The Press Run: Poynter’s election night liveblog
By James Warren • November 8, 2016
Welcome to The Press Run, where Poynter's Chief Media Writer, Jim Warren, will be liveblogging about Election Day coverage into the evening.
As coverage approached 1 a.m. this morning, the topic of “How Could So Many Have Been So Wrong” was increasingly broached.
It was all “stunning,” said CNN’s master election analyst John King. It was.
A celebratory air pervaded many analysts at Fox News as a Trump victory seemed distinctly probable.
“Donald Trump leading in Michigan, leading in Pennsylvania, leading in New Hampshire,” said Bret Baier, who who not among the giddy.
Karl Rove cited the work of the late University of Chicago historian Daniel Boorstin who, after the Kennedy-Nixon race in 1960, wrote a 1961 book called “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.”
It detailed how “the changing nature of the American media, which he thought was corroding a lot of the traditional sources of authority in our society, and weakening of party structures, meant we were less likely to nominate for office people who’d demonstrated statecraft..that they’ve been a successful governor or mayor or senator or congressman.”
“Instead,” said Rove, Boorstin predicted “we would pick people who are famous simply because they were famous. And we’ve done that….somebody who basically used the media on his behalf to disrupt the existing political structure and existing political system.”
Yes, said Rove, it took awhile for Boorstin’s idea to come off. But it has come off in a splendidly amazing fashion.”
Splendid? Well, amazing.
“Trump’s lead in Wisconsin is closing in on 100,000,” reports MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki.
He braces the notion of Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, losing the Electoral College — and thus, obviously, the presidency.
Rachel Maddow noted the healthy Gary Johnson vote. “it looks like, in Florida, that the third party margin more than accounts for the difference between these two candidates (Clinton and Trump).”
At this point, one couldn’t know. But the speculation of Clinton being undermined was very reasonable.
It’s 11:09 and “we’ve called North Carolina” for Trump, says CNN’s Jake Tapper. So much for Clinton campaign vote models that hinted at too-close-to-call tonight, he adds.
And what role did the two third-party candidates play today? It was a “wild card” that might have actually had real impact.
Amid the polling-analytical deluge, here’s Nate Silver himself:
“Repeating myself a bit, but Clinton is still the favorite to win the popular vote, according to the Upshot’s model, despite now having become a fairly clear Electoral College underdog. Our pre-election forecast had shown about an 11 percent chance of such a split in Trump’s favor.”
A Washington Post headline to cause dyspepsia at Clinton headquarters: “Trump shows strength in key states.”
“Danger sign” for Clinton in Milwaukee, says John King as he analyzes Obama votes four years ago versus what she’s collecting throughout Wisconsin.
“Did anyone a month ago say we were gong to be counting the votes in Wisconsin late into the night?”
“It is remarkable what we are seeing,” says CNN’s Jake Tapper, a Philadelphia native who notes that a strong pro-Clinton vote in his hometown is nowhere what might have been expected.
As he and Dana Bash opine, “Magic Wall” wizard John King, who has begun to quietly carry much of the CNN coverage, is poking here, poking there on his gizmo in the background, soaking up information and preparing for his next bit of analysis.
After a gentle set of queries from ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Donna Brazile is asked about the WikiLeaks disclosures that prompted CNN to show her the exit (she says it was voluntary) and leave no doubt of its chagrin.
She claims, “I’ve never had access to debate questions,” but ultimately ducks the question. She’s focused on a Hillary Clinton victory in her role as temporary boss of the Democratic National Committee.
CNN’s Brianna Keilar says that Hillary Clinton is at the Peninsula Hotel in New York, working on two very different speeches.
A minute later, Jake Tapper says “Donald Trump could have…the night he’s been dreaming of. This is a lot stronger night than a lot of Republican officials thought could happen.”
Virginia was supposed to be a goner for Trump. It’s not.
And if you could only have a buck for every time the noun “path” is being uttered all over the place. As is he now seems to have a “credible path” to a possible victory.
And, notes Tapper, a Trump victory would be a truly stunning repudiation of the entire polling industry.
