Dan Rather To Report on Elections–Takes Step Up From CBS

While CBS, the network of Murrow, Cronkite, and Rather has degenerated into the Katie Couric Show, Dan Rather will get a shot at covering the elections with the best this year. Many times Jon Stewert has out performed the real journalists. Tonight Dan Rather will be joining Stewert and Stephen Colbert at Comedy Central:

This is not a joke.

Dan Rather will analyze election results with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert tonight at 11 on Comedy Central’s live, hour-long Indecision 2006 special.

“It’s a risk, I guess, but what the hell,” says Rather, who covered every national election since 1962 for CBS before being drop-kicked in June. Now he’s global correspondent for Mark Cuban’s HDNet.

“J. Stewart and company offered the chance, and I’ve taken it,” Rather, 75, says. “I don’t do comedy, I do politics, which sometimes is one and the same.

“Certainly, one can’t cover politics and not have a sense of humor about it. Let’s face it, politics is often a theater of the absurd.”

Equally absurd are the corny “Ratherisms” he dragged out during many election-night marathons.

Among our faves: “If a frog had side pockets, he’d carry a handgun.” And: “This race is tight like a too-small bathing suit on a too-long ride home from the beach.”

Don’t look for such classic nuggets on tonight’s Midterm Midtacular, Rather says. (Color us disappointed.)

“Don’t expect many Ratherisms, if any. If any occur to me, I may use it, but I intend to be myself, report a bit, and have them take it from there. I’m told I will be expected to ‘play it straight,’ and then they’ll bounce off it. We’ll see.”

Rather has never been a guest of The Daily Show or Colbert Report, but he’s grateful to them for giving him a platform from which to keep his 44-year string of election coverage going.

“I’m hoping this old wreck of an anchorman and political reporter may yet have some wee something to contribute,” he says.

Exit Polls and the Britney Factor

It’s the first time after 5:00, when the keepers of the exit polls were to be set free, that I’ve had a chance to check on line. Not surprisingly there are rumored reports of the exit polls everywhere. Different sites are offering contradictory reports, which doesn’t matter much since they aren’t all that accurate any ways in close races. All reports from liberal blogs with results show enough wins to take the Senate even if they disagree on the specifics. If I had more time at present I’d check the conservative sites and see if they have the same rumors. Regardless, we should have some real results in a couple of hours. (Update: There’s getting to be more consistency among the unsubstantiated rumors at least. Most sites now spreading rumors that Democrats winning all the key battlegrounds except Ford is narrowly behind. If true, this would give the Democrats the Senate.)

Update: Reportedly exit polls are showing corruption is the number one issue for voters, which wouldn’t be good for Republicans. Of course after 2004 the number one issue was moral values until they reexamined and found that it wasn’t. Reportedly Democrats are optimistic and Republicans are fearful, but it doesn’t take exit polls to suggest that.

The only hard news we have so far tonight is that Britney Spears (photo here) is divorcing Kevin Federline and wants the kids. The question is which Britney this is. If this was the Britney who guest starred on Will and Grace (“I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.”) it might suggest a moral backlash favoring the Republicans. However as this is the real Britney, who once said “we should just trust our president in every decision he makes,” I suggest this is a bad omen for Republicans and they will do poorly tonight. Sure it’s meaningless, but so are those rumored exit polls.

While I hope the rumored exit polls are true, the only winner I’m willing to project so far is Kevin Federline. Congratulations, Kevin.

FBI Investigating Reports of Voter Intimidation in Virginia

Yesterday there were reports that voters in Democratic areas of Virginia were getting phone calls such as the following to try to scare people into not voting:

“This message is for Timothy Daly. This is the Virginia Elections Commission. We’ve determined you are registered in New York to vote. Therefore, you will not be allowed to cast your vote on Tuesday. If you do show up, you will be charged criminally.”

MSNBC now reports that the FBI is investigating:

Jean Jensen, Secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, confirms that the FBI is now looking into possible voter intimidation in the US Senate race between Republican incumbent George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb. Jensen says state officials alerted the Justice Department yesterday to several complaints of suspicious phone calls to voters that attempted to misdirect or confuse them about election day. She adds she has now been contacted by FBI agents. The FBI in Richmond refuses to comment.

In a written statement issued by the Webb campaign, state Democratic party counsel Jay Myerson says he believes that Republicans are behind an orchestrated effort to suppress votes for Webb. Republican officials, including the executive director of the Virginia Republican party, say the GOP and the Allen campaign are focused on mobilizing voters and have not discouraged anyone from voting.


