Politico reports today that networks are grappling with the possibility that an Obama victory will become apparent early in the night on Nov. 4th. If, as seems likely, Obama wins Virginia, where the polls close at 7 PM EST, the piece points out it will be fairly clear fairly how the election will shake out (we could have a good idea even earlier if Obama win Indiana where the polls close at 6). The question is how up-front news anchors will be about the implications of such a victory:
“As to the presidential race, it's pretty simple: We will try to call a winner in each state as soon as possible after the polls close in each state,” Friedman e-mailed. “If that adds up to 270 for someone before the polls close in the West, there's not a lot we can do. If there are not enough electoral votes for one man to win it before the Western states close, but we're pretty sure how they're going to fall, we will be ready with language which states the obvious without being too obvious. We can't be in the business of pretending to be stupid.”
Network political experts do not expect a candidate to reach the winning threshold of 270 electoral votes before 11 p.m. Eastern. “Nearly a mathematical impossibility,” one network official e-mailed. [...]
Friedman said that in case of a landslide, “We could say something like, ‘Given the number of electoral votes Obama already has, and given what we know about the voting so far in various states where the polls have not closed, it is going to be very hard for John McCain to win.’ I would sincerely hope that kind of language would not discourage people out West from voting.”
But um, of course it would. And people tend to be more motivated to vote for someone they know will win, so early results making clear Obama will win will almost certainly hurt numerous Republican House candidates as well as Senate candidates in Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Alaska.