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Quiet media night explodes suddenly, Rove protests

By David Bauder

AP Television Writer

LAST UPDATED: 01:05 a.m. HST, Nov 07, 2012

NEW YORK >> Careful media coverage of a close presidential election Tuesday exploded so suddenly Tuesday that it left the bizarre spectacle of Fox News Channel analyst Karl Rove, a major fundraiser for Republican Mitt Romney, publicly questioning his network's declaration that President Barack Obama had been re-elected.

ABC News was also frantically trying to repair a power outage that left much of its set inoperable precisely at the time the election was being decided.

For several hours, election coverage resembled the run-up to a Super Bowl, with plenty of talk signifying little. Then NBC News, at 11:12 p.m. ET, was the first to declare Obama had won by virtue of winning the battleground state of Ohio. "He remains president of the United States for a second term," said anchor Brian Williams.

Other networks followed suit, including Fox five minutes later. But Rove, the former top political aide to President George W. Bush whose on-air presence on Fox this campaign raised some eyebrows because of his prominent role supporting Romney, suggested the call was premature.

"We've got to be careful about calling things when we have like 991 votes separating the candidates and a quarter of the vote left to count ... I'd be very cautious about intruding in this process," said Rove, a behind-the-scenes player in the wild 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore that took weeks to decide. (Gore was on TV Tuesday, too, as anchor of Current TV's election coverage).

It left Rove's colleagues struggling for words.

"That's awkward," said co-anchor Megyn Kelly. She then went backstage to interview on camera two men who were part of Fox's team in charge of making election calls. They had concluded that based on the precincts where votes were left to be counted, Romney couldn't beat Obama.

Later, Rove tried to make light of the encounter. "This is not a cage match," he said. "This is a light intellectual discussion."

As the evening had progressed for Fox and it became clear that Romney, the clear favorite of most of its audience, would find it hard to win, commentators like Sarah Palin and Peggy Noonan looked stricken.

"This was the referendum that Mitt Romney wanted on Barack Obama," said Huffington Post's Howard Fineman on MSNBC. "And guess what? Barack Obama won the referendum. And that's pretty darned emphatic."

Much of ABC's New York election studio was left powerless for about 20 minutes at the height of Tuesday's coverage. The network didn't inform viewers, and tried to compensate by taking anchors Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos away from their desks, and cutting away to crowd shots at Times Square.

Sawyer's relaxed, folksy delivery in her first presidential election night as anchor drew considerable social media attention. The rock group They Might Be Giants tweeted: "and Diane Sawyer declares tonight's winner is ... chardonnay!"

Sawyer and Stephanopoulos were a new election anchor team for ABC, and Scott Pelley led the CBS coverage. Of the three anchors for the biggest broadcast networks, only NBC's Williams was a returnee from 2008.

But it was a far different media world anyway. 2012 was notable for the vast array of outlets that an interested consumer could command to create their own media experience on multiple screens. Web sites offered deep drill-downs in data and social media hosted raucous conversations.

"If you started a drinking game with the words 'exit poll' in it, please stop now. You will die!" tweeted TV critic Tim Goodman.

Obama's Twitter account tweeted a picture of the president hugging first lady Michelle Obama, and it was retweeted more than 400,000 times. Twitter said it was its most retweeted message ever.

Earlier in the evening, journalists took special care not to rely too heavily on exit polls. Perhaps they remembered how misleading exit polls in 2004 led TV networks astray then or perhaps, in CBS' Bob Schieffer's words, its results this year were too contradictory.

News outlets carefully parsed information and sometimes used the same facts for contradictory conclusions.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume noted an exit poll finding that 42 percent of voters said Superstorm Sandy was an important factor in their vote, suggesting that was a positive for Obama since he was widely considered to have been effective in his response. With the same information, the web site Politico headlined: "Exit Survey: Sandy Not a Factor."

There was a certain amount of vamping time, too. Glenn Beck's online network, The Blaze, had a blackboard straight out of the 1960s as a tote board. Beck killed time on the air by asking for cookie dough ice cream from the on-set food bar.

"Waffle cone, please," Beck said.

When Sawyer asked David Muir for the latest news from the Romney campaign, he reported the family had pasta for dinner and the candidate indulged in his favorite peanut butter and honey sandwich.

The media personality with perhaps the most on the line was Nate Silver of The New York Times, whose FiveThirtyEight blog was sought out by 20 percent of the people who visited the newspaper's website on Monday. He has used statistical data throughout the campaign to predict an Obama victory and by Tuesday, had forecast a 90.9 percent chance that Obama would win.

After Obama's victory became clear, Gavin Purcell, producer of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," tweeted that "Nate Silver is the only white male winning tonight." CNN's Piers Morgan tweeted Silver an invitation to appear on his show Wednesday.


Television Writers Frazier Moore in New York and Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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honokai wrote:
The odd thing wasn't Rove's question. The odd thing was the way Fox responded. The cage match match reference was in response to the anchor calling it a cage match when there was none. Rove was very respectful. It was the narcissistic production team that was acting strange by trying to turn it into a fight. But leave it to the media to try to make the story about themselves. And of course the name Rove has thoroughly been demonized so leave it to AP and the rest of the bandwagon media to run with an inaccurate account to make the so called bad guy look bad.
on November 7,2012 | 02:02AM
clydek wrote:
I watched him in real time last night on Fox. He was in complete denial...and arguing against the inevitable call. A supposedly smart guy looked helplessly ignorant. I viewed him in pity...
on November 7,2012 | 02:37AM
peanutgallery wrote:
I view our country with pity.
on November 7,2012 | 02:46AM
IEBuzzin wrote:
Well. That is your view when you're pitiful....Move to China loser....
on November 7,2012 | 12:37PM
honokai wrote:
That is not correct. And, frankly, I know little about the guy except that I have been told he is bad. This was the first time I saw him speak. Rove only said that 25 percent of the vote was still out and the results at the time were a dead heat. Obama's win is great for Hawaii. But the country and government remains divided. Dysfunctional messaging plays a huge role in this.
on November 7,2012 | 04:36AM
poidragon wrote:
Reality check for Mr. Rove; we have a reality check for a Mr. Karl Rove, please pick it up at the front desk! HeHe, so much for the republican power-broker, reality has a habit of making fools of people like Karl Roves and Donald 'the combover' Trump, who live in their own delusional fantasy worlds! That's right, Suckers, Obama won and their ain't nothing you can do about it! Woot, Obama 4 more years, baby!
on November 7,2012 | 02:50AM
honokai wrote:
Congress remains controlled by Republicans who took the house because the people of the country put them there. They kept them there yesterday. Temper your victory dance. Tough times are ahead.
on November 7,2012 | 04:40AM
lee1957 wrote:
Congress is split, the Democrats retained control of the Senate.
on November 7,2012 | 10:45AM
whs1966 wrote:
"Later, Rove tried to make light of the encounter. "This is not a cage match," he said. "This is a light intellectual discussion." Rove meant to refer to the discussion as a "light weight" intellectual discussion, which is all that he and Fox News ever engage in.
on November 7,2012 | 03:51AM
ghstar wrote:
The clear winner in last night's election coverage was CNN's John King. A really great display of powerful data and graphics that documented why CNN could make the calls it did. Well done.
on November 7,2012 | 06:37AM
IEBuzzin wrote:
Could he just not breathe. Just go away and take your,kind with you.
on November 7,2012 | 12:31PM
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