Mehdi's Morning Memo: D-Day For Barack And Mitt

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Is an Obama victory a threat to Judeo-Christian values? Who is David Cameron backing in the race for the White House? Which Tory MP is set to appear on a reality TV show? And why aren't we all in this together?

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 6 November 2012...

D-DAY FOR BARACK AND MITT

Millions of people across the United States are voting today to elect their president - but the election itself could end up being decided by less than one half of one percent of the US electorate in a handful of swing states such as Ohio and Florida. God bless the US electoral college, and the first-past-the-post voting system, eh?

"Battle until the bitter end," says the Guardian splash, which describes "the knife-edge race" as one of the "nastiest, most polarised and most expensive presidential elections in the country's history".

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney haven't stopped campaigning. "[I]f you’re willing to work with me again, and knock on some doors with me, make some phone calls for me, turn out for me...," urged a tired and hoarse Obama yesterday, in Wisconsin, flanked by legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen. Romney, meanwhile, has headed for - where else? - Ohio.

Democats see turnout as critical; a lower turnout will help Romney and the Republicans. Meanwhile, as the Times reports, "from the mountains of Colorado to the southern swamps of Florida, thousands of lawyers have fanned out in anticipation of a photo-finish finale in any of the handful of battleground states that will decide the outcome." Are we looking at a repeat of 2000 and the Florida 'hanging chads' debacle?

Perhaps not - Obama has a lead in most national and state-wide polls; the New York Times' polling expert Nate Silver says the president has a 92% chance of winning re-election today. (If Silver's wrong, expect the right-wing media echo chamber to go after him with a vengeance tomorrow morning...)

Oh, and if you're struggling to understand how the whole damn system works, my colleague Ned Simons has penned this useful guide to the US presidential election.

Meanwhile, looking at the UK papers, the Guardian and Independent are firmly in the Obama camp, while the Telegraph and the Mail don't seem to be taking sides. The Murdoch-owned Sun, however, goes with the headline: "Go Bama", noting a YouGov poll of 36,000 Americans in 27 key states which puts the president two percentage points ahead of his Republican rival.

2) TORIES FOR ROMNEY?

Talking of taking sides, which candidate has the backing of British Conservatives? The FT says: "[P]rivately the Cameron administration hopes for a second term for Barack Obama." The paper notes how the PM "has recently struck up a personal relationship" with the US president, who is considered to be a "known quantity" by Downing Street officials.

Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, reveals:

"It’s remarkable how many senior Tories are privately hoping that Barack Obama will win. Brooks Newmark, the Harvard-educated Conservative MP, who attended the Republican Convention earlier this year, says: “I’m one of the only Tories rooting for Mitt Romney; it’s almost like we’re a secret society. The general sense in the tea room is that the majority of my colleagues would prefer Obama. They feel more comfortable with him.”

Yesterday, Tory cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith lambasted the British media for demonising Mitt Romney. Perhaps he should have a word with some of his parliamentary colleagues...

3) HOLY WAR?

From the HuffPost's Amanda Terkel:

"Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) used some of the precious remaining hours of the 2012 campaign to reach out to social conservative voters in a town hall-style call on Sunday night, warning that 'Judeo-Christian' values were at risk if President Barack Obama is reelected.

'This is a huge election,' said Ryan. 'Please know that Mitt Romney and I understand the stakes. We understand the stakes of where this country is headed. We understand the stakes of our fundamental freedoms being on the line, like religious freedom -- such as how they're being compromised in Obamacare.'


... Ryan added that Obama's vision was 'a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values -- those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us a great and exceptional nation in the first place.'"

What can I say? Desperate, depressing and disgusting stuff from the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the final hours of this very "nasty" race...

4) PEERING OVER THE 'FISCAL CLIFF'

Whether it's Romney or Obama, the new US president faces a single, scary challenge. From the FT:

"Some of the largest US asset managers and pension funds issued an urgent warning over the country's looming budget crisis, underlining concern in the markets of a damaging political stand-off in the event of a narrow election victory for Barack Obama.


Even as Mr Obama and Mitt Romney made their last pitches to voters ahead of today's election, the investors called on Congress to do a deal to avert the 'fiscal cliff', 600bn in spending cuts and tax rises set to take effect on January 1 if changes to the law are not agreed. Such fiscal austerity could push the economy into recession next year, the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve have warned.


'America is facing an urgent crisis, barely discussed during the fall's election campaign,' said the group of investors led by BlackRock and joined by pension systems from Florida, Utah, Texas and Illinois, in advertisements in leading US newspapers yesterday."

"Barely discussed"? That's an understatement.

