12:59: OK, we’re approaching the six-hour mark, so let’s wrap a few things up. Chuck Todd just came onto MSNBC, and based on his infinitely magical formulas, has concluded it’s looking like a plus-four-delegate night for Obama (that would be 841-837). But: He said that once the superdelegates–who are still skewing towards Clinton–are factored in, she’ll be able to say that she has an overall delegate advantage.
The major papers are explaining the split-vote with the same headline.
The Times: “Clinton and Obama Trading Victories;” The Washington Post: “Clinton, Obama Trade Wins.”
MSNBC is still clicking forwad (Olbermann, Fineman, Matthews), so is ABC (Charlie Gibson), CNN (Larry King, John King), Fox News (Brit Hume, Chris Wallace). Watch if you can manage it any more.
We’ll pick up with more coverage tomorrow, but we’ll leave you with this: Here’s how Chris Matthews got prepared for today’s coverage, and what he thinks of this historical election anyway.
12:41: OK then! MSNBC has just called Missouri for Obama.
12:26: CNN’s calling Missouri for McCain.
12:20: Wait a second! Did we forget to mention Fox? We’ve just been informed that Fox News was first to call McCain for California at 12:13 a.m. CNN was last to call Clinton. FNC was only a minute behind in MSNBC on the Clinton call for California.
12:18: From our point of view, MSNBC is just wiping away the competition. While Lou Dobbs was interviewing Ari Fleischer, MSNBC called California for Hillary and McCain and also provided a critical update in Missouri. MSNBC spends the next few minutes dissecting the implications of California, and over at CNN Wolf Blitzer is explaining some pie charts on CNN–and going to commercial break, with Larry King on the other side.
12:11: Yup. California before Missouri, at least around MSNBC parts. They’re calling California for McCain and Clinton. NBC is also calling McCain an “apparent winner” in Missouri. OK, Anonymous (scroll down to read!), how come none of these people on TV worried about St. Louis results coming in last there? Even we should have remembered that from past elections.
12:11: OK! Make that Obama in Missouri by 4,000-plus, with 98 percent reporting! At best, the APs projection of Missouri is looking premature.
“Missouri is the show me state!” said Chris Matthews. “And it’s waiting to be shown!”
John King’s early analsys–we filed it at 7:26pm–is proving to be right. “We’re going to be spending a lot of time in Missouri tonight.
It’s a bellwether state. It is very representative of all the ideological ranges of both parties; there’s the African-American city of St. Louis, the rural Democrats out there, Evangelicals in the Republican party …”
Keith Olbermann and Matthews are saying they wouldn’t be surprised if they called California before they call Missouri at this point.
12:10: Our sole commenter may be right! (Hey, thanks!) MSNBC is pulling back on Missouri for Hillary. It looks like now Obama has a lead by some 3,000 votes and change, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
12:06: So whose instant-gratification primary-numbers top-of-page-takeover interface is better, the Times or Politico? We like them both for different reasons. You can see everything without clicking around in the Times’ version–but you can’t see any of it very well or without hurting your eyes. Politico has this annoying way of showing you Alabama unless you start moving around the interface; but then, all the data is easier to understand immediately and visually the moment you get to it …
11:54: The AP called Missouri, but the networks have resisted saying it’s going to Hillary. Moments ago, The Kansas City Star reported that Hillary’s lead has dwindled now that the city votes are coming in where there is a “large base of black voters.”
But never fear! According to the Missouri Election Board Web site, her lead is back to over 17,000 votes, up from the 9,000 vote lead she had when the story was filed.
It’s 11:39, so CBS and NBC have taken to Letterman and Leno. ABC, in lieu of Nightline, has returned to its political coverage and is now showing a live speech from John McCain. No loss here, though. The cable networks have dominated in terms of the best coverage tonight.
11:37: After taking Georgia, Russert on Huckabee: “He is not going to be denied. He has a voice in this process now and with some of these states out, I think he has a few more wins coming his way.”
Plus: MSNBC declares Minnesota for Romney.
11:31: The MSNBC team is explaining all of this so wonderfully. Chuck Todd has the delegate scoreboard right now at 594-546 for Obama. “What does it mean? It means we’re looking at an even split. This thing seems razor-thin. We might have 839 and 839 after tonight.”
