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He defends Election Night coverage, says viewers should play the field

Watch Howard Kurtz and Bill Hemmer talk Fox News.

Bill Hemmer, the Fox News morning anchor, sees the Election Night dispute between Karl Rove and the network in geographic terms.

Which is not surprising, since he’s from Ohio, the state that sparked the on-air spat when Rove challenged Fox’s decision to project Barack Obama the winner there—thus declaring him the winner of the election.

Hemmer’s job was as “the county man,” he says, and Fox’s decision desk “saw more votes in Cuyahoga County,” which encompassed Cleveland, “that Barack Obama was going to get eventually that would be greater than the margin that Mitt Romney could gather.”

Election Hangover

Obama’s Reality Check

The president won a sweeping victory but still must face down House Republicans. Howard Kurtz on whether Obama has a prayer of easing Washington’s gridlock.

Most of the country had gone to sleep, but President Obama was hitting the rhetorical heights for a cheering Chicago crowd shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday, calling for “a generous America,” “a compassionate America,” “a tolerant America.”

The Status Quo Election

U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place Nov. 6, 2012, in Chicago. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

He offered an ambitious laundry list as well: “Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil.”

But despite some conciliatory words from John Boehner later in the day, Obama’s sweeping victory doesn’t change a fundamental fact: this turned out to be a status-quo election. The president still has to deal with dogged House Republicans, and it’s not clear his reelection gives him a whole lot more clout to impose his will.

President hails the 'American family'; Romney calls for end to 'partisan bickering'

Barack Obama resoundingly won another four years in the White House, sweeping nearly every swing state on his way to capturing more than 300 electoral votes.

It was an impressive victory for a president saddled with an anemic economy who struggled all year to hit 50 percent in the polls. But in the end, Mitt Romney fell short, crushing Republican hopes of ousting an incumbent they viewed as ripe for defeat.

Indeed, even after Fox News put Obama over the top by calling Ohio for the president about 11:20--as did the other networks--Fox analyst Karl Rove refused to accept the projection, arguing with his anchors on the air. For all the focus on Ohio, Obama didn't need it in the end, and even carried the highly contested battleground of Virginia, according to network projections after 12:30 a.m. The president also took Colorado.

Before a wildly cheering crowd in Chicago at 1:40 a.m., Obama struck a note of unity, saying: "We are are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation." He heaped praise on "America's happy warrior," Joe Biden, told his wife Michelle that "I have never loved you more," and thanked his supporters: "You lifted me up the whole way, and I will always be grateful."

On the last day of the 2012 race, Romney sold himself as more bipartisan than Obama. Howard Kurtz on the closing arguments of the campaign.

In his final day of campaigning for the prize he has chased for six years, Mitt Romney is playing the bipartisanship card, accusing President Obama of stiffing the opposition party.

Romney 2012

Mitt Romney, accompanied by wife Ann, waves after speaking at a campaign event at George Mason University on Nov. 5 in Fairfax, Va. (David Goldman / AP Photo)

By contrast, Romney told audiences on Monday, as he raced from Florida to Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire, that he will work with the Democrats to get things done.

“Instead of bridging the divide between the parties, he’s made it wider,” Romney said. “You hoped the president would bring people together to solve great problems. He hasn’t; I will. We have to be a united nation—out of many, one.”

Bill Press also says he once thought Obama would lose

Bill Press doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the media’s coverage of the all-but-over presidential campaign.

“It’s been sloppy, it’s been lazy, and not up to par,” he tells me in a video interview.

The morning host at Current TV believes journalists have just fallen down on the job. “I think the media coverage of this campaign has been embarrassing,” he says. Too much focus on “little things,” he says, and “too much of a focus on polls…instead of doing good analysis or good legwork.”

Not that he lets the candidates off the hook: “This certainly hasn’t been the most inspiring campaign.”

Election Oracle

Pundits: It’s Obama!

The press is heading into Election Day increasingly confident that the president will beat Romney. Howard Kurtz on the polling and the predictions—and what will happen if they’re wrong.

