US presidential elections are the blockbuster events of democracy; to anyone with at least a passing interest in modern politics they are the highest level of the sport. The hyperbole, the round-the-clock coverage, and the intense hype all make the presidential race the cup final of the political world.
Thousands of miles away from Ohio or Florida in the student union of the University of Edinburgh, hundreds of students gathered to watch the night's election coverage - which started in UK time, in the early evening and continued until the witching hours.
Whilst there were a good amount of international students from the States who had been able to cast their ballots by postal vote there, the majority of those camped out in the student union bar had just come along for the ride. And it is a ride; the student union's bar staff served Obamaburgers and Romneyburgers with discounted Budweiser and projected CNN's election night programme onto a big screen to seem as 'American' as possible. With stars and stripes draped about the oak-panelled walls of Teviot - the UK's oldest student union building - it seemed more like one of those synthetic Irish pubs found in Benidorm or Malia than an authentic American experience, but nobody seemed to mind.
Inside the student union, the queue for the bar was four deep and chairs were going like gold dust; with students filling three of Teviot's bars, it was probably the busiest the union has been for months. Waiting between results and exit polls, some played poker for small change on their knees whilst others attempted to catch up on coursework, where they could find a surface. Whenever a state fell to Obama, huge cheers went up from the crowd - and when Romney took a state there were disappointed sighs. The mood was closer to a big football match than an election night.
Speaking to several students who turned up for the election night I found that most were not interested in the election because of the issues themselves, rather it was about the drama and the suspense of the event. A few mentioned the potential economic or political shockwaves that could result from the election's result - though as many were ready to deny the importance of the election to Europeans.
A couple of those I spoke to said that the election might affect the deployment of British troops in Afghanistan - one told me that, 'this election might be the difference between someone we know having to go out on another combat tour in Helmand' - but overall, the audience were there for the spectacle.
It's not hard to see why that in itself is a popular motivation. In comparison, British general elections are shorter, more civil matters with a fraction of the campaign spending on political advertising and with a far more balanced media environment than that found in the US. Even with the advent of televised leadership debates at the last general election British politics is still a monochrome affair compared to the supersized race across the Atlantic.
Whatever your reaction to the result of the 2012 presidential election, it is hard to deny its magnetic capacity to make you care about the outcome.
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