Can you believe it?
We’re just one week from Election Day 2020. One week from today, we’ll find out who will be president.
We might have to wait until after midnight, which means we wouldn’t technically find out on Election Day whether Joe Biden will be the next president or Donald Trump has been reelected.
The real question, however, is how soon after midnight will we find out? Will it be like an hour or two or three after midnight? Or more like a day or two or a week after?
During an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” over the weekend, Sally Buzbee, the senior vice president and executive editor of The Associated Press, said, “We are very much prepared for the fact that it could go longer than election night. It also could last until the next morning or until the next afternoon or even later. So we are very much prepared for both scenarios.”
The Associated Press is the news outlet that many news organizations rely on to declare a winner.
Most political observers believe there is a scenario in which we could find out on election night if we have a winner and that is if certain swing states such as, say, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Michigan are called early.
If Biden is declared a winner in most of those states, a path for Trump becomes less likely, and an early winner (in this case, Biden) might be easier to call. If the swing states drag on or Trump can win a few key states, calling a winner might take longer. Of course, this does not even factor in any claims — and possible threats of lawsuits — of voter fraud and ballot counting and that sort of thing.
But let’s not overthink this. There’s one reason why the declaration of a winner might take some time.
“I think the biggest factor that determines if there is an early race call, a early declaration of a winner or a later one is really the closeness of the race,” Buzbee told CNN. “That’s still the single biggest factor. This is not magic. This is actually math and facts and science. That’s how races are called.”
The coronavirus impacts Fox News
Sunday night, The New York Times’ Jeremy W. Peters broke the news that several high profile Fox News staffers were advised to quarantine after being exposed on a private airplane flight to someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. The staffers included Fox News Media president Jay Wallace and on-air personalities Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino and Juan Williams.
In a memo to staff on Monday, Wallace and Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said “a few” at the network recently tested positive for COVID-19. It’s not known which staffers have tested positive and a network representative would not confirm any details of the exposure to the Times, citing the need to keep private health information confidential.
But it could impact the network’s plans for coverage of election night, which is now just one week away. Baier and MacCallum are scheduled to anchor Fox News’ election night coverage.
The memo said, in part, “We know this election will be like no other and it will be exciting to witness it first hand, but only those employees who are critical to that night’s production will be permitted to work from” Fox News’ headquarters. The memo also said that the network will be “operating virtually wherever possible throughout the week.”
During a radio interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, Baier said, “Somebody in proximity to us tested positive a few days later for COVID. So we’re taking all the precautions. I’ve tested negative three times now and I’ll be doing the show from home this week. And we’ll be in preparation for Election Day.”
He added, “Listen, to Fox’s credit, they have gone above and beyond for protocols and really safety. And I think they’re doing that now.”
The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison wrote, “Behind the scenes, Fox News has shown dedication to precautionary measures during the pandemic, including masks, social distancing and regular testing protocols. But that attitude has not always been reflected on the air. In February and March, in the early days of the pandemic, key prime-time hosts such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham frequently attributed concerns over the virus as a mere excuse for Democrats and media to attack President Trump.”
One final thought: While Fox News would like to have all of their on-air personalities in the studio on election night, they certainly have the capability of having some work from home studios. After all, many TV personalities on all networks have been working from home since March anyway.
The New York Post endorses Trump
No surprise here. The editorial board of the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post is endorsing Donald Trump for president. The endorsement comes a week after the Post tried to smear the Joe Biden campaign with the Hunter Biden story — a story that even some Post staffers refused to put their bylines on.
The editorial said, “We can return to the explosive job creation, rising wages and general prosperity we had before the pandemic. We can have economic freedom and opportunity, and resist cancel culture and censorship. We can put annus horribilis, 2020, behind us and make America great again, again. We can do all this — if we make the right choice on Nov. 3. The New York Post endorses President Donald J. Trump for re-election.”
The Post made the argument that Trump did well with the economy before the coronavirus and with foreign affairs, and it even defended his response to the coronavirus.
It had one criticism: “We can only counsel that a president who lowers the temperature rather than pouring gasoline on every fire will have a happier nation (and a higher approval rating).”
It attacked Joe Biden for being a “figurehead candidate.”
Big ratings for ‘60 Minutes’ Trump interview
If part of Donald Trump’s reason for releasing his “60 Minutes” interview on social media ahead of it airing Sunday night was to hurt “60 Minutes’” ratings, it didn’t work. Early numbers indicate that 16.8 million viewers watched, making it the most-watched “60 Minutes” since it interviewed the adult film actress Stormy Daniels in March 2018. Joe Biden also was interviewed on the program.