5) US ELECTION BY NUMBERS

Via yesterday's Independent:

270 Electoral-college votes needed for victory

95 The number of electoral college votes at stake in the key swing states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada

1956 The last time Ohio backed the loser in a presidential election. The state has seen more visits from the candidates than any other during this campaign

$852.9m
Obama's total campaign spending, from a total fundraising pot of $1.076bn

$752.3m Romney's total campaign spending, from a total fundraising pot of $1.125bn

100m Expected number of votes that will be cast in the 2012 election

26m Number of people who have cast their votes early, including 3.5m in Florida and 1.6m in Ohio.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this spoof video of David Cameron and co star in 'Subtorynean Homesick Blues'.

6) INQUIRIES INTO THE INQUIRIES

On the domestic front, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Independent split their front pages between the US election race and the so-called 'Tory child sex abuse' controversy - "Abuse claim against top Tory 'truly dreadful,'" says the Telegraph headline, quoting the prime minister.

The Independent reports:

"Claims that a former Tory politician was part of a paedophile ring in the 1970s are to be investigated by two major inquiries. David Cameron announced that an 'independent figure' would scrutinise the original inquiry into abuse in Wales. A second inquiry will focus on the police's role."

The Guardian notes how "ministers feel they must be seen to be taking the allegations seriously, especially since the government has condemned the BBC for failing to be alert to allegations of child abuse by Jimmy Savile."

It also mentions an "extraordinary letter" from Labour MP Tom Watson - who first raised the issue in PMQs - to David Cameron, in which Watson praises the PM for his decision but adds: "Since sharing my concerns with you at PMQs, a number of people have come forward to say that they raised their suspicions with the police, but investigations were not carried out. One allegation involves alleged child abuse and a former cabinet minister."

This story, as they say, will run and run...

7) TOUGH ON BABIES, TOUGH ON THE CAUSES OF BABIES

Iain Duncan Smith's one-man war on big, benefit-claiming families continues this morning. Where else, but on the front page of the Daily Mail?

"Families could have child benefit limited to only two children under radical plans.

... Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has already suggested that the families of the unemployed could have their child benefits and child tax credits limited if they have more than two children.

But the latest idea goes further. It would mean child benefit could be paid to all households, whether in work or not, for only the first two children."

The fact that it'll apply to working, and not just workless, households means the move might not be as popular with the great British public as some of IDS' other benefit cuts.

8) WHY WE'RE NOT ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, EPISODE 144

From the Telegraph:

"Directors of Britain's top 100 companies have seen their average earnings soar by 27pc over the past year despite a near freeze in salaries and bonuses, new research shows.


They have benefited from a substantial increase in the value of long–term, sharelinked incentive plans that have more than offset the squeeze on basic pay packets and are now a more important part of their total remuneration package.

... The result was that the total median earnings of 100 chief executives worked out at £3.2m while the average was £4m."

9) GREENEST GOVERNMENT EVER?

According to the Guardian:

"David Cameron is poised to defend the green economy after a group of more than 20 Conservative MPs expressed their concern on the issue in a letter to Downing Street."

Perhaps, however, the PM should have a word with his chancellor first...

10) "SHE'S AN MP... GET HER OUT OF THERE"

That's the rather amusing headline in this morning's Sun. The paper reports:

"Feisty Tory Nadine Dorries is about to upset David Cameron AND her constituents — by going on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here.

The £65,738-a-year MP, who dubbed the PM and Chancellor George Osborne "arrogant posh boys", will spend the best part of a MONTH in the Aussie jungle.

... Sources say the Mid Bedfordshire MP will be paid "a maximum of £40,000".

She will be the first serving MP on the ITV1 show, which starts on Sunday.

... She also faces a carpeting from Tory Chief Whip Sir George Young as she didn't ask permission for the trip."

Will this be a step too far for Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Young? Will they now remove the whip from the MP who's been dubbed 'Mad Nad' by her critics?

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 44%
Conservatives 35%
Lib Dems 8%

This would give Labour a majority of 102.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@BarackObama “Iowa, tomorrow let’s remind the world just why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.” —President Obama

@ShippersUnbound If Obama had turned up at first debate with the mojo he has at his last ever campaign rally in Iowa this would have been over a month ago

@davidschneider Human rights compromise. I'm fine with Cameron selling tanks to Saudi Arabia as long as he insists they have women drivers.

900 WORDS OR MORE

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, says: "Obama and Romney remain silent on climate change, the biggest issue of all."

Hugo Rifkind, writing in the Times, says: "Saudi Arabia is still such an oppressive country that Cameron’s arms-dealing trip ought to make him feel queasy."

Tim Stanley, writing in the Telegraph, says: "As if the economy weren’t problem enough, America’s broken and hostile political system will seriously impede the actions of whoever is elected president."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol