Fox News puts Joe Biden’s electoral vote count at 264, six short of victory, raising the possibility that the network will be the first to call the presidency for the Democratic nominee.
The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind of snazzy red and blue electoral maps, deep dives into voting data and weary TV anchors going on little sleep. And there have been standout moments, one of which is the drama surrounding Fox News’ call of Arizona for Biden, a call that the Associated Press also made but not yet any of its rivals. Coverage shifted a bit on Wednesday to potential Donald Trump campaign legal challenges, the latest of which is a lawsuit filed to stop the vote count in Georgia.
There were some key moments of the nonstop coverage, culminating in Trump’s early-morning speech in which he (at least prematurely) declared that he won. Network coverage will continue through this evening at least, as ABC and NBC again plan primetime coverage on Wednesday evening.
“I’m sorry”: Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden at 11:20 p.m. ET, a development that restored some Democratic hopes on an otherwise harrowing evening. But the Trump campaign quickly challenged that assessment, a sentiment that was relayed on air by Katie Pavlich.
Anchor Bret Baier then brought in Arnon Mishkin of the network’s Decision Desk to explain how they made the call.
“I’m sorry, the president is not going to be able to take over and win enough votes,” he said. Baier then pressed him, “Are you 100 percent sure?” “Yes,” Mishkin said. He continued to stand by the call Wednesday evening, as the Trump campaign continued to insist that it was premature.
The moment had similarities to 2012, when the Fox News Decision Desk called Ohio for Barack Obama, only to be challenged by analyst Karl Rove. Then-anchor Megyn Kelly took viewers back to the Decision Desk gurus and Mishkin explained how they made that call as well.
The Associated Press joined Fox News in the projection several hours later, while the Trump campaign continues to insist that they will win the state.
Amid Trump team pushback, Fox News Decision Desk Director Arnon Mishkin defends Fox's decision to call Arizona for Biden:
— The Recount (@therecount) November 4, 2020
“Put the razor blades and the Ambien back in the medicine cabinet.” James Carville went on MSNBC around midnight to face a reckoning over one of his predictions: that Joe Biden would have the election wrapped up by 10 p.m.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. But he was just as certain of a Biden victory later in the evening.
“The first thing is every Democrat, just put the razor blades and the Ambien back in the medicine cabinet,” he said. “We’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine.”
To many anxious Democrats, it was a bit of relief after an evening on the edge. To others, though, it begged the question: Why was Carville so optimistic in the first place? It speaks to what is likely to be a legacy of the campaign — pollsters who were way off their mark in some of the swing states, giving a false sense that there was a chance of an early Biden landslide.
Trump’s early morning “press conference”: The president’s remarks from the campaign’s East Room celebration started with a joke, but then he attempted to claim victory, even though a number of states had yet to be called.
“We will win this, and as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it,” Trump said.
Very quickly after he finished, networks began breaking away from the event, and anchors fact-checked Trump’s claims of victory as false. Even some of his supporters questioned Trump’s attacks on the integrity of the voting process as a “fraud on the American public.”
“There’s just no basis to make that argument tonight,” said Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who is an ABC News analyst.
The moment triggered a level of angst that the worst fears of the election could be borne out, that Trump will challenge the results in a way that galvanizes his supporters. On Wednesday, his campaign filed a series of lawsuits, and a group of his supporters surrounded a vote-counting site in Detroit.
Rudy Giuliani. The Trump campaign held a press conference today in Pennsylvania as a kind of launching pad for its claims of election fraud, with a lawsuit filed to stop the vote counts.
Known for his overheated rhetoric and more recent a cameo in the Borat sequel, Giuliani’s appearance quickly triggered comparisons to the legal heavyweights who headed to Florida for George W. Bush in 2000, led by former Secretary of State James Baker.
Rudy Giuliani: "This is a concerted effort of the crooks that run the Democratic Party. You know these big city machines are crooked." pic.twitter.com/sCESFMgPu5
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 4, 2020
As Giuliani spoke, Fox News actually cut away so Neil Cavuto could call Michigan for Biden.
It’s too soon to say where the Trump campaign’s legal challenges will go, but there is a level of skepticism.
On Fox News, politics editor Chris Stirewalt dismissed the idea that there was the basis for a legal challenge. “Lawsuits, schmawsuits. We haven’t seen any evidence yet that there’s anything wrong.”
The map gurus. This was a big night for the map gurus, figures like CNN’s John King, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki and Fox News’ Bill Hemmer, and their task was to go into even more granular detail than usual about the make-up and pace of the returns.
It was especially important, as concerns were raised about potential “red” and “blue” mirages in certain states, given the disparity in same-day votes and mail-in votes between Trump and Biden. Pennsylvania appears to be one of the better examples of this. Early on Wednesday, Trump tried to claim that his lead in the state was insurmountable, but the heavy number of remaining ballots may favor Biden by such an overwhelming margin that he is able to catch up.
More than any other figures on air through the night and into Wednesday, the map gurus were a portrait of endurance. Aware of his fan base, MSNBC even gave Kornacki a Kornacki Cam, where viewers could watch what he was doing even when not on the telecast.