President Obama won the swingingest of all states last night, Ohio, possessor electoral votes so important that New York Times polling guru Nate Silver had written that it had a 50 percent chance of deciding the election.
As the night shaped up, the state was so critical to any hopes Mitt Romney had of staying in the hunt, that Fox News analyst and Republican mastermind Karl Rove engaged in a public display of wishful thinking after the network called the election for Obama based on the projection that he would win Ohio. Rove actually staged a mini-revolt on-air by challenging Fox’s decision to put the state in the Obama column. He claimed that with just 74 percent of Ohio precincts tallied and Obama’s lead narrowing, it was too early to make a determination one way or the other, as there were too many votes to be counted in the Republican suburbs of Hamilton County. “As they’ve started to come in, they’ve narrowed that margin dramatically,” Rove said.
“I’m going to ask you a straight-out question,” said anchor Chris Wallace. “Do you believe Ohio is settled?”
“No I don’t,” said Rove, who went on to explain there were still more “big chunks” of the Republican vote left to count.
The network was disconcerted enough by Rove’s challenge that anchor Meghyn Kelly eventually got up and walked over, on camera, to the Fox “decision desk,” where results are analyzed in the service of determining when to go public with a call.
“We’re actually quite comfortable with the call in Ohio,” one of the deciders told Kelly. “Basically, right now there’s too much Obama vote that’s outstanding there that we know is going to be Obama. And while yes, there are a number of counties out there that will be Romney, the largest thing that’s outstanding right now is the Cleveland area…this is Democratic territory, and we’re quite comfortable with the idea that Obama will carry Ohio.”
The Rove challenge brought to mind a similar incident on CNN in 2000, when political analyst Mary Matalin, between jobs as a Republican strategist, disputed the network’s call for Al Gore in Florida, saying it was too early to make that decision. Here’s some video; Matalin speaks out at the beginning, and the CNN team defends the call around 5:45.
Matalin, of course, was right, as the long Florida electoral crisis was just beginning.