After a campaign that made media coverage an election issue, Variety examines the spin throughout Election Day across major TV news outlets.
ABC’s live election coverage began at 7 p.m. ET, while many west coasters were still voting — or were perhaps leaving work early to race home in time to tune into election coverage. George Stephanopoulos is anchoring the marathon broadcast, which is set to air until 2 a.m. ET, and was joined by a panel of heavy hitters including “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir and Martha Raddatz, who moderated the second presidential debate this season.
But, the newest addition to this year’s election coverage is Michael Strahan, who recently joined ABC’s morning show “Good Morning America” where he’s typically utilized for more of the soft news stories. Tonight, the former “Live With Kelly” co-host takes on a pivotal role in ABC’s election coverage, stationed in the middle of the network’s gigantic set-up in Times Square, standing atop of the light-up map that will show the blue and red states won by either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as the results roll in. Strahan will also interview audience members on the scene throughout the night.
Meanwhile, Strahan and Stephanopoulos’ fellow “GMA” personalities Amy Robach and Robin Roberts were stationed at the New York Hilton Midtown hotel and the Javits Center where Trump and Clinton will hold their post-election events, respectively.
ABC’s first major guest to satellite in was Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who came on the show around 7:30 p.m. ET., and was asked about the many Republicans who are not supporting Trump in this election. While admitting that their lack of support “doesn’t help,” Conway said, “The irony is that tonight we are poised to win states that neither Romney or McCain won and we’re doing that without Romney or McCain’s support.” Immediately following Conway’s chat with Stephanopoulos, Roberts interviewed the Clinton campaign’s communications director Kristina Schake at the Javitz center.
Tossing back to Strahan in Times Square, the TV host and sports commentator’s first man-on-the-street type interviews were with youthful first-time voters. One of the young ladies told Strahan that she’s a Republican, but voted for Clinton because she did not agree with Trump’s disparaging remarks about women. Strahan thanked the group for their input and congratulated them on their first time voting, saying, “Your voice has been heard.”
With Florida being the most important battleground state, as it’ll be near impossible for Trump to win, if he does not get Florida’s vote, “The View’s” Paula Faris was stationed at the University of Miami, reporting in front of a crowd of students — most of whom where carrying “Make America Great Again” posters, in support of Trump. Faris noted that many of the young voters were from out of state, but registered in Florida, knowing how important their vote would be there. Politics aside, the students were all in agreement on one public figure — calling out to Stephanopoulos, the crowd yelled, “We love you George!”
The next big interview subject to come onto ABC’s broadcast was Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s biggest supporters. Giuliani stated that he’s “cautiously optimistic” about Trump’s chances of winning the election.
ABC’s political analysist Matthew Dowd noted that if Trump wins Florida “he’s definitely in the game.” Meanwhile, Muir was taking a close look at the exit polls and John Karl, ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, was analyzing the electoral votes map, throwing out “what if” possibilities for both Clinton and Trump, mentioning that Michigan, in addition to Florida, could possibly go to the GOP party.
Around 7:30 p.m., after Trump won Ohio, the team began to discuss the serious possibility of Trump winning the presidency with a democratic reporter on the panel almost at a loss for words. Michigan, which hasn’t gone Republican since 1988, became a hot topic on the panel, as Trump was ahead of Clinton.
“Could we have one of the biggest upsets in presidential history?” asked Stephanopoulos.
Karl chimed in on the battleground states, declaring Trump in the lead. “It looks like he’s running the table,” he said.
Tossing to Robach at Trump’s event, she said, “They are certainly celebrating this evening. You can see a sea of red hats behind me.” Then switching to Roberts at Clinton’s space, the “GMA” fixture was surrounding by upbeat Clinton supporters who, as Roberts pointed out, were staying upbeat and holding onto hope.
With the possibilities for the battleground states being thrown around on ABC’s electronic map, Raddatz pointed out: “The closer this is, the greater the divide is in this country.”
As the ways for Clinton to win became slimmer and slimmer with Trump holding onto a hefty 244 electoral votes, a Democratic contributor uttered: “I think we all got it wrong. It would be good for the Democratic party to look and see what happened.”