“There have been zero total surprises on this map….nothing weird has happened yet,” says Chris Stirewalt, the digital politics editor at Fox.
Wait, wait, he cautions until perhaps around 11 p.m. Eastern to have a better sense of things.
“Bye-Bye Bayh” says Mother Jones about the big loss of former U.S. Senator and Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh.
Writes the Indianapolis Star: “8:33 p.m.: After a bruising campaign, U.S. Rep. Todd Young has defeated former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, dealing a blow to the Democrats’ chances of retaking control of the Senate.”
It then underscores the early reality when the campaign started: “Bayh, a popular former governor and U.S. senator, entered the race as a heavy favorite after his surprise decision to seek the seat this summer.”
It’s an ignominious result for a man who was once the pick of a lot of pretty smart political folks to be president.
“I don’t think issues matter,” says Frank Luntz, one of the few weak links on very solid CBS News coverage. Correctly, Peggy Noonan demurs.
No contest as far as John Dickerson often carrying the CBS analysis. He’s a level-headed adult. His performance reminds one of the arguable mistake in the presidential commission not picking him to be a debate moderator.
By evening’s end, TV viewers may have a better understanding of the demographics of Florida than the U.S. Census Bureau. Its importance prompts dissection by many, with some of the best from a Fox crew led by Karl Rove, a former resident of the “Redneck Riviera” from Panama City Beach to Pensacola.
And, of course, John King of CNN.
Amid the reflexive caution of everyone about Florida, the undercurrent of unease among some of the Fox crew is notable. The big wave of angry whites without college educations — said to be central to a Trump victory — doesn’t seem to be materializing in key Florida areas. At least not at the moment.
From the Facebook page of Elizabeth Law, a children’s book publisher:
“‘At the end of the day, we don’t know what’s going to happen until the voters actually vote.’ Wow, they payed a CNN commentator for that insightful tidbit.”
The news bulletins — from Politico, CNN, MSNBC, you name the organization, they were dispatching them in lightning fashion.
‘BREAKING,” heralded Politico, whose success has helped to alter political journalism. “Donald Trump has won Mississippi’s six Electoral College votes.”
But wait! Before you could hit their link, it hit you with this: “BREAKING: Hillary Clinton has won Washington D.C.’s three Electoral College votes.”
It’s not stopping, providing further evidence of the inexorable shift from traditional TV coverage. You can just start at your iPhone and do quite well tonight.
Forget that awful Mayweather-Pacquiao prize fight. There’s Matthews v. Giuliani, once again an alluring slugfest.
You’d think after one notorious Rudy Giuliani performance on “Hardball,” in which MSNBC’s Chris Matthews rhetorically eviscerated him, that the former mayor wouldn’t again show up there.
Yet there he was Tuesday night, from Trump headquarters, and again Matthews was unrelenting and disbelieving as Giuliani bashed Clinton and suggested she should have been indicted.
Matthews hammered him for suggesting she “looked sick.” He wondered, “Why do you say that sort of thing in a campaign?”
“Are you proud — you’re a smart guy, a smart politician. Are you proud of how loyal you’ve been to Trump? I think you’ve gone over the top.”
Giuliani didn’t budge, suggesting she and her husband have committed “a significant number of crimes.”
Check your TV listings for the next rematch.
The new coverage: BuzzFeed’s live feed, a potpourri of many tweets, including from old media stalwarts like The New York Times.
It’s about as far as you can get from passively staring at an all-knowing TV anchor.
How many might simply be looking at a handheld device tonight, not the endangered species of all-knowing anchor.
The first crunching of exit poll summaries were short of revelatory and underscored the melancholy reality apparent to nearly all for many moons. As The New York Times put it:
“Voters who surged into polling places across America on Tuesday were sharply divided over whether either Donald J. Trump or Hillary Clinton had the experience and character to lead the nation, and large majorities of those who cast ballots expressed doubts about the honesty and integrity of both candidates.”
The evening will stretch even cable news’ liberal definition of “breaking news.”
