Reliable Sources: The overnight headlines say 'too close to call'

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You ...

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 11:02 AM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 11:02 AM

A version of this article first appeared in the Reliable Sources newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Too close to call

The small picture about Tuesday's special election in Ohio: "The Republican is ahead!"

The BIG picture: "The Democrat really shouldn't even be close."

By 11 p.m. Eastern, Troy Balderson had pulled slightly ahead of Democrat Danny O'Connor in OH-12. The Republican party came out and said Balderson won. President Trump tweeted about the "great victory" and took credit for helping the candidate.

But the Associated Press and the major networks all say it's too close to call.

"The CNN decision team will not make a projection in the Ohio 12th Congressional District special election tonight because the race is simply too close to call," CNN's live blog said shortly before 11:30 p.m.

Balderson is ahead by 1,754 votes, and Ohio's Secretary of State says there are 8,483 outstanding ballots.

"A very steep hill for Republicans this year"

But the point, no matter what, is that this race "should" have been a slam dunk for the GOP. That's the most accurate frame for this story, and for the most part, that's the frame journalists are choosing.

"This district is ruby red Republican. The fact that it is so close is a big deal," John King said on CNN. A little while later, he told Don Lemon that it's a "moral victory" of sorts for the Democrats. "The fact that this is so close tells you this is a very steep hill for Republicans this year," King said.

I thought this was a telling remark by RNC chief of staff turned CNN contributor Mike Shields: The "historic average is that the president's party loses 26 seats. We need to beat history by four seats. Our base needs to watch tonight and say, you know what, other networks are telling them everything's fine -- it's not."

Check CNN's live blog for the latest updates from the special election in Ohio... And from the primaries in other states...

The pink wave...

Remember the brief government shutdown back in January? And the silly predictions that it would somehow sway the midterms? I remember asking on CNN, "What is the bigger story this weekend? Is it the shutdown, or is it actually the women's march?" My gut told me it was the march... And my gut has been backed up by all the signs since then...

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"The #PinkWave is the biggest story of 2018," Time's Charlotte Alter tweeted Tuesday night, linking to this info from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers: "It's official. With polls closed in KS, MI, MO, we've broken the record for women major party nominees for U.S. House in any year. The previous record was 167. With 5 women candidates unopposed and one all-female primary, we've hit 168 tonight with possibly more to come..."

About the polling...

I noticed CNN's Harry Enten and 538's Nate Silver both noting the accuracy of recent polling in tweets on Tuesday night. I asked Enten to elaborate, and here's what he told me:

"The polling currently shows Democrats favored to take back the House in the fall. One hope Republicans have to hold onto the House is a polling error. You might recall that Trump was polling behind Hillary Clinton in a number of key swing states that he ended up winning. Yet, the polling in this year's special elections suggest that Republicans shouldn't get their hopes up."

"In Ohio 12's special election, the polling indicated a tight race. That's exactly what happened," Enten said. "When you look at the polling in all the special elections this cycle, the average error has actually been smaller compared to special elections in years past. Perhaps most importantly? The polling, if anything, has been biased against the Democrats. That is, they did better than the polling indicated in the average special election."

CNN staying live overnight

Generally speaking, CNN and MSNBC are spending more time covering the special elections than Fox. CNN will stay live all night Tuesday/early morning Wednesday... Don Lemon is on from DC until 1 a.m. Eastern, and John Vause will pick up the coverage then...

One of the purposes of Trump's media bashing...

I think John Podhoretz was on to something the other day when he said that Trump's media bashing "is the predicate for the post election excuse for the blue wave."

First, Trump says the press is the "enemy." Then he can say the press doomed the GOP in the midterms.

Podhoretz elaborated in this NYPost column, calling the media bashing "an insurance policy of a kind." The idea: Come November, Trump and the GOP "won't have lost because of public disaffection or anger, but rather because they were propagandized into voting against him. The fix was in. The Fake News Made Me Lose. And now they really have to be stopped..."

Read more of Tuesday's Reliable Sources newsletter... And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox...

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