accurate as we could make it as we typed along. Forgive any errors:

“Tonight, 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward. It moves forward because of you… because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression…

“We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”

“In this election… you reminded us that while our road has been hard… we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back… and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.”

“I want to thank every American who participated in this election — whether you voted for the very first time or waited in lined for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that. Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone. Whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.”

He says he spoke to Romney and congratulated him n a hard-fought campaign. “We may have battled fiercely, but it is only because we love this country.”

He praised the Romney family legacy of public service, which “we honor and applaud tonight.”

He says he’ll sit with Romney in the weeks ahead, to discuss ways of working together to move the country forward.

He thanks America’s “happy warrior” Joe Biden, the best vice president anyone could ever hope for. And he says he “wouldn’t be the man I am today” were it not for Michelle. “Michelle, I’ve never loved you more. I’ve never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you too as our nation’s First Lady.” He says his daughters are growing up to be two strong, smart women just like your mother. But “one dog’s probably enough.”

He thanks the “best campaign team in the history of politics. The best. The best ever.” Tumultuous applause. “All of you are family, no matter what you do or where you go from here… You lifted me up the whole way, and I will always be grateful for everything you’ve done…”

Political campaigns can seem small, even silly — fodder for the cynics, he says. But out on the campaign trail, there’s a different reality, he says. He mentions the “deep patriotism of the military spouse.” Elections matter, he says. “It’s not small. It’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated… Each of us has deeply held beliefs… When we make big decisions as a country it necessarily stirs passions… That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t…

“We can never forget that as we speak” people in different lands are risking their lives for a chance to argue, and to speak their minds. “Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.” Good schooling. To be a global leader in innovation, with all the new jobs that follow. An America that isn’t burdened by debt, weakened by inequality, or “threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Americans want a country that is safe — defended “by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this world has ever known.” A country that moves beyond war to shape a peace based on dignity. A generous, compassionate, tolerant America.

We need to go forward to that vision, he says. “We will disagree about how to get there… Progress will come in fits and starts.”

He speaks of consensus and compromise, that begin in a “common bond.” The economy is recovering. “A decade of war is ending.”

“I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president… I return to the White House more determined than ever,” he says.

“You voted for action, not politics as usual.” He promises to work with the opposition. “We’ve got more work to do.”

The role of citizen “does not end with your vote,” he adds. Self-government is “the principle we were founded on.”

America is exceptional because of the bonds of shared destiny, obligations to one another — “responsibilities as well as rights” — love and duty and patriotism — that’s what makes America great.” Huge applause.

He speaks of soldiers who returned to service after losing a limb. He speaks of rebuilding in New Jersey “from the wreckage of a terrible storm.” He speaks of a family’s battle with their daughter’s leukemia.

He says he’s proud to lead America. “Despite all the hardship we’ve been through… I’ve never been more hopeful about our future… I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m, not talking about blind optimism… wishful idealism… Hope is that stubborn thing that insists… something better awaits us” if we keep reaching, working, fighting.

“We can build on the progress we’ve made,” he says. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white… rich or poor… gay or straight.. “you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try… We can seize this future together…

“We were made more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America,” he concludes. “We live in the greatest nation on earth…. God bless you. God bless these United States.”

That was a hugely passionate speech. Big and bold and strong on the imperative for consensus. Intended to transform and unify a divided nation.

The music wells up again. Springsteen, his rock star supporter this time. A song called “We take care of our own” — a cynical, bitter song that Obama plainly wants to reclaim. “We take care of our own / Wherever this flag’s flown.”

Netanyahu has congratulated Obama. This afternoon he will meet with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro. “The strategic alliance between Israel and the United States is stronger than ever,” Netanyahu says. “I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the vital security interests of Israeli citizens.”

A good place to end this night-long live blog. Thanks for sharing it with us.