Friday, November 05, 2004

The press collaborators

Meghan Clyne at NRO caught this today, a point few others have picked up.

At 12:41 EST, Wednesday morning, Fox News called Ohio for Bush, the first media outlet to do so. To its credit (aside from being correct), Fox News was highly circumspect in doing so. Although far more than 80% of the precincts had reported and Bush's lead at that point exceeded 130,000, Brit Hume was notably reticent to make the call and sought an explanation from Michael Barone to assure viewers that the call was correct.

Barone detailed how Fox had information on the progress of the vote, the number of precincts outstanding, the breakdown of the precincts and why even if Kerry swept the remaining votes in Cuyahoga county (the main Democratic bastion in Ohio), the votes from other counties would still put Bush over the top. Barone maintained that stance even after Bush's lead decreased to under 100K when Cuyahoga fully reported (the final margin was closer to 140K). So Fox made the call that Bush would win Ohio and noted that put 266 electoral votes in the President's column. At 1:00 a.m., that EV total would be 269 -- a guaranteed tie -- when Alaska's polls closed because Alaska would go for Bush by at least 20 percentage points (final = 62-35 Bush).

The NY Times article Clyne noted discussed what the Kerry camp did in reaction to the Ohio determination by Fox:

The critical moment came at 12:41 a.m. Wednesday, when, shortly after Florida had been painted red for Mr. Bush, Fox News declared that Ohio - and, very likely, the presidency - was in Republican hands.

Howard Wolfson, a strategist, burst into the "boiler room" in Washington where the brain trust was huddled and said, "we have 30 seconds" to stop the other networks from following suit.

The campaign's pollster, Mark Mellman, and the renowned organizer Michael Whouley quickly dialed ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC - and all but the last refrained from calling the race through the night. Then Mr. Wolfson banged out a simple, two-line statement expressing confidence that Mr. Kerry would win Ohio once the remaining ballots were counted.

"What was driving our decision making was the memory of how in 2000, by allowing Florida to go for Bush, a lot of momentum was blocked," said one person who was in the room. "Our whole goal was stop the train from moving that way."

Train stopped, lawyers and strategists at the campaign's Washington headquarters prepared court papers to challenge Ohio's process for counting provisional ballots, and made spreadsheets comparing each county's provisional ballots with its margin of victory or defeat.
(emphasis added).

In other words, the Kerry campaign called the networks and EVERY ONE of them, other than NBC (to its credit), worked with Kerry to keep hope alive despite the clear facts that pointed to a Bush re-election. Not good for the journos' credibility. But this shows Kerry's own integrity -- when he examined the numbers and did the math, he knew he could not win Ohio and conceded despite contrary advice from his useless running mate and some advisors. That is the proper response and Kerry deserves the praise he's received for that concession.

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