2004 Election Night Diary

Editor's note: despite my good intentions to watch the election coverage until a winner was announced, I simultaneously ran out of hope and steam around 9 p.m. Hopefully, though, you find this partial diary entertaining...

Someday, within the next five weeks, one of these men will be declared the winner.

After a nice dinner, my family gathered around the TV in the den to watch the election returns. This night represents a bit of a festival / holiday / orgy for political science majors-- there's nothing better than an entire night devoted to the pure, sweet science known as American electoral politics.


Okay, maybe it's not so pure. People who have watched these things longer than me are saying that this is the most divided presidential election in recent memory. (Of course, they may be saying this to build up drama.) But it does seem like people are more polarized than I can remember. Would enough Democrats be dissatisfied with George W. Bush to get out and put John Kerry over the top?

The only people who get more giddy about election night? Network news programs. In fact, I saw my first election return this morning at 7:05 a.m.-- Bush led Kerry in Podunk, New Hampshire-- 35 votes to 17 votes. I almost decided that it wasn't worth my time to vote, with Bush out to such an insurmountable lead.

Why are Democratic states red when most rednecks are Republicans?

I'm kidding of course. But apparently voters on the West Coast are indeed that foolish. Apparently some voters were affected enough in the 2000 election to not vote because some networks were predicting winners for states on the East Coast. If you decide not to vote because 1% of precincts reporting in Maryland like one candidate over the other, you're a big idiot. Regardless, though, networks are now not "calling" states. They're "projecting" and "estimating." Cute.

Ahhh, networks. Which to choose to watch the results roll in? Sara and I watched NBC in 2000, which was entertaining-- Tim Russert was attempting to add electoral votes on a miniature whiteboard, and failed miserably. So time for a new network. ABC? I think I respect Peter Jennings too much to see him reduced to this. CBS? While it might be fun to see Dan Rather lose his marbles, I'd rather read about it tomorrow. Fox News? No thanks. I think they just called all 50 states for Dubya. Leaving...

"Luke, I am your.. err.. This is CNN..."

CNN. (You should read that in a James Earl Jones voice.) CNN-- they're a news network! It seems like they'd be better at something like this versus the other networks-- who, when not airing news, are airing "My Big Fat Greek Poolboy" and "Wash Mark Cuban's Underwear" among other reality show hits. Their election coverage is hosted by news veterans like Wolf Blitzer and Jeff Greenfield, along with "analyst" Larry King. There's also an air of neutrality, so I feel like I can trust the predictions and know there won't be a whole lot of spin.

Oh, and Anderson Cooper is covering the Senate races... and my wife thinks he's cute.

At least his name's Anderson.

Onto the speculation...

6:37-- Blitzer and Greenfield have spent the last ten minutes explaining how their technology has improved in the past four years. This apparently will prevent them from making another error like they did by calling Florida for Al Gore in 2000. We'll see.

6:38-- Wolf: "It's certainly possible that John Kerry will win, and it's certainly possible that he won't." I guess when you have six+ hours of live coverage you run out of intelligent things to say.

Hungry like the wolf

6:40-- Oh, analysis of voting patterns by... um.. Token? I was unaware CNN employed any African Americans. Well, he's more insightful than Larry King.

6:44-- I know it's reeeally early, but the numbers don't look so good for Kerry. Granted, the only states where polls have closed are the ones with cracker hicks so dumb that they wouldn't know.. um.. ignore that.

6:47-- Terry McAuliffe, head of the Democratic National Committee, raises a good point: with the predicted unprecedented voter turnout, what happens to the people waiting in line outside of polling places when said places are scheduled to close? Are they turned away? Or do they get to vote? Sounds like it's a precinct decision. Also sounds like a potential lawsuit or 19.

6:49-- It's official: Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie is an asshole.

"I'd love to answer your question, Wolf, but I'm too big of an asshole."

6:53-- The transition to the Crossfire gang brings us the first James Carville sighting of the evening! Like 2002, he's still got the Tom Petty "Don't Come Around Here No More" glasses. These guys are entertaining, but I have to agree with Jon Stewart: they aren't providing much in the way of intelligent political discourse. It's just partisan bickering, not much different than the yelling done by Tim Legler, Greg Anthony, and STEPHEN A. SMITH on ESPN.