Extra Precautions To Keep Exit Poll Results Away From Bloggers

The Wall Street Journal reports that extra precautions are in place this year to prevent journalists and bloggers from getting their hands on exit poll data early in the day, which is understandable considering the misuse of the leaked data in the past. Leaked raw exit poll data in 2004 created the myth, still spread by some, that the exit polls proved a stolen election, distracting from the actual election problems. In order to prevent the release of data early in the day, polling specialists reviewing the data will be locked in a room until 5:00 p.m. Undoubtedly the data will be leaked after that. It is hoped that data from later in the day will be a more accurate predictor of the results than earlier data, but the limitation of such data must still be kept in mind. From The Wall Street Journal:

Two-by-two, polling specialists from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and the Associated Press will go into rooms in New York and Washington shortly before noon Tuesday. Their cellphones and BlackBerrys will be confiscated; proctors will monitor the doors; and for the next five hours, these experts will pore over exit-poll data from across the country.

If all goes well, only when they emerge from their cloisters will the legions of ravenous political bloggers have any chance of getting their hands on the earliest indication of which party will end up controlling Congress.

“The demand for info is intense, and if the safeguards aren’t steel doors bolting people inside a room, it will get out,” says Marc Ambinder, associate editor of National Journal’s Hotline OnCall. “The insatiable appetite for this info will overwhelm the ability to keep it secret.”

The extraordinary security is a result of mix-ups that prompted grumbling about the accuracy of exit polls after the 2004 presidential election: Bloggers posted data from early exit polls, incorrectly calling some states for Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry and indicating that he would unseat President Bush.

This year, media executives figure the secret will keep less than half an hour. “Based on past experience, I expect that I’ll have exit-poll data soon after it’s released from multiple sources,” Taegan Goddard of the newsy independent blog Political Wire says in an email…

News organizations use exit polls to give them an early sense of the electorate’s mood to shape and guide coverage later that night when the real results come in. As the data become more complete throughout the day, NEP and news organizations use them to project winners when the polls close. TV news anchors know the results, but are honor-bound not to disclose them until the polls close in the individual states. Sometimes, however, they can’t resist alluding to some results with broad statements about the mood of the electorate.

Poll results are for internal use for the most part, but are generally the worst-kept secret in the news business. On Election Day, exit polls are the coin of the realm in Washington, and some reporters and editors can’t resist sharing top-line data among themselves and with political operatives. Consequently, the information can reach bloggers from any number of sources.

Mainstream news organizations know that bloggers will eventually get their hands on the exit-poll data, but their goal is to delay it as long as possible because the accuracy of the data improves as the day goes on…

“People need to realize those numbers aren’t the real results,” says David Bohrman, vice president of news and production at CNN’s Washington bureau, who urges people to be cautious when interpreting poll results. “They show why people voted today, and what was on their minds. The only real way to figure out who won is to count the votes.”

Pollster.com, which tries to explain the mechanics behind polls, agrees. Exit polls are “still a sample,” he says. “Don’t get all excited about it.” In 2004, Mr. Blumenthal posted a warning in the morning about the vagaries of exit polling data and says he’ll post another Tuesday. “You learn the hard way that a one- or two-point lead on a leaked exit poll is meaningless,” he says…

Unreliable or not, for many bloggers exit polls are just too juicy to ignore. “Basically, yeah, we’ll run everything we get the second we get it,” says Alex Pareene of the irreverent Washington blog Wonkette. “Give the people what they want.”

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Republicans Can’t Even Be Trusted With Telephones

How come the party which claims to be the party of ideas does everything when they campaign except for actually talking about their ideas? When it comes to campaigning, as with governing, Republicans just do not play fair:

Karyn Hollis, an English professor at Villanova University outside Philadelphia, said the same computerized calls had been ringing her telephone as often as five times a day for more than a week.

They all start with a simple, if somewhat ambiguous, statement: “Hello, I’m calling with information about Lois Murphy,” a Pennsylvania Democrat who is the challenger in one of the hottest House races. That opening sounds “kind of positive in tone,” Ms. Hollis said. But the message quickly turns negative, blasting Ms. Murphy’s political views. After she hangs up, the phone rings again later with the same message. And again. And again.

The calls are part of a telephone blitz that the Republican Party has unleashed in several dozen races that are likely to determine control of the House in Tuesday’s elections. And the repeat calls to the same homes have set off a new furor over campaign tactics, with the Democrats claiming the calls violate federal communications rules and are tantamount to harassment.

Ms. Murphy and other Democrats say they have been flooded with complaints from irritated voters who think that the calls are coming from the candidates themselves. Many of the voters had hung up before the message was over, and never heard that it was produced by the Republican Party.

Keep The Lap Dancers Four Feet Away

Here in Michigan we have proposals to consider ranging from affirmative action to hunting morning doves. That’s nothing compared to the ballot proposals in Seattle which regulate lap dancers and strip clubs. The Washington Post reports on a proposed city ordinance which would place the following restrictions on lap dancers:

  • The four-foot rule. A performer and her patron must stay at least four feet apart.
  • The library rule. Lights must be turned up to the brightness of a typical office.
  • The cash-in-a-cup rule. A patron cannot give money directly to a dancer or wiggle it into her underwear.

I fear whoever came up with these rules just does not get lap dancing. One lap dancer summed up the problem. “The four-foot rule will mean I can’t make a living. Who is going to pay $20 to stand four feet away and watch me dance? No one.”