Gore Aide: "We've Won the Election"; Florida "Irregularities"; Impact of Bad Exit Polls Ignored; Scrap Electoral College
-- Extra Edition
1) The presidential election
consumed all but a few seconds of the ABC and CBS evening shows and nearly all
of NBC's. Tom Brokaw stressed up front "the confusing lineup of
candidates" on one county's ballot.
2) "We've won the election. Whether we get inaugurated
is another deal," NBC's Claire Shipman quoted a Gore campaign aide in
defining a win based on popular vote over the Electoral College.
3) The networks furthered the Democratic camp's effort to
undermine the legitimacy of the Florida vote. Peter Jennings asked about
"voter fraud." All three highlighted one county's
"confusing" ballot, but didn't point out how 268,000 still voted
for Gore. A CBS story stressed how some "voting offices resembling crime
scenes" while NBC found it suspicious that the libertarian "got 309
votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians."
4) Three different recitations from ABC, CBS and NBC about
Gore's phone call withdrawing his concession, the call in which he told Bush
he didn't have to get "snippy."
5) ABC, CBS and NBC looked at their bad Florida calls, but
none considered the impact on West coast voting. NBC's Andrea Mitchell
asserted: "Many people say that the real issue isn't why
projections...are sometimes wrong, but the archaic vote counting system that
often leads to mistakes and even fraud."
6) Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw concluded their newscasts with
some deep thoughts about the meaning of the still undecided election. Rather:
"In a democracy voting is not only a right but a responsibility, one too
many Americans elect to ignore."
7) Al Gore hasn't conceded so the heavens aren't crying
yet for Bryant Gumbel who pressed Bill Daley about the integrity of a re-count
in a state headed by George Bush's brother and he raised suggestions about
"scrapping" the Electoral College.
8) "I think the fact that they can say they won that
popular vote, I think they believe will have most of the public on their
side," ABC's George Stephanopoulos suggested of the Gore spin.
9) The illegitimacy of Electoral College became the topic of
the early morning hours on NBC on Wednesday as soon as the anchor team
realized Gore would win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College.
Tom Brokaw: "After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked
out of there."
10) Senator-elect Hillary: "It's the best news
ever...it's such a total victory I think for women all over America."
much coverage of what Dan Rather dubbed "the biggest election story
of our lifetimes," it's hard to know where to begin, but to provide
a flavor of the broadcast network spin and priorities, below is how ABC,
CBS and NBC led their evening newscasts Wednesday night. ABC and CBS
dedicated their entire programs, with the exception of a few seconds on
the make-up of the new House and Senate, to the presidential election. NBC
offered a full story on the new Senate and Hillary's election as well as
one non-presidential election story on how Yemen is holding suspects in
the USS Cole bombing.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Peter Jennings
opened: "It is not over until it is over. The presidential election
is still too close to call and we may not know who the 43rd President is
for the next ten days at least. Today we are, as deep as ever, in the
realm of party politics and a possible legal challenge from the Democrats
to the election process."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather announced the cold
open: "This is the CBS Evening News. Straight to the biggest election
story of our lifetimes. Dan Rather reporting from CBS News election
headquarters in New York, good evening. The presidency of the United
States is just beyond the reach of two men tonight after an election
unique in American history. It's among the closest ever. 24 hours after
the polls closed we still don't know who won..."
He soon added: "One more wrinkle in this story:
Gore leads Bush in the nationwide popular vote by more than 100,000
-- NBC Nightly News. Up front Tom Brokaw highlighted
the supposed controversy over the design of a ballot: "Good evening.
Yes, we're still here, and it's still too close to call. A determined
Vice President Al Gore continues to hold a lead in both the national
popular vote and in the electoral college, but Texas Governor George W.
Bush remains confident he'll win the state of Florida after a re-count,
and that will put him over the top in the electoral college, making him
the President-elect. Here are the numbers. First, the national popular
vote with Al Gore holding a steady lead over Governor Bush. In the
electoral map, Governor Bush with victories in 29 states for a total of
246 electoral votes, Vice President Gore 19 states and the District of
Columbia, for a 260 electoral votes, but the big prize still to be
claimed, Florida, 25 electoral votes. This is a Florida ballot that is
being re-counted tonight, and the confusing lineup of candidates may have
led to still more problems in that state."