As Variety’s Will Thorne pointed out, “60 Minutes” might have been helped out by the lead-in of an NFL game, which always draws big numbers. But Thorne also noted that “60 Minutes” also went up against the pregame and start of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” which is typically the most-watched program on TV.
Meanwhile, if Trump’s reason for releasing the interview before it aired was to somehow make interviewer Lesley Stahl look bad, that didn’t work either. Stahl’s questions were fair and Trump came off looking thin-skinned.
One thing that did air on the program that wasn’t in the footage released by Trump was a scene after the interview when White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany handed Stahl a huge book. In a voiceover of the scene, Stahl said, “President Trump’s press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, gave us a heavy book that she described as the president’s health care plan. It was filled with executive orders and congressional initiatives, but no comprehensive health care plan.”
On Twitter, McEnany said, “.@60Minutes is misleading you. Notice they don’t mention that I gave Leslie 2 documents: a book of all President @realDonaldTrump has done & a plan of all he is going to do on healthcare— the America First Healthcare Plan which will deliver lower costs, more choice, better care”
But there’s no indication that McEnany gave Stahl an actual plan. Even in the interview, Trump told Stahl it would be “announced soon.” When Stahl asked when, Trump said, “When we see what happens with Obamacare.”
CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “Here’s the thing: Passing a health care law through Congress is very, very hard. It’s why so many presidents before Barack Obama failed in their attempts to do it — and why passing the law cost congressional Democrats dearly at the ballot box in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. The details are what cause the problems, always. And so, Trump has avoided all of that by not offering any specifics or any plan at all. But he does have that over-sized book! Filled with, well, not much.”
Scarborough’s over-the-line comments
President Trump and MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough have a contentious history, and there’s certainly no love lost between the two. But that doesn’t excuse what Scarborough said on the air Monday morning. While talking about Trump’s “60 Minutes” interview with Stahl, Scarborough pointed out how Trump doesn’t like being asked tough questions, and reacts negatively to them. Scarborough said, “It’s just really fascinating at this point to look how much Donald Trump resembles an autocratic leader from Eastern Europe, whether it’s Belarus or whether it’s Russia.”
He continued, “Actually, though he kills journalists, Vladimir Putin, on camera, actually seems a little more willing to answer tough questions when they are asked of him. Donald Trump can’t even handle that.”
Then Scarborough said something that he should not have.
“Of course, Donald Trump would kill reporters if he could get away with it,” Scarborough said. “I think even his strongest supporters would admit Trump would do whatever he could get away with.”
Stop and really digest what Scarborough said: that the President of the United States would have a reporter killed if he could. While Trump has shown mostly disdain and contempt for the media, to make such a baseless allegation is highly inappropriate and, as many pointed out Monday, it’s the kind of over-the-top comment that, frankly, Trump would make.
Now, it should be noted that earlier this year, Trump repeatedly hinted that Scarborough might have been personally involved in the 2001 death of an aide in his office while he was a Florida congressman. It was a gross allegation that is not true. Even the widow of the staffer implored Twitter to take down the Trump tweets in which he insinuated Scarborough’s involvement in a death that was ruled an accident.
Scarborough has every right to be infuriated by Trump’s allegations and can disagree with his politics. There’s also nothing wrong with criticizing Trump. But to say on the air that Trump would have people killed is a step too far.
NBC News declined to comment.
- The New York Times’ Edmund Lee with “The White Issue: Has Anna Wintour’s Diversity Push Come Too Late?”
- I came across an enjoyable piece while reading Richard Deitsch’s excellent sports media column in The Athletic. Thirty-five years ago, author John Feinstein chronicled a season inside Indiana University’s college basketball team under legendary coach Bob Knight. The result was the book, “Season on the Brink.” Well, here’s an excellent story in the IU school paper, the Indiana Daily Student, from Caleb Coffman, called “The General’s Shadow: How Author John Feinstein Survived a Year with Bob Knight.”
- Another Deitsch recommendation that I will recommend, too: The Detroit News’ Kim Kozlowski with “How UM Failed for Decades to Heed Warnings About Doctor’s Alleged Sex Abuse.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
More resources for journalists
- Get more facts in your voting! Poynter – MediaWise Resources
- The Poynter Institute Celebrates Journalism — (Online Gala) — Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. Eastern
- It’s time to apply for Poynter’s 2021 Leadership Academy for Women in Media — Apply Nov. 30, 2020.
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