Two surprises of US election night

First – ITV wiped the floor with the BBC in the quality of its election night coverage. A great mix of news, statistics, humour and drama. What has particularly stuck in my mind was a very short, but absolutely on the button, description of what the Virginia result could mean – the home of American slavery helping elect the first black man as President. Informed, concise and moving.

And all done, by the looks of it, on a much lower budget than the BBC’s. Though it pains me to say so – as someone who likes the concept of the BBC, and thinks criticism of it is often mis-placed – the BBC seems to have lost its way badly when it comes to election night coverage.

Second – after all the events of the last four years (Iraq, financial meltdown, recession, ethics scandals and more), after all the Obama organisation, and with Obama as candidate – the Democratic share of the popular vote in the Presidential election only went up by 4%. McCain may have been swept away in an electoral college landslide, but in the circumstances, he came extremely close in the popular vote. The lessons from this are far from clear – was McCain’s error turning into a traditional Republican candidate in the closing part of the contest, or was his error not turning into one sooner? And is the Republican machine actually in a surprisingly good state, or is it about to fall apart? There will be much to keep politicos interested and debating!

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25 Comments

  • I thought the BBC was an absolute shambles. Poor coverage, dodgy maps that didnt show any detail, and bad sound. It was like an old man fumbling around in the dark. The only good bit was John Bolton fighting a Beeb journo.

    CNN was cautious in calling the results as they came in, but had a very intelligent and in-depth programme, and I applaud them for it.

  • David from Ealing 5th Nov '08 - 10:50am

    Part of the problem with the BBC election coverage is David Dimbleby. He’s not quite so bad on it as he is on QT, but almost. And their graphics are embarrasing.

  • Dimbleby can’t talk out a mistake. He just fumbles and looks around for help.

  • Sky News was better than the Beeb as well.

    The “touch screen” was bizarre and ineffective – and presumably not actually a touch screen!

    Dimbleby was utterly embarrassing. I tried to persevere, but every time he messed up it was excruciating.

    As for the share of the vote – US elections are frequently very close – this year’s margin of 6.5 million is prettymoderately large, historically: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781450.html

  • Hywel Morgan 5th Nov '08 - 12:45pm

    McCain polled more votes than Reagan in 1984

  • The Libertarian Party cost McCain Indiana and North Carolina.

    Three cheers for Bob Barr!

  • Hywel Morgan 5th Nov '08 - 1:21pm

    According to the exit polls those contacted personally by BOTH campaigns broke for McCain by 4%. Those contacted by just one broke about 80/20 for that candidate – but more than twice as many were contacted by Obama only than by McCain only.

    That would suggest that it was the scale of the Obama ground campaign that matter not it’s quality. And that mobilising more people to take part was crucial. Lessons for the UK?

  • Dave McCullough 5th Nov '08 - 1:29pm

    Mark, Obmama won by around 7 million votes and more than 5%. that’s likely to get bigger too when all the totals from the West Coast are added up. I dont think that’s extremely close in the popular vote, as you say.

  • Hywel Morgan 5th Nov '08 - 1:36pm

    Link for the above
    http://edition.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#val=USP00p2

    My favourite bit
    Approx 2% of people thought Obama was too Conservative and voted for McCain.

  • Hywel Morgan 5th Nov '08 - 1:48pm
  • I found a combination of Radio 4 and the CNN website worked quite well.

  • David from Ealing 5th Nov '08 - 5:45pm

    For most of the time I watched, Sky got the results quicker than the BBC.

  • I’m with you and lots of others, it seems. The BBC coverage was desperately poor. Dimbleby, Vine and a whole host of celebrities all dropping in their 2p but adding not one iota of real analysis made the night a real chore.

    So I mostly stuck with ITV and was pleasantly surprised at the coverage they provided. Yes, it had the look and feel of budget TV, but compared to what the BBC were serving up it was a triumph. It had a degree of honesty, and they kept the vox pops to a minimum.

    On the more general point, BBC election coverage is getting worse and worse… except for one blip: the Glasgow East by-election. I think they recognised there that the only people watching would be politicos, and Jon Sopel served up a great feast of analysis and punditry. I hope they do it again tonight, but it does go to show that they can do it if they try. Only us nerds watch election coverage anyway.

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