Brent Bozell

 Anyone who is a political junkie -- if you stayed up into the wee hours of Election Night, you qualify -- had a couple of beefs with the national media amidst an otherwise riveting evening.

 First, just who were those so-called polling professionals hired to do the exit polls for the networks? For about six hours on Election Day, the Kerry camp was positively giddy and the Bush folks were forlorn as word spread of exit polls indicating not a Kerry win, but a Kerry landslide. All of those emotions were utterly wasted. Among other things, the expert exit pollsters had oversampled Democrats and women, and when the real vote came in, Kerry was on the short end in one key battleground state after another.

 Anchormen can claim that those rotten numbers never made it on the major airwaves. Some network types tried to blame Web sites like Slate.com and the Drudge Report for spreading this ersatz opinion story. But that doesn't get them off the hook. Who paid for the crummy polls? The major networks did. Journalists have counted on exit polls to elicit a greater sense of accuracy, since they're supposed to reflect the actual votes Americans have cast, not just some phoned-in opinion with no impact. After the exit-poll debacles of 2000, the onus was on them to get it somewhere close to right, and they assured us, this time they would. It's time to scrap them altogether.

 Second, what sort of political "science" is it to withhold projections overnight because some frantic Democrats lobbied you into submission? Republican political junkies were yelling at the TV, demanding to know why the networks were so quick to call Pennsylvania for Kerry (Kerry's final margin: about 127,000), but couldn't pull the trigger on Ohio (Bush's final margin: about 127,000).

 The New York Times told the story. At 12:41 a.m., Fox News declared that Ohio was a win for Bush. "Howard Wolfson, a (Kerry) strategist, burst into the 'boiler room' in Washington where the brain trust was huddled and said, 'we have 30 seconds' to stop the other networks from following suit." The Kerry camp dialed furiously and begged the networks to hold any more projections. The Bush camp called to make sure the networks that called Ohio would not backslide based on Kerry lobbying.

 From then on, only Fox and the NBC-MSNBC combo had called Ohio, but refused to project victory in any other Bush state, especially ripe and ready Nevada. ABC, CBS and CNN all pretended Ohio had not been decided, even with nearly 100 percent of precincts reporting. Millions of Americans woke up with a sick feeling: Is there a crisis again?


Brent Bozell

Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.
 
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