Thus, on CNN: “BREAKING NEWS: STANDING BY FOR POLLS TO CLOSE IN SIX STATES.”
Indeed, we were standing by.
John King, the ruler of CNN’s “Magic Wall” of states, is back to being cable news’ most adroit electronic maestro. It’s like Steph Curry going behind the back and between the legs before draining a three-pointer.
He ticks off state after state, including many individual counties, breaks down demographics, throws in recent presidential history, and makes one thing clear: Trump’s odds aren’t great.
He has to win Florida and North Carolina to even have a chance. Throw in New Hampshire, too.
And when he gets to Indiana, which will go Trump, he’ll still be looking to separate out Vigo County, long a bellwether, as The Weekly Standard points out:
“Before there was Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Bill Mitchell’s Yard Signs, there was Vigo County, Indiana. The half-urban, half-rural area about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis has voted for the winner of the presidential race in 30 of the last 32 elections, and it hasn’t missed since 1956 — not even in 2000, when it went for George W. Bush over Al Gore 49.7 to 48.5 percent.”
But wait! “The streak is vulnerable Tuesday” i.e. it could well go Trump despite a possible Clinton victory nationwide.
King will tell us, for sure.
But, wait, was there a world before Nate Silver and Larry Sabato?!
This is not Walter Cronkite’s or Tom Brokaw’s election night. Call it the first social media election night.
Take The New York Times. Please!
Its “The Run-Up” podcast is offering an “Election Day Call-In Special” — sounds like big-time media counterpart to those Labor Day specials at Mattress King — by “giving listeners a better way to pass the time: by answering the big remaining questions from you, our listeners, in a special call-in episode.”
Want to watch tonight’s results “like a pro,” as opposed to rank amateur? Check out Politico’s viewing guide for tonight.
Of course, there are benefits to rank amtateurism. A) Your head won’t get dizzy analyzing exit polls B) You’ll stay up for Frank Luntz live focus groups on Fox News and thus see what Damon Runyon-like garb he’s wearing tonight and C) You will have no second thoughts about turning to “Ocean’s Twelve” on TNT.
Live from New Orleans on MSNBC was former talking head par excellence Mary Matalin alluding to Sparta taking on Athens. Sparta is the GOP, Athens the Democrats. Clear?
“We have to take a message and policies that have worked in the past and bring it to everybody…Hillary should be getting wiped out.”
The GOP has “stopped being the one-outcome-for-all-Americans party.”
Just like Sparta? This was too cerebral.
“It’s all money now,” former Senator George Mitchell told MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki in late afternoon, as the need to fill chunks of time continued.
If you could redraw districts, to make them less partisan, and ditch the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” and increase transparency of political spending, we’d be much better off, said the Maine Democrat.
IF. Ah, a pretty big IF.
Then, again, the Cubs did win the World Series.
Perhaps for the train ride home tonight, you can delve into this Election Day opus from the terrific “The Monkey Cage” blog on political science: “Why on earth do we even have an electoral college anyway?”
There, Bowdoin’s Andrew Rudalevige, who only that morning was educating me on referenda on the Maine ballot, was heading back to the days of the Founding Fathers and their motives — and the relevance to today.
“Now, as in 1787, we still argue about representation and balance — between large states and small states (if no longer, thankfully, between slave states and free states), between the states and the federal government, and between the branches of the federal government.”
“The deal reached then was hardly satisfactory to all, and rested on a “not so great” compromise as well as the “great” one creating Congress. But it helped confirm that the United States would be a “democratic republic” — where both parts of that phrase mattered.”
On MSNBC its Electoral College expert Steve Kornacki, said it’s pretty close to “zero margin for error” for Trump.
Then came smiling and preternaturally droll Al Franken, the comic-turned-Democratic Minnesota senator, who won by 312 votes in 2008 and calls himself the “poster child for close elections.” So he wasn’t going to dismiss the Trump-Pence claim of having a chance to win his state.
“My message to Democrats is go out and vote. I’m not overconfident.”
“I remember at this time in 2004, everybody was thinking (John) Kerry was looking pretty good,” he said, his cautionary note about premature optimism.