"My grandpappy (uninteligible) voting booth (uninteligible) curtain!"

7:00-- New projections! CNN is predicting Dubya in Tennesee, Alabama, Oklahoma, and probably every other state where the literacy rate is less than 30%. Kerry is the predicted winner for Illinois, Connecticut, D.C., New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware. Things are looking up?

7:05-- Another ten minutes about CNN's new prediction methodology: spatial logic. (I'll need wadE or Monkey to explain that to me sometime.) Wheee. First sight of a slide rule and I'll be switching to ABC.

7:07-- Barak Obama is the projected winner in the Illinois Senate race, over everyone's favorite angry evangelical, Alan Keyes. Not a real surprise, but good to see Obama victorious. It almost gives me faith in the future of the Democratic party.

7:10-- Token's actual name is Carlos Watson. In case you're scoring at home.

7:20-- Lord. Wolf is now using a Telestrator to dissect a map of Florida. Is John Madden around? "BOOM! There's Orange County! Here's a county that votes more on election day!"

"Stomp out voter disenfranchisement with tough-actin' Tinactin."

7:25-- Vanessa Kerry makes an appearance, and Wolf's acting like he wants to take her out for a drink later. No offense to Ms. Kerry, but she looks like a man, man. I'm sure glad this election won't be decided by the attractiveness of the candidate's daughters. OW!

7:26-- The attractiveness of the candidates' daughters isn't the deciding factor in the election, is it?


7:28-- Unintentional comedy moment of the night so far:

Wolf: So did your dad's speechwriters write two speeches for tonight? A victory speech and a concession speech?
Vanessa: (winks) You'll have to watch to find out.
Larry King: How will we know?
Vanessa: What?
Larry King: How will we know?
Vanessa: I really don't know the answer. I was trying to dodge the question.

7:33-- Flipping through the channels, I see that each network has different electoral vote projections. I guess they must not be all using spatial logic.

7:45-- Wolf interviews a Bush campaign manager. He's very optimistic. Bla bla bla. Why bother? Do you expect any answer out of him other than "we're going to take Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania." Is there anything worthwhile that can come out of an interview like this?

7:52-- A switch to KARE11 for a local update. According to exit polls, Kerry is up 52% to 46% in Minnesota. They interview Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak. Has he always lisped? His eyes are bloodshot, so maybe he's drunk.

"Go (hic) Kerry..."

8:01-- More states with closed polls, and CNN calls... Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming for Dubya, and New York and Rhode Island for Kerry. The electoral vote tally is now 155-112, led by Dubya.

8:10-- 85% of New York voters who were angry about the war in Iraq voted for John Kerry. Despite Wolf calling that little nugget "fascinating"-- isn't that just common sense?

8:33-- I momentarily pass out when Rudy Giuliani is interviewed. It's a medical condition. After waking, CNN calls Louisiana for Dubya. Again, very southern.

Can you bore the terrorists into submission?

8:36-- Mississippi predicted for Bush. A hyuh hyuh hyuh.

"Me and my mammy love Dubya"

8:44-- U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist is interviewed at the Bush/Cheney HQ in Washington, D.C. Behind him appears to be a party, with a live band on stage. How does someone get a gig like that? What self-respecting rock band would put that kind of gig on their resume?

8:50-- A shot of Dubya and his family watching retuns with his family in the White House. He spent about a minute asking his dog if he had any comment. I've got a couple, but will hold back because I often ask my dog if she has any comments.

"Can you explain the electorial college to me, Spot?"

8:52-- Carville says "I'm like Jethro, I've been doing a lot of 'ciphering." Not sure if that's southern for 'deciphering' or if it means drinking straight rye whiskey. By his actions, I'm guessing the latter.

8:54-- By the way, is it bothering anyone else that the next leader of the free world could be decided by voters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and IOWA!?!?

9:00-- Utah goes for Bush. I wonder if illegitimate wives get to vote.

9:02-- Greenfield: "Ralph Nader is performing sufficiently badly." So... is that bad in a good sense?

Well, we all know how things ended up. I'm trying to be optimistic about the next four years. Let's just hope that the 2008 election is a landslide, so I can actually stay up to finish that year's diary!


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