Keith Olbermann then asked Tim Russert if things are so close why would the Hillary Clinton camp be talking about a momentum shift?
“Obama is almost being penalized for all the good news that we saw from the campaign last week. ‘We might win New Jersey, Massachusetts, California.”
Chris Matthews chimed in: “If you look at the numbers, Barack did really well. Because he hasn’t quite knocked her out she declares herself the triumphant champion.”
Tim Russert said they must, must keep a very hard count of the delegates. That’s the only thing that matters.
11:17: Back to the cable networks: David Axelrod is on with Chris Matthews.
“We’ve been the underdogs in this. They have he greatest name in Democratic politics, they have a machine they’ve honed over two decades.” He guaranteed that Obama will leave California with a “boatload” of delegates. During the interview, Matthews said that NBC is projecting Arizona for Clinton. “You’ll find it was a very close race there tonight in Arizona,” said Axelrod. “We’ll leave there with a lot of delegates too.”
11:11: OK, kids! It’s past 11, it’s more than four hours of live-blogging and it’s time for California. Thanks to the Sacramento Bee, here’s a link to keep open and start hitting refresh on. (Editor’s note: The Media Mob home office has cracked open an unknown brand of whiskey from a flask at the Editor’s Desk. It’s not bad!)
10:56: No one has called Missouri yet, but Hillary has maintained a 9-point lead for a while now. The St. Louis Post Dispatch has her up 53 to 44 over Obama, with 67 percent reporting.
Imagine it has to be a matter of time now.
10:51: Yuck. The networks coverage is really terrible tonight. After having useless interviews with Bill Richarsdon and Joe Lieberman , Brian Williams said that there’s no shortage of smart people to talk to.
Then he turns to Peggy Noonan and begins yet another interview. Tell us what’s happening in Missouri, pls! ‘K, thx!
10:47: Ben Smith is reporting that the Obama campaign believes they are up 606 to 534 in the delegate count. “[Obama campaign director David] Plouffe cited wide margins in Kansas and Minnesota, as well as the fact that Obama had a larger margin in Illinois than Clinton did in New York.”
Chuck Todd said a few hours ago on MSNBC that the Obama camp is hoping that’ll exceed about 850.
10:31: This is almost too high-energy for me. Chris Matthews interviewing Terry McAuliffe right now on MSNBC. Anyway, after spending a few moments discussing the importance of winning in multiple regions, Mr. McAuliffe took a moment to return to talking point and talk about Mrs. Clinton’s Health Care Plan. Matthews didn’t appreciate the brief lapse from primary night conversation and said, “You are whipping me with this flackery! WHIPPING me with this flackery.” McAuliffe didn’t seem very amused, and then Mr. Matthews repeated it–“that flackery”–as they said goodbye. David Gregory summed it up this way: “Wow, a veritable lovefest in there.”
10:23: If MSNBC is aimed at the political junkie, it’s difficult to get a read on who NBC is aiming at. Presumably someone who likes to eat in front of the television: Bill Richardson was just on for an interview–during NBC’s one precious hour of coverage–and Brian Williams asked him what he ate with Bill Clinton while they watched the Super Bowl together. “Well, we snacked on a lot,” he said. “Mexican food, ribs, we had a good time. Politics came up.” Oh did they?!?
10:15: A few minutes ago I checked in with NBC. I was a little early! So I decided to watch the last minute of The Biggest Loser. Good news: a woman weighed 246 pounds and now she weighs 176.
10:10: Mike Huckabee is speaking right now.
ABC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News are all carrying the speech; NBC and CBS are not. On NBC, Brian Williams is talking to correspondents at all the main candidate’s headquarters; CBS has taken the time to declare Connecticut for Obama (the first to do it, I believe) and North Dakota as well. They just went to his speech.
9:46: CBS coverage is at a dramatically slower pace compared to its political junkie rivals at MSNBC and ABC. After a long exchange about delegate counts with Bob Schieffer and Jeff Greenfield, Katie Couric summed it up saying, “You do need a PhD in calculus to understand the democratic calculations for delegates.”
They began talking about older voters and Couric brought up, “If McCain is 71 years old he would be the oldest person to become president because, what? Reagan was 69?”