Claire Shipman attached some credibility to the Gore team's spin putting
the popular vote ahead of the Constitution. She concluded her report from
Nashville for the NBC Nightly News by relating how Gore aides "say
that his win of the popular vote gives him the authority to proceed right
now. And, Tom, they also say that popular vote win is giving him some
personal comfort in the face of a loss. As one aide said, 'we've won
the election. Whether we get inaugurated is another deal.'"
networks, especially CBS and NBC, Wednesday night ran with complaints
about voting "irregularities," the Democratic camp's first
step in trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Florida vote. ABC's
Peter Jennings bizarrely characterized a supposedly confusing ballot
design as an example of "voter fraud." All three networks
highlighted that county ballot in which about 3,700 voted for Pat
Buchanan, but failed to explicitly point out how 268,000 voters in that
county managed to figure how to vote for Gore.
A CBS Evening News story found some "voting
offices resembling crime scenes" and the how supposed problems are
growing on "a list that's adding up as fast as the votes are being
re-counted," but all reporter Bobbi Harley offered were anecdotal
complaints about snafues that could be made about every election every
year everywhere. "Libertarian Harry Browne got 309 votes here in a
county where there are only 112 registered Libertarians," NBC's
Kerry Sanders asserted in listing a problem, as if only official members
of a party ever vote for that party's candidate.
-- ABC's World News Tonight. Erin Hayes reviewed
the re-count procedure and made a brief reference to the Palm Beach County
ballot: "Trouble is brewing here already. Three Palm Beach County
residents have hired lawyers to help them seek a look election in that
Picking up on that case of voters possibly punching
the wrong hole between Gore and Buchanan in a two column listing, the only
voting problem cited by ABC, so it must have been to what Peter Jennings
was referring when he asked Dean Reynolds with the Bush campaign:
"And what about these allegations of voter fraud?"
-- CBS Evening News. Byron Pitts in Florida
highlighted how "Democrats have already made allegation of criminal
Pitts played a
soundbite from Bob Poe, Chairman, Florida Democratic Party: "We have
been flooded with calls from across the state of voter irregularities,
voter intimidation, all sorts of allegations that are quite troubling to
Next, reporter Bobbi Harley compiled a list of
complaints about "irregularities." She began:
"While the vote
re-count continues on, reports of voting improprieties are now coming in
from across the state, with some of those voting offices resembling crime
scenes. Here in Volusia County, police tape surrounds the elections
office. That's because in this county alone the Socialist Workers
candidate, James Harris, got 9,888 votes. He only received 19,507
nationwide. Elections officials say it may be a computer glitch, but
it's only one potential problem on a list that's adding up as fast as
the votes are being re-counted."
Then, over video of a few people on the side of a
road holding up Gore-Lieberman signs and one imploring "Honk for
Gore," Harley announced: "In West Palm Beach, voters were
protesting what they say was a confusing ballot, and they want to vote
again." Over a shot of the ballot, Harley made their case: "Al
Gore's name appeared on the left, Pat Buchanan's slightly above on the
right. Some say when they went to select Gore they mistakenly bunched
Without bothering to
point out how over 268,000 people were not confused and voted in the
county for Gore compared to just 3,700 for Buchanan, Harley played a clip
from a woman who whined: "Many, many thousands of votes were lost. We
need those votes back."
Harley moved on to an anecdotal complaint that would
have had equal impact on both sides: "In Broward County, dozens of
voters claim they were turned away when their names didn't turn up on
the voter rolls despite valid registration cards."
Florida voter: "It collapsed. It did not work. It was not foolproof
and their excuse is 'too bad, you don't get to vote.'"
concluded: "Florida doesn't have a squeaky clean record, reputation
that is, when it comes to polling problems. In fact it was just a few
years ago that problems with voter fraud cost Miami's mayor his position
and sent other public officials to jail."
My calculation: Number of Palm Beach County Buchanan
votes (3,407) minus number of people who genuinely meant to vote for
Buchanan = number of stupid liberals in the county. Not casting aspersions
here on most liberals since 268,000 in the county figured out how to
follow an arrow.
-- NBC Nightly News dedicated a whole story too the
supposed problems, but Kerry Sanders delivered some pretty weak examples
based on speculation. He started his piece from Florida, as transcribed by
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Well Tom, tonight NBC News has learned
the Gore campaign has contacted Florida's most powerful law firm to
explore the possibility of a challenge to the Florida vote, a vote so
close that under Florida law it must be re-counted."
He elaborated: "Tonight, high security and
intense scrutiny as each of Florida's 67 counties begins a mandatory
vote re-count, six million voters. This while voting irregularities are
alleged in some counties around the state. Florida's Republican Governor
Jeb Bush with Florida's Democratic Attorney General, reassuring the
nation that the re-count will be honest."
