8:35 p.m. ET
Brian Williams is defining the difference between too close to call and not enough information.
Chuck Todd stands in front of a county-by-county hanging map of Indiana.
Kay Hagan beats Dole in NC.
8:31 p.m. ET
WABC is plugging its web coverage on 7online.com. Jeff Pegues reads emails from the site’s Interaction section, one from a McCain voter, another from an Obama voter.
8:30 p.m. ET
Comedy Central is going all out. Massive 15 foot high plinko board, photo booths. Prizes and more TVs than you can ever imagine, food and drinks are flowing.
Poll closings in Arkansas – too early to call
Virginia too close to call.
Break in that Elizabeth Dole lost senate race in N. Carolina seat to Kay Hagan.
Matthews says arguments have been that she didn’t spend enough time in the state. “This may be first senator history to lose for not talking enough.”
8:15 p.m. ET
I’ve peaked at CNN and it’s obvious to me that maybe Fox is spending money on research, but it’s not obvious it’s spending it on great or even passably intense graphics. This is another night on the job for Fox. Again, the smarts are there but Fox coverage has no special-ness. This is the Super Bowl of politics but it appears on the air like something close to a baseball game between Kansas City and Cleveland. Fox at 8:29 p.m. ET called Pennsylvania for Obama, but somebody must have done it first because we heard it from a friend about ten minutes ago.
Brian Williams remarks how Harold Ford Jr. and Mike Murphy, Democrat and Republican are here working together in an almost bi-partisan way. On-screen, they’re separated in graphic frames, as if they’re in different cities. But as soon as Williams says what he says, Ford looks off to his left, presumably right at Murphy, sitting down the table somewhere. Kinda weird that they have to make it seem like they’re on different sides of the room at least.
Big gains in the house, surprisingly big gains in the seenate.
The economy, the economy, the economy is what Harold Ford Jr. says is the important issue. Another Obama rep had earlier said the race would come down to "Virginia, Virginia, Virginia"–both big tributes to what Tim Russert said in the last presidential election. Russert’s enormous presence hangs over the proceedings and you know how much he’d be enjoying this.
8:10 p.m. ET
NBC: Jean Shaheen beats John Sununu in New Hampshire; Dems now have two more seats in the Senate
Obama leads 103-34 at present based on what NBC is calling
8:09 p.m. ET
Ok, the blue stripes are showing on MSNBC.
David Gregory brings on former presidential candidate and now head of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean. Chris Matthews interviews Dean, kind of openly getting a little gooey, calling him John the Baptist, which Matthews and Dean agree Fox News will probably make fun of them for.
“I’m just trying to get you to agree how great you are,” Matthews says to Dean.
Howard Dean: “The most terrific thing about this campaign has been its discipline. I’ve never seen a Democratic campaign more disciplined than this. Even the fabled 92 Clinton campaign, which was a terrific campaign. Barack Obama has reached out to people in a disciplined way, there of course are mistakes like everybody makes but there were no big ones. It was thoughtful, there were no leaks. There was no backbiting. Win or lose, Barack Obama has set a real mark for what will happen in this country, we hope will happen in this country.”
8:05 p.m. ET
“It’s not New Years Eve, it’s just Election Night,” says Gibson, but there’s a nice crowd cheering outside ABC’s Time Square studio.
8:02 p.m. ET
It’s hard to say Fox News doesn’t do promotion well, because they do, and they don’t couple partners together well, because they do, but Chris Wallace and Brit Hume, if you are watching live, are worth watching for your television memory book. This is Hume’s last election and he is loose as a goose and he obviously works well with Wallace. They aren’t quite Brokaw-Time Russert, but there is a chemistry there that is warm and sort of sweet, as it is unlikely to be between two men, on the air at least. Look at them. They’re fun, without hardly a new gizmo to speak of–and what they have Megyn Kelly has just tried to prove she can use as well as Bill Hemmer. From what I can tell, Fox is not all over the place or doing anything splashy, but it’s doing a solid smart job.
Chris Matthews: “I thought it might happen tonight. I have to say right now: The McCain campaign strategy for victory has crashed. Their plan to win was to go through Pennsylvania. The seconed battle of Gettysburg has gone the same as the first, a failure. … This is the killer state. Everyone knew the only way McCain could win this race is to win Pennsylvania.
8:01 p.m. ET
ABC projects Pennsylvania and New Hampshire (“a sentimental state for John McCain,” says Gibson) as going to Obama
ABC calls several more:
For Obama: Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware, Washington DC, Massachusetts
For McCain: Oklahoma, Tennesseee
MSNBC ticks off a series of calls one after another, with anchors alternating:
Calls Pennsylvania to Obama
Illinois to Obama
New Jersy to Obama
New Hampshire Obama
This leaves electoral votes at 103 Obama, 34 McCain
David Gregory: “Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Chris Matthews.”
