So who's staying up tonight to watch the American election results – a real feast for politicos and insomniacs!

It might all be obvious when the first states close their polls in our early hours, though most seem firmly in the Barack Obama camp.

We'll have to wait rather longer for the big "battleground" states west of the Appalachians, and if it's close, who knows how long before the final results from some of these places?

One thing is certain – either Obama wins comfortably or the opinion pollers will have more egg on their faces than for many a year.

It's always fun to debate and decide who we'd support if we had a vote in foreign elections.

The US President is without any doubt the one in which the most people round the world have a view, often a strong one.

This one is easier than most.

The "American hegemony" following the collapse of the Soviet Union may now be fading but who goes to live in the White House in Washington still affects in a big way everyone who lives in East Lancashire, or anywhere else on the planet.

As I write, in the early hours of yesterday, this newspaper's online poll has Obama on 86 per cent and John McCain on a dismal 14 per cent. I confess to being in the majority!

I do think Obama is going to win, and I do think it will give the USA a real chance to mend its fences with so much of the rest of the world – and the rest of the world with the USA.

I do think that a black President will have a dramatic effect in the country itself, a major step forward in the long process of healing the wounds that slavery has passed down the generations.

And, of course, by any standards Obama is a much better candidate: he's got better policies, and he has the makings of an outstanding President.

But I fear that expectations may be too high and that in this era of instant cynical judgements – and the major crises facing America and the world – they won't be easy to match.

But these are, I hope and trust, ground-breaking times, and I for one will be staying up to watch.