TV’s not the only medium with lots of time and space to fill. The most estimable campaign chroniclers could lapse into underscoring the totally obvious:
“Race’s divisive tone shows no sign of receding,” was a banner mid-afternoon headline on The Washington Post’s site. “Even after polls close, gridlock and dysfunction could remain.”
Had anyone suggested that the campaign had improved race relations? Was it a revelation of some sort that dysfunction would persist “even after polls close?”
The BBC also offers a handy summary of the campaign for those whose cable TV went out during the spring of 2015, and has yet to be repaired, or were detained on Guantanamo: 19 months in 170 seconds.
On CBS’ “The Talk,” they were discussing the election and Julie Chen found moral insight in her child’s school assembly the other day. They discussed the importance, once things were over, of the school’s values of respect and inclusion.
“If they are teaching these kids how to think, why can’t we as adults practice that?”
This brought instant applause from the audience.
As for Chen, she segued seamlessly to how it’s “hard to believe it’s been ten years since Samuel L. Jackson starred in ‘Snakes on a Plane.'”
“But passengers on a flight to Mexico City felt like they were in a real life version of the movie this weekend when a snake slithered out of the plane’s overhead bin.”
On CNN Jeffrey Lord, the oft-ridiculed Trump partisan, said turnout was big when he voted in Pennsylvania. He argued that if the 2012 Obama turnout drops by a good margin in Philadelphia, then his guy has a good chance.
Lord was on an early afternoon panel of eight pundits and a moderator as CNN hinted that it had every intent on breaking any Guinness Book of World Records mark for most paid pundits in a single Election Day. It’s the media version of the Powell Doctrine, which itself is derivative of the (Caspar) Weinberger Doctrine of overwhelming force, notably ground forces.
Trump’s speed dial was seemingly set on “Fox News,” checking in several hours after his early morning “Fox & Friends” appearance to answer whether he’d accept the outcome tonight.
“We will see how things play out…We will how they play out.”
Reality check. America had alternatives to cable news. On Maury Povich’s daytime show, it was another DNA expose.
“31 Years Alone. Will DNA Prove you’re my mom and dad?”
Yes, “Jessica is about to find out if Kimberly and Richard are her biological parents,” said the chyron on this addition of “Maury.”
“The scars are deep, those wounds are deep and obviously it will take a while to overcome them,” said Povich.
One had to shake oneself as a reminder he wasn’t talking about the last 18 months.
The Miami Herald not only reported that Florida led the nation with 6.4 million early votes but that it’s digital product, just like voting, is free — at least for this election week.
“In this historic election week, unlimited digital access to the Miami Herald is free.”
Of course, it’s always ironic when a newspaper cites huge public interest in an event as a reason not to charge for its handiwork. So one then goes back and charging for stuff in which they have less interest?
Speaking of Maine, with its population of 1.3 million (or 3.7 million fewer than Chicago media claimed attended the Cubs victory rally), it reminds one of subjects probably untouched by the TV folks tonight.
It has six fairly important issues on the ballot. One involves bond but five are efforts by the left (by and large) to do an end-run around legislative gridlock there inspired by Republican Governor Paul LePage, according to Andrew Rudalevige, a Bowdoin College political scientist.
“Like most referenda in my view, they are poorly drafted and overreach. One is left thinking, good idea, if only they had co-written it with people who hadn’t drunk their issue Kool-Aid.” They are:
1 — Legalize recreational marijuana (but the Attorney General there says it accidentally makes it legal for minors, too).
2 — Impose a surtax on income above $200,000 and use it for education funding (except it’s unclear how binding it would be and, further, Maine’s existing income tax is pretty high already).
3 — Expand background checks to private gun sales (but also for ‘transfers’ which might include borrowing guns to hunt)
4 — Raise the minimum wage to $12, including for tipped staff at restaurants.
5 — Institute what’s known as ranked choice voting, as one finds in the People’s Republic of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which prompts a somewhat complicated instant runoff. But it’s unclear if the state constitution permits this.
Oh, there’s the hot New England issue of regional heroes Tom Brady and his New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. Trump said they’re both backing him.