7:56 p.m. ET
Darn commercial break! Charles Gibson returns from a break to tell viewers they went to commercial just as South Carolina was projected for McCain. That’s gotta hurt.
7:51 p.m. ET
In Palm Beach, Fla.
First Luke Russert apperance. The exits polls now show the young voters are at 17 percent but it’s still early.
Makes an analogy with the Berlin wall that I sadly missed, but that Brian Williams appreciated.
In Palm Beach Florida, people were asked to not check an arrow that was listed on the piece of paper, but instead to connect the arrow to the outer edge of the arrow. Completely totally, predictably stupid. We will in the coming days and weeks be looking at the paper ballots in Palm Beach florida and expressing outrage. Voters were complaining that they had no idea of how to vote.
7:48 p.m. ET
Chicago Sun-Times Website has a Webcam streaming a live picture of a growing hoard at Grant Park, site of the Obama election rally in Chicago.
7:46 p.m. ET
NBC: South Carolina goes to McCain
7:45 p.m. ET
Keith Olberman reports on what McCain says will be last statement, sets up a tape of McCain speaking on his campaign plane. “I’m looking forward to the election results tonight. Feeling good, feeling confident,” McCain says. “It’s been a great ride, a great experience.”
MSNBC’s David Gregory jumps to a projection that John McCain is winning S. Carolina.
Keith Olberman adds a note on Indiana, “a state we’ve decided is yet to be called,” but says AP found 1/3 of those who voted for the Republican governor in that state voted for Obama. He says this goes back to Chris Matthews’ point earlier in the night about Indiana being “born red, born Republican” and perhaps going the other way.
This deference is worth noting for what it says about the chemistry on MSNBC so far tonight. The team of David Gregory, Keith Olberman, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow are so far playing along well and respectfully, if not slightly subdued.
7: 45 p.m. ET
Scratch that “barren” comment about the ABC studio—here comes the pundits gallery: ABC regulars Cokie Roberts and George Will, CNN regular Donna Brazile and former Bush pol Matthew Dowd.
7:45 p.m ET
Nancy Pfotenhauer talks about going into a headwind with this thing, though she’s still confident. Thinking of clips of her on Jon Stewart, perhaps she waiting for the returns from the Real Americans to start pouring in.
7:39 p.m. ET
After watching so much cable news coverage this year, with huge gaggles of analysts lined up at school-lunch-table-like desk, ABC’s in-studio troika of Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos looks downright barren.
7:30 p.m. ET
At about 7:30 Fox’s Bret Hume reported that Sen Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) is fighting for his seat and jokes to Chris Wallace that he ought to be on the line trying to get McConnell booked as the most powerful Republican, another sign McCain’s not going to cut it. Wallace admits he’s making that try, but since McConnell may not win, he’s also put in a call to another Republican candidate
In 2004, according to WNBC, the big issues people were concerned about: Iraq and Terrorism tied at 23 percent and the economy was 19 percent. This election, the economy is at 60 percent and Iraq is 9 percent. This is, however, amazingly obvious; to me it’s akin to reporters noting that presidents look older when they leave office than when they get in.
Early in the coverage (7:05), Brian WIlliams points out that Ann Curry, who’s in the exit polling set, is not being "hit" by flying stats. They erase everything and it turns out she’s on a green-screen empty background with all the stats coming up when they come up. In other words, pay no attention to that anchor behind the curtain; the Wizard of Oz has spoken!
7:22 p.m. ET
MSNBC shows live pictures from Grant Park in Chicago as people gather to see Barack Obama.
7:26 p.m. ET
Rachael Maddow has been weighing in throughout the evening but makes the first remark that really connects with a seemingly off-the-cuff thought: “Obama, what we’re going to learn is whether or not he’s going to have spent a lot of resources to lose by a smaller margin in these states that republicans have always carried by 20 points. It’s not in the bag for Barack Obama. We have very little information at this point.”
She seems to be starting to warm up just as David Gregory takes things into a commercial break ahead of the 7:30 p.m. poll closings in Ohio, N. Carolina and W. Virginia.
David Gregory comes back right at 7:30, saying N. Carolina and Ohio are too close to call and W. Virginia is too early to call.
Hearing lots tonight about the important difference between things being “too close” and “too eary” to call.
7:17 p.m. ET
At 7:17, CBS has McCain winning the popular vote, 300,000 to 270,000. Couric has some audio problems while trying to connect with David Plouffe. Finally they appear to be straightened out. "Can you hear me now, David?" she asks. "I sound like a Sprint commercial."
They discuss why Indiana is deemed in play based on exit polls centered on issues, then start fading to a commercial, with the pipes playing and the shot going long. The commercial break never happens, but Couric offers viewers a "Welcome back!"