The pundits have spoken: it’s Obama.

Obama

President Barack Obama is shown on a TV monitor mounted on a camera as he speaks at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Thursday, June 14, 2012. (Tony Dejak / AP Photo)

We still have to go through the ritual of holding the election on Tuesday, but the media’s forecasters have placed their bet, and the overwhelming consensus is that the president will win a second term.

As the candidates again raced to the swing states where the election will be decided, and as parts of New York and New Jersey remained crippled by Hurricane Sandy, the unmistakable message emanating from the press was that Mitt Romney had fallen short.

Down to the Wire

Candidates Blitz Swing States

Obama hangs on to his lead in swing states, especially Ohio, as Romney aides unload on Chris Christie. Howard Kurtz on the frenetic final weekend.

One month after some commentators concluded he had forfeited the presidency with a sleepwalking debate performance, Barack Obama is ahead in nearly all swing states as the campaign careens through its final weekend.

Romney and Obama Campaign with 3 Days Before General Election

Both Mitt Romney and President Obama campaigned in swing states on Saturday with the general election only three days away. Romney was in New Hampshire and Obama in Wisconsin. (Tannen Maury, EPA / Landov ; Jim Young, Reuters / Landov)

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has the president leading 51 to 45 percent in Ohio, leaving Mitt Romney facing the prospect of trying to assemble an electoral majority without a state that has always been crucial for Republicans. The same poll has Obama clinging to a two-point edge in Florida.

In Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, and New Hampshire, seven polls give Obama a lead and two have him tied. None show Romney ahead. And Sunday’s final Des Moines Register poll says Obama is leading in Iowa, 47 to 42 percent.

Countdown to Nov. 6

Are Things Breaking Obama’s Way?

From swing-state polls to an eleventh-hour endorsement, the president appears to have a slight edge. But Howard Kurtz says Mitt Romney isn’t toast yet.

Maybe it’s the better-than-expected jobs report. Maybe it’s Mike Bloomberg coming down from his royal throne to endorse Barack Obama. Maybe it’s the hurricane cleanup or the candidates racing to last-minute rallies in Ohio and Wisconsin.

155560185CS040_OBAMA_CAMPAI

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a campaign rally at Lima Senior High School November 2, 2012 in Lima, Ohio. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

But there is a growing sense that the photo-finish presidential election could tilt either way, that a late development could make all the difference.

Friday morning’s unemployment figures—issued without objection from Jack Welch—were basically good news for a president who has presided over an anemic economic recovery. The creation of 171,000 jobs in October (about a third more than expected), combined with revised estimates that an additional 84,000 jobs were created in August and September, provides a sense that a fragile recovery is finally taking hold.

Handicapper says Virginia third-party candidate could tilt race

Florida, Florida, Florida.

With apologies to Tim Russert, that’s what veteran political analyst Stu Rothenberg says will determine the presidential election.

Sure, he says Ohio is the mother of all swing states. And he sees Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado as crucial battlegrounds too.

But, Rothenberg tells me in a video interview, “If Mitt Romney does not win Florida, you know the election’s over, he’s not going to win some of these other states.” You heard it here first.

Study finds especially harsh treatment on Twitter

The media have been hammering Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in recent weeks—but in this sea of negativity, the president has fared slightly better.

From Aug. 27 (when the conventions started) through Oct. 21, some 30 percent of the stories about Obama were clearly negative in tone, 19 percent were positive and 51 percent were mixed.

For Romney, 38 percent were unfavorable, 15 percent were positive and 47 percent mixed.

The findings by the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that each candidate went through rough periods—Romney when he made his quick-draw comments on the attack in Libya and the 47 percent video surfaced, Obama after getting clobbered in the first debate. (Obama’s coverage, by the way, was twice as positive four years ago.)

Tom Davis also warns of 'dysfunctional' GOP candidates

Are the campaigns faking empathy over Hurricane Sandy's damage? Howie Kurtz and Tom Davis weigh in.

