From TV critic Brian Lowry:
Anchors and analysts endeavored to be cautious — as they had pledged in pre-election interviews — but several had a difficult time not referring to an Obama presidency as if it were a fait accompli. Fox News’ Brit Hume, for example, gently chided Morton Kondracke not to get ahead of the discussion in the half-hour before any of the state voting had concluded.
There were considerable discrepancies in who called what when. NBC designated Pennsylvania for Obama well before its competitors, while Fox had stated that Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell had won reelection when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was still saying that prognosticators were “in no position” to call the race given how narrow the margin was.
The first calls — neither of them a surprise, with Vermont going for Obama and Kentucky to McCain — came moments after the polls closed in those states. CNN played a musical fanfare with exploding stars to signify each time that a state was being called. Seven more states and D.C. went Obama’s way right after 8 p.m. Eastern.
In terms of style, every network has now borrowed from sports coverage with some form of touch-screen graphics for their analysts, creating its own sort of dizzying visual arms race. In the most science-fiction-like, surreal, “Minority Report”-type flourish, CNN even featured correspondent Jessica Yellin by hologram — super-imposing her glowing, otherworldly image into its studio set.
Notably, while MSNBC’s opinion heavyweights Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were in the thick of its coverage — despite the shift to move the former out of the anchor chair — Fox primetime hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were nowhere to be found during the early portion of the evening.
As always, cable networks in particular found themselves with more time than they could soberly fill — and seemingly more determined than ever not to relinquish audience to competitors. Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all continued to run their on-screen news crawls throughout commercial breaks, creating L-shaped blocks of numbers and text around the shrunken ads.