TV anchors cautious as votes come in
Published February 6, 2008
NEW YORK - All the tools of political art were on hand as networks covered the Super Tuesday primaries - a Cabinet's worth of strategic minds, reams of hard numbers and polling data, and fancy new touch-screen technology.
The difficulty was in using it all to paint a clear picture.
Television networks brought all the firepower they would use for a November presidential election, but Super Tuesday was an atypical event that defied easy analysis. Nearly half the country was voting, trying to bring clarity to two muddled presidential nomination contests.
On ABC, which devoted its entire prime-time schedule to political coverage, anchor Charles Gibson was practically giddy.
"We have waited for this night for a long time, because never in American history have we seen anything like this," he said. For students of politics, he said, "this is fascinating."
Even though races in several states had been called by the time NBC's Brian Williams signed on for that network's coverage two hours later, it was still too early to draw sweeping conclusions.
"If people thought Super Tuesday was going to be super in terms of ending this thing ... it ain't going to happen," he said.
At a CNN forum earlier in the day, Time magazine editor Rick Stengel warned reporters that how they skewed things on Tuesday would affect how voters perceive the race. "We have to be very careful about that," he said.
If anything, the opposite proved true. Often, all the information seemed to add up to nothing.
Networks focused early on particular stories, like Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory in Massachusetts despite Kennedy family endorsements for Barack Obama, and Mike Huckabee's strength as a conservative alternative to John McCain.
Yet they were careful to note the potential disconnect in popular votes and delegate counts.
On Fox News Channel, Mort Kondracke wished it could all be easier.
"We should just add up all the popular votes and whoever wins that should be the front-runner," he said.
[Last modified February 6, 2008, 01:58:16]
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