The country’s attention is riveted on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but former congressman Tom Davis says there’s a certain amount of political theater involved.

“Although everyone feigns concern about the victims, the campaign goes on,” the Virginia Republican tells me in a video interview.

That was an eye-opener, and Davis quickly clarified that he’s sure Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are “sincere” in their concerns. But, he adds, “you know the operatives are worried about the politics of this.” And Davis acknowledged that Chris Christie’s embrace of Obama while touring storm-damaged New Jersey : “There’s no question a crisis helps an incumbent president.”

Obama Halo

Romney Stranded by Sandy

The candidate was sidelined as odd couple Obama and Christie toured storm-damaged New Jersey and exchanged compliments. Howard Kurtz on how Romney gets back in the game.

With President Obama getting a bear hug from Chris Christie as he toured storm-battered New Jersey, Mitt Romney is facing an unusual challenge: pushing his way back into the national debate.

Obama Superstorm

President Barack Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, NJ. Obama traveled to region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey in areas damaged by superstorm Sandy. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo)

Romney strategists are downplaying the brief marriage of convenience between Obama and Christie, who keeps praising the president’s response to Hurricane Sandy while professing not to “give a damn” whether Romney visits the state.

“Governor Christie is doing a job,” Romney adviser Russ Schriefer told reporters Wednesday. “He is governor of a state hit by a very, very horrific storm.”

The president will tour hurricane-damaged areas with his new pal, Chris Christie. Howard Kurtz on how Obama picked off one of Romney’s stars.

For New Yorkers, hurricanes are disastrous events that happen somewhere else, way down south, far from the towering spires of the nation’s financial capital.

There was always an unspoken touch of condescension as the masters of the universe watched the poor souls in Florida or Louisiana grappling with storm damage, or snickered as Washington was virtually shut down by heavy rains. New Yorkers are tough, they push their way onto crowded subways, and they don’t take nothin’ from nobody.

So it is nothing short of astonishing to watch the crippling blow that Hurricane Sandy has delivered to the city and New Jersey—the loss of power in lower Manhattan, the halting of subway service, the shuttering of the stock exchange, the flooding of beach towns. In terms of media coverage, at least, the metropolitan area was ground zero—and literally so, in that there was flooding at the still-unfinished One World Trade Center.

Storm Surge

Maryland’s Hurricane Hero

Gov. Martin O’Malley has his ‘boot up the backside’ of the local power company, pushing to prevent Sandy blackouts. Howard Kurtz on how his move could bode well for 2016.

Martin O’Malley wasn’t about to mince words.

With his state squarely in the path of Hurricane Sandy, the Maryland governor is determined to ensure that the local utility—with one of the worst track records in the country—does everything it can to keep the lights on.

OMalley 2016

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising steak fry in Indianola, Iowa, Sept. 16, 2012. (Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo)

“We’ve had our boot up the backside of Pepco to bring in mutual aid help from other states,” O’Malley told The Daily Beast on Monday. “When we started tracking this storm, the first calls I made were to Pepco” and to the region’s other utility, Baltimore Gas & Electric. “I said, ‘Get the assets in here from every place you can.’”

DEUX EX MACHINA

Will Sandy Swing the Election?

The Frankenstorm is canceling rallies and could black out millions during the final ad blitz. Howard Kurtz on the campaigns' new dynamics in the home stretch.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have spent months meticulously planning the endgame of reaching enough wavering voters to eke out an Electoral College victory.

Superstorm

Alan Diaz / AP

And now it could all be blown away by a monster storm. If Hurricane Sandy does anywhere near as much damage as forecasters are predicting, it will upend both presidential campaigns and leave millions of voters focused more on personal misery than politics.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the media love extreme weather?

About the Author

Author headshot

Howard Kurtz

Howard Kurtz is The Daily Beast and Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief, and writes the Spin Cycle blog. He also hosts CNN’s weekly media program Reliable Sources on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET. The longtime media reporter and columnist for The Washington Post, Kurtz is the author of five books.

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