By 7:26, McCain has extended his popular vote lead to 425,000 compared to Obama’s 368,000. More importantly, the electoral vote is 13-3 in McCain’s favor, as CBS has given him West Virginia.
At 7:32, Obama leaps ahead in the popular vote, 49% to 46%.
7:14 p.m. ET
Brian Williams mentions, beautifully, that in 1968, that phrase "The whole world is watching" was attached to that convention, and here Grant Park is in Chicago, with the crowd building as Obama watches election returns. A really really nice comparison.
Tavis Smiley: "If these numbers hold up. I was born in 1964 in Mississippi. . . 40 years ago we lose Dr. King and Robert Kennedy in the same year. it amazes me to see how far we’ve come."
"What I’ve said is don’t sell your soul (re: Obama) For all strategic reasons, he didn’t want to talk abou race during the campaign. I understand. The mainstream was so quick to talk about race transcendence in the campaign. I see america trying to move beyond this moment. If he wins, it’s important NOT to think of America as post-racial."
7:07 p.m. ET
Brit Hume did a whip-around of correspondents at about 7:07 p.m., and there was Cameron looking anxious to be first but Hume went to Major Garrett, who’s covering Barack Obama. Pleasant night in Chicago, and Garrett reminded us that Obama planned outdoor events in Denver and Chicago, and lucked out. When Hume switched to Cameron, it apparently was a cue to another correspondent, who spoked through most of Cameron’s night. Hume quipped that Fox was adding people to coverage and "sometimes we let you hear from them at the same time.We hope you like it."
At 7:15 p.m., commentator Bill Kristol began to eat his own words about the apathy of Americans, suggesting that this might be the highest percentage turnout in the 20th Century.
7:00 ET — On MSNBC, David Gregory announces at the top of the hour the “the first important news of the night: We can project now that John McCain is going to win Kentucky.
The crew is citing NBC News projections. They called Kentucky with 10 % of votes in. At the same time MSNBC calls Vermont for Obama.
Olberman says this is what the polls suggested all along.
This puts McCain at an early lead 8 electoral votes to 3.
However, the MSNBC team says there are several calls they can’t make at this point, Indiana is too close and Georgia and Virginia too early.
Indiana is clearly emerging as a big story of the night as these guys see it, they pulled in Carol Marin from Chicago to talk about it and Chuck Todd had a map of Indiana going before that.
The headline from this first batch of info, says Chris Matthews is Indiana.
“I’ve been telling people for days so I’ll be consistent tonight. That you look at Indiana, a state was was born a Republican,” he says. “Hoosier country, the fact that it is too close to call. Too early to call is one thing. Too close to call, if Indiana is too close to call it’s very telling and a very good thing if you are rooting for Barack Obama. If the Republicans have to fight the Hoosier country that means they probably have to fight Ohio, are probably going to lose Pennsylvania and you can figure out where it’s going to go along from there.”
6:50 p.m ET
Katie Couric starts the national broadcast with reports of perhaps record voter turnouts. Some 126 million voters are predicted, with states ranging from 75 to 85 to even 91% of eligible voters turning out. As opposed to the local WCBS broadcast, voting problems are scarce.
Couric flips it to Dean Reynolds in Chicago, where hundreds of thousands of Obama supporters may just turn out for a victory part in Grant Park. Chip Reid is in Phoenix covering Camp McCain. Couric likens the tireless McCain to the "Ever-Ready Bunny"–somewhere, an Energizer brand manager cringes and a Gawker live-blogger jumps with joy.
Corresponent Anthony Mason offers numbers showing just how hungry voters are for change, how dissatisfied they are with the current administration, and how large the economy figures into their voting. "It’s a very disenchanted electorate," he says.
Still, no exit polls showing how states are voting. Jeff Greenfield talks about voter views on the issues, and Bob Schieffer offers historical perspective on a black man and a war hero both in the running for the presidency. "It’s a wonderful moment in the history of America," he says with a wide smile.
Dee Dee Meyers and Dan Bartlett then offer insights as to exactly what’s going on in the two candidate camps right now.
ABC World News set looks brighter, better lit than usual. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are standing at an electoral map and Charlie’s writing in poll closing times with a green digital marker—nice and clear.
Wolf Blitzer calls in the BPTOT, and Jeffrey Toobin immediately closes his laptop. All of the others kept theirs up. Concerned that maybe he would be caught checking facebook again?
NBC Chuck Todd sets the schedule: Virignia at 7 p.m. will tell us how tight it will be for John McCain. At 8, we’ll have polls closing in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, this is the McCain political survival triangle. 11pm: This is when the numbers will be starting to add up. This is when we’re getting closer to 270. 1 a.m. Ted Stevens in Alaska. Could this be the 60th seat in the senate for the democrats?