All of the network and cable news networks declared President Obama reelected shortly after 11 p.m., projecting a crucial win in Ohio. TV screens were immediately filled with images of people all over the country — and the world — reacting with joy. The TV analysts were more sober, and in some cases, in disagreement.
Election night on television is always its own riot of staggered results, projected winners, and the wild cheers erupting behind state victors. It’s also cutting-edge technology versus gassy-air punditry. This year, the contrasts were more vivid than ever. I have in the past poked fun at CNN’s John King and his Technicolor-Wizard-Touchy-Feely Map, but on this night, he did a masterful job both physical and mental. By which I mean, his adroit tap-tap-taps on the TWTF Map broke out states county-by-county, and he knew exactly where to find voting totals, previous-election trends, and projected numbers to deliver calm, coherent tales of the tape.
By contrast, over on CBS, it frequently seemed as though there was enough silence and room for tumbleweeds to roll through the studio. Much of the time, the poker-faced duo of anchor Scott Pelley and former debate moderator Bob Schieffer discussed the results in the hushed tones of two prelates contemplating the state of the nation’s soul. Thank goodness Norah O’Donnell was there to provide some color both literal (nice red suit) and figurative (she could be relied upon to offer crisp commentary about such matters as how social issues and ethnic voting patterns were affecting the results).
The most crowded studio was ABC’s where Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos took turns calling on a five-person panel (including Barbara Walters and George Will) to their left and three analysts (including Cokie Roberts) to their right plus an on-camera bank of researchers and opinionizers behind them. The result was tag-team coverage that led to a lot of half-formed thoughts and outright contradictions. At one point, the ABC team asserted that Massachusetts Senate victor Elizabeth Warren was a prime example of how voters were ticking off straight-Democratic ballots (the so-called “color of her jersey” argument), only to turn around and argue that Joe Donnelly wouldn’t have won his Indiana seat had traditional Republican Richard Lugar, not Richard “rape is something God intended to happen” Mourdock, been the GOP candidate.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for the constant, foghorn blare of Wolf Blitzer, I’d declare CNN the hands-down winner for TV coverage, when you factor in brisk traffic-control work by anchor Anderson Cooper and the diversity of including both Van Jones and Alex Castellanos among its commentators. But one longed for some colorful commentary from the network talking heads, a few colorful metaphors for what was happening. This is the only time of the year when one misses Dan Rather and his folksy images: stuff like a defeat “about as welcome as a hitchhiker with pets,” or “his lead is as thin as turnip soup.”
Well after 11:30 p.m. EST, the Romney campaign was not conceding that Ohio and Florida had gone to Obama.
I’ll be back with further coverage of the election and the speeches of President Obama and Mitt Romney.