Bob Schieffer, dramatically raised his eye brows, “I think that’ll be a real asset for him,” echoing Reagan’s famous line in the 1984 President debate.
Couric seemed to miss the easy lob, said vaguely, “I thought you’d might say that,” and changed the subject.
9:47: If you want to check up-to-the-minute results in the dead-heat in Missouri, the Kansas City Star is providing two links off of its home page: one from the AP, and other with the Secretary of State at Missouri (a link that’s acting a little wacky, though!)
9:37: Meanwhile, over at Fox News, Karl Rove made his debut tonight as a Fox News Contributor. He discussed the strategies of each of the three Republican candidates made strategies.
9:32: Glitches! But we’re back now. Howard Fineman said on MSNBC that the Ted Kennedy endorsement of Obama didn’t matter with Democrats. “People want to break out of the old think, they want to break out of the old molds.” He then specifically called Ted Kennedy an “old mold” and he had no impact despite what the “punditocracy” believed.
9:23: Chris Matthews: “John McCain is the Amtrak candidate for president,” after wins in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware.
9:21: ABC News just called Jersey for Hillary.
9:18: Scott Pelley at CBS just told me how important New Jersey is to tonight, so I decided to check back in with New Jersey’s local papers.
One word: abysmal! nj.com doesn’t have anything local, the Bergen Record still has a story about why the primary is important to residents, and below are the absolutely baffling AP-wire-like headlines at the Home News Tribune.
9:15: CNN has projected Hillary the winner in New York. Surprise!
9:11: Welcome, aboard CBS! Katie Couric reminds us what Charlie Gibson said an hour ago and what Keith Olbermann said three hours ago: “We’re in for a very long night.”
Jeff Greenfield, Bob Schieffer, Scott Pelly and Anthony Mason are standing by in the studio.
Here’s Greenfield’s big introduction to CBS too. While up in New Hampshire, more than once he had to inform fans and reporters: “I’m not with CNN anymore.” He has a lap top in front of him and it looks like he might be the CBS wonk of the night.
9:06 Arizona’s polls just closed, and the Arizona Republic is reporting on all sorts of polling problems and some “super confusion.”
Arizona’s 56 Democratic delegates are up for grabs; it was expected to be one of the more closely watched races of the night, so whatever these problems, it’s a story that may become more pronounced as the night continues.
8:50: Chuck Todd is by far the most thrilling–and wonderfully interesting–political analyst of the night. He just came on MSNBC and said that both the Obama and Clinton camps now believe that whoever wins the popular vote could very well lose the delegate vote in Massachusetts (regardless, the delegate vote should be pretty evenly split there). And even though MSNBC projected Tennessee early on for Hillary, he said that she may only get about eight or so more delegates than Obama. She is, however, expecting a very dominating win in Oklahoma.
8:43: Earlier this evening, two staffers at the Observer were having problems getting on to tonight’s must-read, Talking Points Memo—was the site down? Josh Marshall from TPM writes in: “We expected a lot of people. But we got even more than expected. And we were briefly overwhelmed. The site was never down. But for about 15 minutes it was hard to get through to for many people. We made some adjustments. And that smoothed everything out. As for the rest of the night, running this site means always being concerned. But I’m confident we’ll be able to keep blogging the news all night without interruption.”
8:41: Kate Snow at ABC, embedded with the Clinton camp, just said that the campaign is “so nervous” about Obama’s potential in California. She also said they have concerns about Connecticut and New Jersey.
8:35: Thankfully MSNBC hasn’t been using this the entire night, but at certain moments they’ve been using a screen that is a bit …. stuffy! There’s a bit too much of everything–results at the bottom (which in our snap you can barely see actually), countdowns for 9 p.m. polls, results with oversized faces on the left-hand side. Oh, and Chris Matthews doing interviews on the right.
Sorry for the quality of the image–our camera is a little weak (and that TV screen is powerful strong!).
8:29: MSNBC is thrilled at the prospect of a neck-and-neck race in Connecticut. Right now, the Hartford Courant web site is running a helpful guide where you can get a summary of election results by delegates and towns at courant.com.
