Some members of the national news media are coming under heavy criticism today for their coverage, or lack thereof, of last night’s Wisconsin recall vote.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker easily won the race with 53 percent of the vote, compared to 46 percent for Democrat challenger Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee.
At 9 p.m. Eastern, when polls officially closed and networks could make their prediction, all of the cable networks including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all announced the race was “too close to call.”
Radio host Rush Limbaugh said CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer sounded “joyous” when he declared at 9 p.m.: “We begin with breaking news out of Wisconsin where polls have just closed in a recall vote that could preview November’s election. Look at this! Our exit polls show it’s a 50/50 race as of this minute!”
“Why was Wolf Blitzer excited?” asked Limbaugh this afternoon. “Why was 50/50 exciting to Wolf Blitzer and anybody on the left? It was because all the pre-election polls had Walker winning by anywhere from 3 to 10 [points].”
During the 9 o’clock hour, CNN actually departed from election news to cover Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in Britain.
But at 10 p.m., Blitzer returned with another update on the vote, but his tone was much more low key, without the exuberance expressed an hour earlier.
“We have breaking news,” said Blitzer. “CNN can now project a winner in the Wisconsin gubernatorial contest. The incumbent Republican, Scott Walker, will retain his job as the governor of Wisconsin. The Democratic challenger Tom Barrett will not be the next governor of Wisconsin. Once again, he loses to Scott Walker.”
“Notice how Blitzer stopped talking at that point about how the Wisconsin vote would be a preview of November,” Limbaugh said.
“Once they called it for Walker, then this race didn’t mean anything. Didn’t mean a thing. At 9 o’clock, when they believed their own exit polls, it was nirvana. And I guarantee you, throughout the Democrat Party coast to coast, they are looking at all the polling data they’ve got and they’re wondering, ‘Is any of it right?’ All the polling data they have that shows Obama with whatever number of electoral votes now based on polling, all the polling data they have that shows Obama’s personal likability – which is pretty high in these polls – they’re looking at it and they’re wondering if they can trust any of it. And the odds are, if they’re smart, they’re going to tell themselves they can’t.”
Today at the Politico, analyst Dylan Byers wrote:
MSNBC was blatantly rooting for Tom Barrett to defeat Gov. Scott Walker, even sending union champion Ed Schultz to cover an event with no apologies for the dog he has in the fight. (Earlier tonight, Chris Matthews even told Schultz that if he wasn’t an MSNBC host, he could be head of the AFL-CIO.) When it became clear that Barrett would lose, Schultz looked almost teary eyed. Not long after, the network’s contributors immediately began suggesting that this was, in fact, good news for Obama – who, after all, hadn’t even set foot in Wisconsin – and began attacking Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, Fox News was blatantly rooting for Gov. Walker, and the moment it became clear that Walker might win, host Sean Hannity called it “a repudiation of big unions,” which did “everything they could do to demonize Scott Walker.” Guest Hugh Hewitt then predicted that, five months from now, Romney would follow Walker just “as Reagan followed Thatcher.” Fox’s Greta Van Susteren later hosted what amounted to a victory celebration for the Republicans.
Given this blatant partisan coverage, it was absolutely impossible to watch either network and weed out any clear understanding of the actual significance of the event, much less what effect it would actually have on the 2012 presidential election.
Limbaugh noted that irrespective of any partisan political beliefs, all Americans should be celebrating Walker’s victory in Wisconsin.
“Strip away all the partisanship, strip away all of the reasons that there’s acrimony,” Limbaugh explained, “doesn’t this victory last night by Scott Walker, doesn’t it mean that states all over the country now have another choice when it comes to dealing with fiscal emergencies?
“They don’t have to raise taxes. States do not have to lay off people. They don’t have to go bankrupt. The federal taxpayer does not have to bail out these states. There’s now another choice. The states can trim a little fat from the public-sector union contracts, which is always their biggest expense. Isn’t that good news? There’s a way here that’s been lighted. In the real world where we’re in fiscal trouble, here is a state which has shown a way out of it. I know, I’m whistling ‘Dixie’ here because … the left doesn’t care about that. They don’t care about fiscal responsibility or sanity. They don’t care about balanced budgets.”