CBS News Exec. on election night: “We can’t be in the business of pretending to be stupid.” And, Democrats can’t be in the business of complacency

Following up on John’s post below, news organizations are starting to think about election night and how to cover what will unfold. I was, of course, struck by this line from a CBS executive, “We can’t be in the business of pretending to be stupid.” You don’t have to pretend.

Network news and the cable channels have perfected the art of being stupid with the incessant coverage of non-news worthy events during this campaign. The Republicans have mastered that are to making the news organizations cover the stupid — and more often than not, the news people fall for it.

But, the bigger point here is not election night, it’s what the possible election results mean for both sides.

Just think about election night. Indiana closes its polls at 6 PM Eastern. Virginia closes at 7 PM Eastern. We could know the actual results early. But, throughout the day, the news organizations will be getting exit polls. We’ll all see them, too. But, therein lies the danger. Remember 2004. All day long the exit polls looked great. In the middle of the afternoon, Zogby proclaimed a victory for Kerry.

I was doing get-out-the-vote in Portland, Maine. Several of my fellow campaigners decided we’d drive to Boston for the celebration. When we got in the van to start the drive, Kerry was going to be president. One hour and forty-five minutes later, when we got to Boston, it was over.

We all have our election day stories, but this is a classic about Tip O’Neill from 1980:

Though he had been begged not to, the president [Carter] gave his concession speech before the polls had closed on the West coast, hurting several Congressional Democrats in tight races. “You guys came in like a bunch of pricks, and you’re going out the same way,” a furious Tip told a Carter operative.

In other words, it doesn’t matter what the exit polls say or what the news organizations are reporting. Everyone has to be in overdrive til the very end. We can’t just win, we have to vanquish the Republicans and their allies. That’s the flip side of this election night story. Our supporters need to stay focused to win big. But, the GOP’s base is realizing the loss is coming. It can’t be fun to slog it out for 18 more days knowing disaster is looming.

Obama is on a roll through traditionally red states. Senate candidates are picking up steam. This is shaping up to be a very good year. But, as Obama keeps saying, no one can be complacent.

Instead, when we see articles like the one in Politico.com about election night, use it to demoralize the other side — and energize our supporters.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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