8:18: The political junkies at MSNBC are getting all emotional. Olbermann just said that New Jersey, Connecticut and Tennessee Democrats are too early to call. As he read the notes, Olbermann repeated, sounding surprised, “Tennessee Democrats? Are too early to call?” And Chris Matthews, with a hefty rasp, said, “This is an AMAZING night, Keith. This is very interesting.” Moments later, as they were going to commercial, MSNBC called Tennessee for Clinton.
8:15:CNN’s blog Political Ticker is the place for headlines on what CNN is projecting (as of 8:09: Jersey for McCain!). And mostly only headlines so far! The results are coming in too fast for much more.
8:12: Bill Schneider just said McCain did well in CT among Republicans who didn’t approve of George W. Bush. “This is why John McCain won
Connecticut: 44 percent of the voters in the republican primary described themselves at moderate. He overwhelmingly dominated the moderate vote. Thats’ what gave him the victory, and you know what, I’m not sure he’s thrilled with that–that’s not such a terrific thing for Republicans.”
Likewise, over at ABC George Stephanopoulos said McCain is doing very well in blue states.
8:10: OK! We’re not flipping channels fast enough. From our own Politicker blog:
The AP also projects that McCain will win the New Jersey Republican primary.
8:03: ABC just kicked off their coverage: Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer are sitting at a small table together (oddly reminiscent of the table that Dan Rather and Connie Chung used to sit at when they co-hosted the CBS Evening News together). George Stephanopoulos is shuffled off to an arm of the table to give some wonky analysis.
Gibson said they they’ve got their sleeping bags there and they’re expecting a long night.
CBS starts its coverage at 9 p.m., NBC at 10 p.m.
8:00: CNN is projecting McCain wins Connecticut.
7:50: New Jersey’s polls close in 10 minutes, and the state actually has a relevant primary for the first time in decades, but at nj.com—which carries stories from the Star-Leger—Tom Coughlin’s victory lap at Giants Stadium is a far bigger story. The top news story? A $100,000 settlement for between the state’s Attorney General’s office and prisoner who was beaten by a corrections officer in a prison in Newark.
7:42: It was a rainy, slushy day in St. Louis (and it still is apparently, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch web site! 36 degrees, with thunderstorms), but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that record turnout is expected in the city and its immediate suburbs.
"Scott Leiendecker, the Republican election board director in St. Louis, said Tuesday afternoon that he expects that more than a third of the city’s registered voters will have cast a ballot."
7:38: Meet the Decision Desk! "The Decision Desk means just that," Brian Williams tells us. They are getting the exit polls at this desk and start crunching the numbers. And there’s more! A velvet rope! (Watch Tim Russert on his cell phone!) This is how the "decision desk" is kept separate from the editorial folks so that "calls" don’t get jumbled by pressure from the on-air talent. "We will not go on the air just sourcing or quoting" other news networks, we’re told.
7:28: Chuck Todd at MSNBC is characterizing Barack Obama as having exceeded expectations in Georgia. Based on exit polls and what he’s hearing from Obama and Hillary’s people he may get 60 out of Georgia’s 87 delegates. In fact, Todd said, Obama’s campaign is already increasing the estimate for the number of delegates they could get tonight. They thought before the night began they would pick up 800 to 830 delegates, but now they’re starting to think they could get more than 850 delegates, making him the winner for the night.
7:26: This past hour of coverage on the cable networks, it seems to us, has been mostly dedicated to showing off fancy technology for showing results (MSNBC has a virtual reality room with Lester Holt, CNN‘s got "The Wall" with John King).
But King just did a really nice job of setting up a very specific plot line for tonight: the importance of Missouri.
"We’re going to be spending a lot of time in Missouri tonight. It’s a bellwether state. It is very representative of all the ideological ranges of both parties; there’s the African-American city of St. Louis, the rural Democrats out there, Evangelicals in the Republican party …"
7:19: We’re relying on Time Warner Cable in Brooklyn to give you wall-to-wall coverage of what the cable networks are saying tonight, but it would be sure nice to have this device:
7:17: Politico.com’s Bill Nichols: "Obama, apparently buoyed by overwhelming support from African-American voters, was projected the winner in Georgia’s primary."
7:09:And here’s what the homepage of the Atlanta Journal Consitution is saying about it.
7:02: CNN and NBC just called Georgia for Obama, two minutes after the official poll closing.
Follow John Koblin via RSS.