The CBS News Election Night anchor team has gathered around “CBS This Morning’s” circular glass table to crunch the numbers and parse the significance of the exit poll data.
“CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley, “Face the Nation’s” John Dickerson, Bob Schieffer and the “This Morning” trio Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King perched over laptops as the East Coast returns began rolling in.
Pelley has paced the discussion. He also gave shoutouts to correspondents Nancy Cordes and Major Garrett for their yeoman’s work covering the Clinton and Trump campaigns, respectively, for the past 18 months.
Dickerson noted the clear patterns of how the electorate is breaking down for Clinton and for Trump along race and gender lines. He also cited “the education gap.” Voters with college degrees are favoring Clinton while many of those without are in the Trump camp. Rose noted that surprising result that “Trump is carrying white women” overall at a higher rate than Clinton, based on exit polls.
When the first glimpse of numbers Ohio indicated strength for Trump, King made an observation about the star power that came out to support Clinton’s campaign, and the rapport that Rose, King and O’Donnell share every morning was evident. “Are you all saying Beyonce didn’t make a difference in Ohio?” King said. Rose replied: “They love ‘Lemonade.’ ”
With the first results coming in, Lester Holt presided over the NBC News anchor desk staffed with the network’s all-stars — and “Democracy Plaza” on the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink.
Tom Brokaw, Savannah Guthrie, and Chuck Todd were prepped and ready to analyze every shred of data — including the reports that Hillary Clinton was holding an early lead in Florida. “The fact that she has a lead right now,” said Todd, “you’re going to have a lot of nervous Trump people right now.”
Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace reported, as she had on MSNBC, that the Trump campaign has been engaging in a “What If” argument — what if they hadn’t spent a month arguing with the Khan family; what if he had apologized earlier for the “Access Hollywood” tape. “What if he’d focused on a strategy that had remade the map?” she posited.
Brokaw pointed out that temperament didn’t serve the Republican nominee, which was reflected in the exit polls. “He ran the general election like it was a primary,” pointed out Brokaw. “He didn’t shift gear in time for the general election. It’s not over. But they have to scramble to win.”
Todd injected a measure of caution about reading too much into the Florida numbers. “This is just early vote,” he cautioned again and again.
It fell to Savannah Guthrie to explain the electoral college system, having been lobbed the question by Lester Holt of why we find ourselves in this incredibly awkward process. “Because the constitution says so,” said Guthrie. “And that doesn’t make it any less odd.”
That riled up Chuck Todd. As much fun as he’s been having playing with his computerized map all day, it’s clear he’s frustrated. “There is a bug in the system,” he said. “It is way too easy to end in a tie. Go try to explain it to someone overseas…It is no longer one person one vote.”
That left James Carville as the voice of reason: “It may not be the system we want, but it’s the system we’ve got.”
With Florida still a toss-up and leaning Trump, Todd started playing with electoral college possibilities — and landed at a 269-269 tie. “This feels a lot like 2000, Brokaw,” he teased his colleague.
Countered the former anchor: “That’s OK, I brought my old script.” With the race tightening, the shock was clear on the faces of the anchors. Brokaw spoke for everyone gathered around the desk about the depth of voter discontent. “It’s been totally underestimated by those of us in the establishment,” he said. Added Todd, “Rural America is screaming at us.”
Glenn Beck, who’s been vocal in his criticism of Trump, then joined the show, shaking his head in disbelief at the results. “We have not listened to the heartland,” he said. Beck said the electorate was delivering a message to the media, including himself.
“It’s difficult for me to consider myself a conservative or a Republican tonight,” he said. “If this is what a conservative or a Republican is. I don’t want anything to do it.”
Andrea Mitchell, reporting from a very somber Clinton headquarters, pointed out how wrong the media was that Clinton had multiple paths to victory while Trump only had a narrow one: “Clearly that was a misjudgment by us all.”
We will keep updating this story throughout the night for updates on how the broadcast networks are handling their coverage of the presidential election.