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Election Night Notebook

By admin Published: November 4, 2008


We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
-- Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural address

The election has been called for Barack Obama. A remarkable historical moment. Some notes from TV watching, after the jump.

As of 8:15, I've been watching a little more than an hour, and my head is spinning from touchscreens, graphics and all the too close to calls. A couple of other early notes:

There's trouble with the audio on WKYC's HD feed, and there has even been a crawl urging people to switch to the analog feed. What happens when there is no analog feed?

WOIO plainly doesn't want to embrace election junkies, having put on game shows in the 7 p.m. hour. Meant I was watching somewhere else.

Nice tribute to Tim Russert on NBC, where they showed one of his old dry-erase boards a little after 8 p.m. -- and promised more about him later, as well as some after-hours toasts.

Every network seems to have a different electoral vote total, based on varied calls. Fox News, for instance, called West Virginia before the other nets.

More tidbits as the night rolls on.

Changing technology: I'm flipping channels on the main TV, keeping a second channel up on my laptop via my Slingbox and doing some Web cruising in addition to keeping up an online electoral map from '04 to track whether any Bush or Kerry states flip this time.

Multiple calls for senator in North Carolina, all with Elizabeth Dole losing. If nothing else, I hope that it suggests that there is a limit to what negative campaigning can do -- and something like the "godless" spot is going way too far. Of course, if whoever wins president is seen as a negative campaigner, attack ads won't go away.

Among the charts I've seen, my favorite has vote totals with the percentage that is of the potential total vote. (CNN is one of the networks doing that.) Especially like it included in vote crawls. That way, a forbidding lead can be discounted because it's based on a small percentage. Even better are regular reminders of where in a state the vote is coming from, since states have variations.

Generation gaps: Brit Hume, with some whimsy, tweaking one of his associates about calling a voting screen "a board." Hume jokingly asked if there was any wood in it. Earlier, Channel 3's Tim White had seemed less whimsical when trying, with difficulty, to discuss blogs the station was using as a coverage element.

Just got a shot on Channel 5 of the freight-elevator door through which votes were going to be delivered.

It's after 9 p.m. and a lot of states are still in play. People trying to get out the vote in the west are probably sighing with relief. Still, just heard something on ABC I thought I would have heard more by now -- that both McCain and Obama are holding on to the Rep and Dem states from 2004, with no switches so far. Which would set up a McCain win.

CBS is talking up the tight race in Virginia and whether that's a bad sign for Obama, since he had had a slight lead in some polls. Now ABC is also looking at Virginia -- and explaining that some areas, including my old hometown of Newport News, haven't reported a lot of votes yet, so they don't want to call it. Sounds as if they still think Obama could pull it out -- although Diane Sawyer then reports on exit polling of evangelicals who are pro-McCain. Then Gibson talks about Lynchburg turning blue. Lots of uncertainty.

Fox has called Ohio for Obama. That's a big flip. Brit Hume notes that McCain would need a "stupendous upset" in a blue state to win. CBS has also called Ohio. CNN calls it some time later. I live in a blue state.

9:44 and the commentary is getting complicated. No one wants to confirm that Obama has it done -- and not even the projections have him with 270 -- but they're also leaning more toward discussions of the significance of an Obama win (Gibson with Roger Wilkins, for example) and what went wrong for the Republicans (Katie Couric with Peggy Noonan).

On ABC, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says the Republicans are going to have to have "a Dr. Phil moment."

On CNN, Gloria Borger wants to talk about the impact of Sarah Palin. Bill Bennett wants to do it later. Anderson Cooper says, "We've got six hours!" Please, no!

It's after 10 p.m. and while Obama doesn't have a projected 270, there's a lot of talk about how he will lead and work with Congress and so on. Which is the networks' oblique way of saying "game over."

Seems as if there's a lot of killing time until 11 p.m. when more polls close. ABC is re-examining battleground states that they haven't called yet.

10:25: CBS has an interview with a woman at a Howard University rally; the woman is weeping, cannot speak, and by the time she gets under control, she gets out a few words before the interviewer cuts her off to get to a commercial.

Interesting choice of movies being advertised tonight. I've seen "Valkryrie" more than once, and "Frost/Nixon."

Tick tock. Everyone's waiting for 11 p.m. when the electoral projection should put Obama over the top.

A little before 11 p.m., NBC's Pete Williams struggles not to say NBC has projected California since the polls haven't quite closed; he backpedals to a "predicted" instead.

11 p.m. Obama declared the winner and next president. Amazing. Astonishing. I was born in 1951, when a night like this was unimaginable. Even two years ago, as Charlie Gibson is saying, he was "the longest of long shots." Juan Williams on Fox News calls it "stunning." No doubt. Brit Hume notes that all the "radical" talk about Obama -- which, let's remember, Fox embraced -- did not fit with the person people saw.

11:15. CNN has a shot of Jesse Jackson with tears running down his face. McCain speaks. Mentions Obama, crowd boos, McCain waves at them, says "please." Then goes back to a prepared statement that is nonetheless very gracious to Obama. And gives a strong statement about racial progress, and speaks of Obama's grandmother. Terrific little speech. Wish he had made more like this during the campaign.

Big ovation when he thanks Sarah Palin, whom he calls "an impressive new voice" for reform. (And so the race for the 2012 nomination begins.) Again Praises Obama,and Biden, and more boos. "Please," he says again. Hard to calm down people you've been revving up for weeks.

And the whole time he was talking, CNN's electoral map was showing more states being called for Obama.

Interesting conversation on Fox News about the McCain people admired and the McCain who ran this campaign. Then, over at CNN, they announce a break but, if Obama speaks, they'll "break into the break." A few minutes later, Wolf Blitzer speaks of "projected projections." Everyone's getting punchy and it's not even a cliffhanger!

Just before midnight, Obama and family. He has given at least two noteworthy speeches during this campaign, the one on race and his convention acceptance. How does he top it tonight? OK, he doesn't have to. He did it by winning the election. But he still has to speak. Kind words for McCain. Tepid cheers but at least no boos. Thanks to Biden. Where IS Biden? (Later: He appears onstage after Obama's speech.) Homage to Obama's family -- and the kids are getting a new puppy. Tribute to grandmother. And then we're into people like his chief strategist. Not sure that's the right tone for the night. But then he moves on to the people, and the kind of speech that has taken him to the White House. One of hope and yet one that challenged us, one that looked to the future but saw that the road will be rocky. But the road looks straight.

And so, good night.

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