Rudalevige, for one, is “very concerned by Belichick’s lack of judgment, assuming Trump isn’t lying about that too.” But maybe it fits with his tortured genius personality, the academic says.
Somehow one suspects that Megyn Kelly, Wolf Blitzer and Lester Holt will not be spending a lot of time on proud but dinky Maine.
In case you missed today’s Bangor, Maine Daily News, it informs, “The nation’s eyes are fixed on Maine’s 2nd District.”
“LEWISTON, Maine — A Democratic congressional candidate’s visit to Lewiston’s iconic political hotspot and late stumping in the city by a surrogate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton highlighted the elevated role Maine’s 2nd District plays in this year’s national election calculus.”
It’s one way to get a jump on the dozens of symposia in the next year on “How Trump Masterfully Exploited the Structural Weaknesses of the Press—and other 2016 Cogitations on Media Failings.”
It will be endless content for C-SPAN2.
“I think I might change clothes, what do you think Norah?”
That would be CBS’ Gayle King to Norah O’Donnell on their doing a double, morning-and-night shift with Charlie Rose.
One can only hope Donna Karan was watching.
Steve Doocy, co-host of “Fox & Friends,” was grousing to Tucker Carlson this morning about this purported legacy of the presidential campaign: the media being “in the tank” for Hillary Clinton.
He said this on an Election Day morning in which his show opened with Clinton-bashing analyst Mike Huckabee; followed with a long and solicitous phone interview with Donald Trump (was he perhaps in bed or on a gilded living room couch this early?); then hosted son Eric Trump; and also had Rudy Giuliani making what must have been 1,348th TV appearance as an effervescent Trump booster.
It was all part and parcel of the post-sunrise build-up for the nation’s political drama. It brought many obvious questions, including the future of the two parties and whether the likes of Giuliani and the Trumps might suffer from post-traumatic media disorder (PTMD) when they’re no longer beckoned for daily press appearances each day.
There was tons of time to fill as early votes were being cast in most states.
There were the Brady Bunch-like openings of TV networks: split screens with boxes of valiant correspondents outside schools and recreation centers in what, it was reiterated, were critical states.
And there were very good, needed looks back at the crazy past 18 months. Remember, that army of Republican candidates? Those GOP debates? Trump and Megyn Kelly?
A very good “CBS This Morning” even went live to Moscow and Elizabeth Palmer, about Russia’s alleged influence in the U.S. race. Did Russian hackers try to meddle in the U.S. campaign?
This morning the Russian state news channel offered apparently unprecedented coverage, said Palmer. And, yup, there was even a countdown clock as to when returns would start coming in.
With tons of time, the press offered a window onto its own internal processes, even heralding its own data geeks for whom this day represents a professional zenith.
CBS News’ Anthony Salvanto thus discussed how it would decide whether to call the race tonight. And how not state would be called before all its polls were closed.
It underscored a tradition of Old Media. But would new upstarts, or various folks with a Twitter account, abide by those conventions?
Some political drama is presented by the fight to control the U.S. Senate and perhaps fill the vacant Supreme Court seat, among other important matters. CBS’ Julianna Goldman noted that $700 million on “The Great Eight,” CBS News’ moniker for eight key Senate races.
As one watches TV for much of the day, one might think about the extent to which this is the first presidential election much dominated by social media.
Just as one can watch NFL football via Twitter, there will be possibly millions fixated on various devices, not just that injection-molded plastic box with complicated electronics called a television.
It will be a further challenge to vows of institutional discipline in reporting, and fact-checking, of what plays out.
What will happen when a vaguely reputable operation jumps the gun and calls Florida for somebody?
You can imagine the chyron screaming across a cable network screen: “BREAKING NEWS: FLORIDA FOR CLINTON” and then the network co-host:
“The Warren Report is now calling the race in Florida for (fill in the blank). We must state that we only vaguely know of The Warren Report and have not independently confirmed its claim. But we pass it along, lest we be cited by a self-righteous media critic tomorrow as having been beaten by our competition.