"Voter fraud in the state, in our state is a felony, and guilty
parties will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Sanders went first to the most complained about
case: "In Palm Beach County, on Florida's east coast, Democrats
charge a confusing ballot layout led voters to think they were punching
the ballot for Al Gore when they were actually voting for Reform Party
candidate Pat Buchanan. Mark Andrews among those who now thinks he voted
for Buchanan when he meant to vote for Gore."
"I feel like I've been totally had."
Sanders at least,
unlike CBS's Harley, told viewers how many did figure out how to vote
for Gore and that the person who approved the ballot is a Democrat:
"Buchanan's vote is three times higher in Palm Beach County than
his next highest total in Pinellas County. And Gore gets 270,000 votes
with this ballot. Why this ballot layout? The supervisor of elections, a
Democrat, says she designed it so older voters would be able to read the
After a soundbite from her, Sanders continued:
"Local Democratic officials say they will challenge the entire
county's results. And in Osceola County in Central Florida, Democratic
Party officials charge the vote totals are invalid and illegal. They
accuse the elections department of using faulty voting booths. Allegedly
ballots did not fit properly into the slots. They say that misalignment
shifted votes away from Al Gore. Their evidence: Libertarian Harry Browne
got 309 votes here in a county where there are only 112 registered
Now that's weak. Did Nader's vote not exceed the
membership level in the Green Party?
Sanders then passed along mere speculation and
rumor-mongering: "In Volusia County in central Florida, even more
confusion. A poll worker shows up to the elections office this afternoon
with a bag of ballots. Why are they showing up now? The supervisor of
elections says it was a mistake but that the ballots were counted last
night. Now an election official in Volusia County tells NBC News there
were some irregularities in the vote count in that county, but state
officials say the system worked and that people should be warned not to
over-read anything into this until the entire vote for the state is
re-counted, and then they can make their judgments."
The networks have already "over-read" much
into scattered election complaints which are common in every election
event, three different recitations. ABC, CBS and NBC reporters Wednesday
night each recounted the second phone call of the early morning between Al
Gore and George Bush, the one in which Gore told Bush he had changed his
mind and would not concede, but each network's version was slightly
-- Jackie Judd on ABC's World News Tonight:
"Gore calls Bush for a second time. Bush is incredulous,
disbelieving. He tells Gore, 'do what you have to do.' Gore at some
point tells Bush he doesn't have to be 'snippy.' A contentious call
-- Bill Whitaker on the CBS Evening News: "Now
that second conversation apparently was heated. At one point Governor Bush
said, 'Let me make sure I understand, you're calling me back to
retract your concession?' Vice President Gore responded, 'Let me
explain something. Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on
this.' The conversation apparently ended abruptly."
-- David Gregory on the NBC Nightly News: "The
Vice President calls George Bush again, this time to recant his
concession. 'The circumstances have changed...I need withdraw my
concession until the situation is clear,' Gore says in what quickly
becomes a tense call. Bush is said to be indignant."
Bush at the
Governor's Mansion Wednesday: "I thought it was interesting comment
he made. I felt like I was fully prepared to go out and give a speech
thanking my supporters and he withdrew his earlier comments."
"Sources close to Gore recall Bush saying his brother Jeb assured him
he'd won. Gore responds: 'Your little brother does not have the last
word on this.' Also, Gore is heard to say, 'Well, you don't have to
broadcast networks all acknowledged big mistakes during election night
coverage in calling Florida for Gore, recanting that, then at 2:18am
ET declaring Bush the President-elect, only to retract that also about
60 minutes later. But none considered the impact on West coast voting
of their call (at 4:50pm PT, 5:50pm MT), that Gore had won Florida.
Peter Jennings, in fact, insisted on
Wednesday's World News Tonight: "We cannot get to the end of
this broadcast without looking at what role we in the media played
last night, though we are not certain what affect, if any, our
mistaken projections in Florida had."
reported "two rare mistakes" occurred in the "almost
always accurate" system because exit poll numbers matched early
results, but the first precincts were not typical.
Dan Rather offered song lyrics instead of any
examination of the impact: "There's an old song that might have
been written about this unprecedented and still undecided election:
'First you say you do and then you don't, they you say you will
and then you won't.' Understandably, many American felt just that
way overnight as the news media, including CBS News with the most
accurate record in the business, made calls in an election we now know
was too close to call."
Kathy Frankovic, Director of CBS News polling
offered her vague explanation of the problem: "There were some
exit polling data that might not have been as good as they could have
been. There may have been some precinct data that wasn't been as
good as it should have been. And then later on we got some tabulated
vote that was a simply human error data entry problem."
