Fox News Election Coverage Analysis: Network Gets Pushback for Early Call in Arizona

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Fox News saw quite a bit of backlash for calling Arizona for Joe Biden on Tuesday night.

The Trump camp contested the call right away, saying that the number of outstanding votes in the southwestern state still gave the president a very real chance to win. Fox News’ Decision Desk stood by the decision, however, stating their statistical models put Trump four standard deviations away from winning.

“Yes, there are some outstanding votes in Arizona,” said Arnon Mishkin, director of the Fox News Decision Desk, after the call was made. “Most of them are coming from Maricopa, where Biden is currently in a very strong position. And many of them are mail-in votes where we know from our FOX News voter analysis Biden has an advantage. We don’t know exactly how many mail-in votes there are, but what I think we’ve heard from the White House is that they are expecting to get that they need just to get 61 percent of the outstanding vote and their eight hundred seventy thousand outstanding votes and they’ll be getting that. That’s not true. The reality is that they’re likely to get only about 44 percent of the outstanding votes there. We’re right now sitting on a race that is Biden at 53 percent, Trump at 46 percent. I’m sorry, the president is not going to be able to take over and win enough votes to eliminate that seven point lead that the former vice president has.”

Biden was projected to win Arizona at around 11:20 p.m. The state marked a major get for Biden according to Fox, with Hispanic voters in the state breaking heavily for him over Trump. According to Fox’s voter analysis, Arizona voters also stated that they felt Biden was better equipped to handle the pandemic.

At 7 p.m. ET as the first polls closed, the network called early wins for Biden in both Virginia and Vermont, both of which were expected to go for the former Vice President. Also unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump was projected to win the state of Kentucky. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace expressed surprise at how reliably blue Virginia has become in recent years, with the state once being a Republican stronghold.

Fox News contributor Karl Rove said early data did not suggest a landslide victory for either side, and that the race looked to be closer than either side would prefer. Shortly thereafter, Wallace pointed out that both Trump and Hillary Clinton had very low likability ratings in 2016, with Trump slightly edging out Clinton. This election saw Biden far outpace Trump in the same measure among voters, with Trump polling in the mid-30% range while Biden was around 50%.

The network displayed results from their national voter polls early in the night as well. Among the results, they showed that 60% of respondents supported the wearing of masks in public places due to COVID-19, while 46% said that racism in policing was a very serious problem. The Fox polls also showed a 76% disapproval rating for Congress and a 54% unfavorable rating of the Republican party. The opinion of the Democratic party was split 49% favorable and unfavorable. In addition, 71% of those polled supported the US Supreme Court leaving the Roe v. Wade decision in place.

When the next round of states began reporting results at 7:30, West Virginia was also unsurprisingly called for Trump. Shortly thereafter, Mitch McConnell was projected to defeat Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in the Kentucky Senate race. Despite McGrath being very well funded, “The Five” co-host Juan Williams said he believed that McGrath was not well positioned to defeat McConnell given his legacy within the state, also noting she only narrowly defeated her primary opponent Charles Booker.

At 8 p.m., Fox projected Biden wins in Washington D.C., Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and three out of four of Maine’s electoral votes. Trump picked up the southern states of Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma. About 20 minutes later, Trump also won the state of Indiana.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson pointed out that data out of Florida seemed to indicate that polling once again underestimated Trump’s support in the state, particularly among non-white voters. When asked what could cause a Trump loss, Carlson said many factors would contribute but his handling of the coronavirus would likely be top on the minds of many voters as well as a sense that Trump’s presidency has been marked by instability.

8:30 saw Arkansas break for Trump, while data out of Florida saw Trump pull further ahead of Biden by about 200,000 votes with 88% of precincts reporting. Wallace pointed out that Florida is a must win state for Trump while the state was not an essential part of Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes. He theorized that Trump’s painting of Biden as a communist or socialist may have pushed many Cuban and Venezuelan voters in the state towards the President.

Kansas, Louisiana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and four of Nebraska’s five electoral votes were called for Trump at 9 p.m. Biden scored wins in New York and Colorado. Wallace said that Fox News had spoken with the Biden campaign and that they had conceded the race in Florida around that time.

At around 9:15, Fox projected Democrats would retain control of the House of Representatives while also expanding their majority by at least five seats. The Fox analysts pointed out that the Democrats raised vast amounts of money in House races this election cycle thanks to platforms like Act Blue, while redistricting is set to happen across the United States this year due to the census. Bret Baier said that many Republicans are “envious” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ability to keep her party in line in the house as well as her ability to recruit strong candidates.

Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt came on around 9:40, discussing how the large uptick in mail-in votes makes it hard to call states like North Carolina. Stirewalt also said it takes longer to count votes in densely populated urban areas, while there has been little indication that either party has scored major upsets across the country.

Just before 10, Trump was declared the winner in South Carolina, while Lindsey Graham was projected to hold onto his Senate seat in the state. Graham’s win came despite challenger Jaime Harrison raising over $100 million as he battled against the incumbent Senator.

The race remained highly competitive going into the 11 o’clock hour, with about 80 million votes counted across the country. Trump was projected to win Utah at about 10:40, with Biden picking up New Hampshire not long after. Biden scored in California, Oregon, and Washington at 11, while Trump scored a big win in Idaho and Florida. Trump relocated from New York to Florida as his official state of residence, with Fox News pointing out he maintained support among senior citizens, which were viewed as a group that could swing towards Biden. Trump beat Biden by about 3 points in Florida, whereas he beat Clinton by 1 point in 2016, according to Wallace.

Biden was projected to win New Mexico as well around that same time. Around 11:45, Trump secured the must-win state of Ohio, winning approximately 53% of the vote in the midwestern state.

Around 11:30, Brit Hume commented that it would likely not be possible to make a definitive call on who will win the White House on election night given the number of outstanding votes in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Just before midnight, Fox declared Trump the winner in Texas, which Democrats had been hoping to flip blue this year. But Biden picked Hawaii just after midnight along with its four electoral votes, with Trump picking up Iowa around 12:15 a.m. But Biden stayed alive in the race with a win in Minnesota around 12:30, with Trump hoping to flip the state given the protests around Minneapolis over the summer.

Many votes are yet to be counted around the country, so the race is still on as Tuesday night draws to a close.