Network news executives said they are preparing for an unusual Election Night challenge: How to be honest with the audience, and still keep them tuned in, if the race between John McCain and Barack Obama is effectively decided before most Americans have finished dinner.Effectively decided?
After two elections in which the suspense went far into the evening (and, in the case of 2000, for 36 days afterward), the executives said they are contemplating how to manage their newscasts in the event of an Obama blowout — in which the Democrat’s victory would be obvious while polls are still open in most of the country.
They mean, as the article makes clear, that if they can "call" Virginia for Obama the moment the polls close at 7 pm, the race is "effectively" over.
If it is clear on Nov. 4 that Obama has won in Virginia by the time polls there close at 7 p.m. — it will still be daylight west of the Mississippi — the obvious conclusion will be that Obama is headed to the White House.Of course, calling a state the moment polls close relies on unreliable exit polling data.
Or so we're told.
In "effect", it relies on simply the media's "declaration" of an Obama victory the moment polls close, which the 2004 election showed us can be in error.
What they will in "effect" be doing is attempting to influence voting in western states where polls are still open, to discourage turnout by McCain supporters by declaring an early 7 pm victory for Senator Government, whether it's true or not.
That's the cynical way of looking at it. At the very least, this eagerness to view the outcome as simply a question of the size of Obama's victory is a sign of uncontrolled hubris.
One wonders why they're even waiting until Nov. 4.