She promised that "you learn from your
mistakes." Rather gratuitously added: "In fairness to Dr.
Kathy Frankovic and her highly professional CBS News survey team,
we'd like to point out that her final CBS News poll before
yesterday's election, came closer to the actual popular vote than
any other national survey."
NBC's Andrea Mitchell, in a Nightly News look
back at what happened, blamed an "incredibly close race and some
bad numbers." Mitchell
recalled other bad calls in presidential elections past, then
concluded by snidely transferring blame from the networks to the
"fraud" in the American election system:
people say that the real issue isn't why projections, often
involving paper ballots, are sometimes wrong, but the archaic vote
counting system that often leads to mistakes and even fraud."
Rather and Tom Brokaw concluded their Wednesday newscasts with some
Rather: "So, in a country in which the government derives its
power from the consent of the governed, we are reminded the great
power the people of this country hold in their hands and exercise
through their votes. Even a single vote can make a huge difference. In
a democracy voting is not only a right, but a responsibility, one too
many Americans elect to ignore."
Brokaw admired respect for the rule of law:
"It was a bitterly contested election, but it will not be
resolved by troops and tanks, by mass protests and boycotts, but
instead by the Constitution and reasonable people working out their
differences by a commonly accepted set of rules. That remains the most
enduring and reassuring part of a remarkable evening, one for the
Gore hasn't conceded so the heavens aren't crying yet for Bryant
Gumbel who pressed Bill Daley about the integrity of a re-count in a
state where George Bush's brother is Governor and raised suggestions
about "scrapping" the Electoral College.
Gumbel set up a Wednesday CBS The Early Show
interview: "As one of the Democratic Party's most stalwart
figures the Reverend Jesse Jackson has stayed on the campaign trail
well into the 11th hour, pushing hard for the Vice President
particularly in keystone state of Pennsylvania. He's in Nashville
right now. Reverend Jackson, good morning."
"The heavens are crying."
him: "Well, not yet."
MRC analyst Brian Boyd also detected Gumbel's
agenda coming through in his interview with Gore campaign chairman
Bill Daley. Gumbel's questions:
-- "You and
I are old Chicagoans so we know how funny these things work sometimes.
Are you comfortable with the people in charge of the re-count and
confident that it will conducted fairly?"
-- "Let me
be more blunt about the fairness thing that we were talking about. You
have any problems at all with the fact that the opposition's brother
is the Governor of the state where the challenge is?"
a lot of talk this morning about scrapping the electoral process, that
it's antiquated. Do you have any problems with it at this hour?"
think the fact that they can say they won that popular vote, I think
they believe will have most of the public on their side," ABC's
George Stephanopoulos suggested on Wednesday's Good Morning America.
But MRC analyst Jessica Anderson also noticed that he conceded
"we've had this system for 200 years. Everyone knows it's a state
by state election."
Charles Gibson raised a point made in an earlier
interview: "I was very interested in talking to Mark Fabiani
about something he said a number of times: 'We won the popular vote.'
They're trying to establish something here."
"No question about it. They're trying to create political space
for the challenges they need to make in Florida. Listen, as our polls
showed yesterday, most people think whoever wins the popular vote
ought to be President of the United States, and I think they think by
repeating that -- and you'll hear that from Democrats over the next
few days -- that will give the Gore campaign the space they need, the
time they need to make sure that every vote in Florida is looked at
and if challenges need to be made, people will say, 'Well, of course
he has the right to challenge. After all, he won the popular
"Right. They're worried that they will be seen as disruptive by
the public if they challenge things in Florida."
"Disruptive, sore loser, you know, fighting the process, but I
think the fact that they can say they won that popular vote, I think
they believe will have most of the public on their side."
"George, you just mentioned the fact that most of the public
thinks that the winner of the popular vote wins the election, and so
this difference, possible difference between who wins the popular vote
and who wins the Electoral College will shake this country up. Now the
way the networks called the states is going to shake things up, but
that even more should shake things up about the difference between the
winner of the popular vote and the winner of the electoral vote, if
there turns out to be a difference."
"In theory, although, it really shouldn't. We've had this system
for 200 years. Everyone knows it's a state by state election. There's
some fundamental sense of fairness, I think, if you just ask people
the question, 'Oh yeah, we want the popular vote winner to win.' But
listen, everyone knew the rules going in. Both sides knew the rules
going in, and I think that the political system, the Congress will
accept whatever decision comes out."
But will liberals in the media?
illegitimacy of the Electoral College became the topic of the early
morning hours on NBC on Wednesday as soon as the anchor team realized
Gore would win the popular vote but lose in the Electoral College, MRC
analyst Geoffrey Dickens was still sober and awake enough to observe
at about 4am ET.
