CNN Election Coverage Analysis: John King Works to Bolster His Magic Wall

John King CNN
Screenshot Courtesy of CNN

On Election Night, CNN dispatched its spirited primetime anchors to host shows in daytime and late-night, and reserved 7 p.m. on for analysis, analysis, analysis.

John King emerged as an early and heavy presence on CNN, working his regular shift at the network’s signature “Magic Wall,” but this year, he is armed with caveats. Nearly every other phrase out of King’s mouth this year is one urging viewers to be patient, using phrases like “this is early,” “I just want to caution you,” “if it holds,” and “we will check back later in the night.”

Part of that is a feature of this year’s Election Night preparation at CNN. The network, like many of its rivals, wants to make sure viewers understand where the vote is heading and why, using graphics representing how many votes were cast early, how many are left to come in, and more – even down to the county level. “An important message for our audience, and we will repeat it all night, is that just because it’s taking longer to project the winner in these elections doesn’t mean that anything is wrong,” Sam Feist, CNN’s Washington Bureau chief, told Variety in a recent interview. 

In some cases, King’s deliberate manner is prompting him to push back on Wolf Blitzer, who has been informing viewers about “key race alerts,” or developments in voting in individual states. And yet, at other times Blitzer is asking King to explain to viewers things like why Florida is so important and whether Democratic challenger Joe Biden is performing well in individual counties there. Blitzer often plays the over-enthusiastic master of ceremonies, while King is the detail-obsessed explainer.



CNN is serving up advertising along with politics this evening,

Like many other cable-news outlets during moments of intense national interest, the network is using “squeezebacks,” or commercial breaks that show both an ad as well as a side-by-side view of live action — either from the newsroom or a scene from voting in part of the United States. MSNBC and Fox News have also been spotted utilizing the ad format during these times.

CNN has also placed advertisers alongside some of the evening’s “Key Race Alerts,” or segments during which CNN drills down on state-by-state results.



CNN banished the hot talk until the wee hours.

Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon, who normally hold forth in prime time, were nowhere to be found during the network’s mainstay election coverage, while Anderson Cooper, who leads a spirited panel with Rick Santorum, Gloria Bolger, Van Jones and David Axelrod, appeared earlier in the evening, but not during the reporting of the states’ tally. Between the count being delivered by John King and Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper worked with Dana Bash and Abby Phillip, urging viewers to keep calm as early results came in. “Everyone needs to take a deep breath out there,” he counseled.

More to come…