In the time-filling conversations between about
3:30 and 4:45am ET, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter kept getting slapped
down by Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert, but while Russet maintained a
defense of the system, Brokaw eventually predicted: "What I am
quite confident of, this is the last we'll hear of the Electoral
College. After this election my guess is that it's gonna be yanked
out of there. Nobody wants to go through this again....I think the
country is gonna get sufficiently aroused by this."
The conversation started with Alter, as quoted
in the November 8 CyberAlert Special, contending Gore "will be
elected President" because if Gore won the popular vote "the
political pressure would mount very quickly to, to certify Al Gore as,
as the winner. Especially since you have a potential conflict of
interest here with the Governor of the state that is handling the
re-count being the brother of Governor Bush."
Russert countered: "I mean everyone has
said straight out, 'whoever wins 270 votes in the Electoral College
is the next President of the United States."
"It seems to me that the challenge itself, Jonathan, would throw
that into great chaos. More than any re-count or anything else. That
if you had a clear cut Constitutional rule that everyone understood
when they began the campaign and there was great discussion about it
in the closing days of this campaign that Al Gore would be seen as a
big spoil sport of some kind and a guy who got in the way of history.
That the time to change it would be after the election."
"I'm not, I'm not talking about changing the rules or having
the popular vote somehow supercede the electoral. I'm talking about
as a practical political matter. If the re-counts could be assured to
be totally accurate and if everybody agreed on the re-counts then
there wouldn't be this problem. But that's not the way re-counts
work. If you look at the history of close re-counts in, in
congressional races they are always disputed. You go precinct by
precinct. And then people say this re-count wasn't fair, we have to
do it again. And the result, after weeks, would be a lot of pressure
to say, instead of trying to sort out who really won Florida let's,
let's end this thing."
Alter was remarkably in tune with Democratic
thinking. Brokaw proposed: "So Jonathan let me just take you
through this. If you think at the end of the recall that, that
Governor George W. Bush is ahead by 1500 votes."
Democrats go right into court."
they'll try to get another re-count and they'll start canvassing
by, by precinct and county and they'll challenge the whole re-count
process. And pretty soon you are into litigation land. And the
American people will be saying, 'Hey wait a minute! Al Gore won this
election. What is all of this about?'"
"Alright, well he's building a foundation in the popular vote,
Jonathan, for your theory, which I still don't buy into, by the way.
But we'll see what happens."
ruminated about Gore piling up votes in California: "Let's say
he opens up a 400,000 vote lead with that last five percent. Does that
increase the political pressure then for Governor Bush?"
think absolutely it all increases the political pressure on Governor
Bush. But what I'm saying is that if we are a nation of laws those
were the laws. We talked about this. It wasn't the first time that
this has been raised. We didn't wake up on election morning and
[slaps forehead] and say 'The Electoral College, I forgot about
that!' It's been there from the very beginning."
"And when people look at that map some will suggest, 'My God,
Governor Bush won 30 states. Al Gore only won 19 or 20. Why
shouldn't that figure in the calculation?"
spent the last 10 days talking about where they've been going just
because of the Electoral College."
think the tricky thing is when a court gets involved. If you have some
local judge in Florida who is going to determine the entire
presidential election based on his analysis of the re-count that's
where a lot of folks are gonna get off the bus on this Electoral
Brokaw saw the
end of the Electoral College: "Well my guess is that they ought
to expedite the whole thing into the Federal Court system and maybe
even run it all the way up to the Supreme Court as quickly as
possible. And do it swiftly in the interests of getting this thing
resolved. Both sides ought to agree to some kind of a path that they
would be happy to have it resolved with and, and then go from there.
And then what I am quite confident of, this is the last we'll hear
of the Electoral College. After this election my guess is that it's
gonna be yanked out of there. Nobody wants to go through this
"It will take a Constitutional amendment."
Brokaw: "I know but I think the country is
gonna get sufficiently aroused by this. You know we are in a whole new
Aroused with a little media encouragement.
celebrities are thrilled by Hillary's victory. Wednesday's Access
Hollywood caught actress Uma Thurman walking into the Talk
magazine/Miramax election party in New York City. She gushed:
"It's the best news ever. Yeah, it's the best news ever.
Hillary has won, it's such a total victory I think for women all
over America and for her and for New York. I'm thrilled as a New
Another CyberAlert this afternoon with how
David Letterman's audience booed Hillary's victory and his
"Top Ten Things Overheard Last Night at the Florida Election
Commission." -- Brent Baker
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