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Channel 2 Is Election Night Winner

Channel 2 was the big local news winner on the night that Barack Obama was elected president, Chris Lee was elected to Congress and Frank A. Sedita III was elected Erie County district attorney.

The NBC affiliate had the highest local news ratings at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m Tuesday. The 11 p.m. news was helped by the lead-in from NBC News, which finished first here on election night.

There also was some good news for Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. The only station to stick with its network at 11 p.m. to hear the historic announcement that Sen. Obama had become the first African-American president, Channel 7 was second in all news time periods.

Channel 4 News, which had been off cable for 26 days last month, was third in all time periods. It was hurt at 11 p.m. by the third place lead-in from CBS' coverage, which was anchored by Katie Couric. However, it couldn't blame CBS for the finishes at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

By the end of the November sweeps, it should be clear if change is coming to the leadership of local TV news.

-- Alan Pergament

Networks Cautious in Declaring Obama Winner

If you’re to believe the Associated Press story that ran on the front page of today’s Buffalo News, then the 2008 presidential election was close to being decided at 8 tonight when ABC and NBC projected Democrat Barack Obama would win Pennsylvania.

CBS, CNN and Fox News were more cautious to make the projection, which had great significance to the national race. Fox News and CBS called it around 8:30 p.m., with CNN the last to call it about 10 minutes later.

According to today’s AP story, a victory by Sen. Obama over Republican nominee John McCain in Pennsylvania (which has 21 electoral votes) “could be a death knell for McCain’s chances.”

However, ABC’s Charles Gibson added that the network was not going to declare a winner in the presidential race until one of the nominees had the required 270 electoral votes.

The networks also projected at around 8 p.m. that Sen. Obama had won New Hampshire, which Sen. McCain had hoped to win in a comeback. Sen. Obama was also ahead in Florida at that time. However, ABC's Gibson added “people project Florida too early at their own peril.”

He was referencing the 2000 race won by George Bush over Al Gore when the late Tim Russert used a chalk board on NBC to note that the key to who won the presidency was “Florida, Florida, Florida.”

At about 8:03 p.m., NBC offered a salute to Russert and his chalk board. Anchor Brian Williams said NBC realizes a lot of people miss Russert and his “point of view and enthusiasm” and are keeping his memory alive.

Tom Brokaw, who has been the moderator of “Meet the Press” since Russert's death, added he was going to “fulfill a promise to toast (Russert) at the end of the evening.”

“So stick around,” said Brokaw.

At 8:50 p.m., CBS anchor Katie Couric quoted a McCain aide as saying “at this point, we do need a miracle.”

“They do indeed,” said Bob Schieffer.

The early line of the night came from CNN analyst Alex Castellanos about the possible victory by Al Franken, the Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota: “If Republicans can’t beat a lunatic like Al Franken we’re in bad shape,” said Castellanos.

At 9:15 p.m., Fox News was the first to project that Sen. Obama would win Ohio (with 20 electoral votes), another state that Sen. McCain’s campaign had said he needed to to win the presidency. PBS quickly followed with the same projection and NBC did so at 9:30 p.m.

But it wasn't until 11 p.m., when the polls in California and a few other West Coast states were closed and immediately projected as Obama wins that put him above the 270 electoral votes needed, that ABC's Gibson and all the other networks declared what had been obvious a few hours earlier: Sen. Obama was the president-elect.   

- Alan Pergament

When Will Suspense Be Over on Election Night?

The TV drama and suspense in the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain essentially could be over as early as 8:30 p.m. Tuesday or it could last through the early morning hours, according to TV analysts.

In one of the more enlightening pieces of analysis over the weekend, NBC political director Chuck Todd noted that the polls close by 7 p.m. in five states including Virginia, Indiana and Georgia.

Here's the conclusions I got from listening to Todd: If Sen. Obama was declared the winner in any of the traditional Republican states quickly, it would be the first indication that Sen. McCain is in as much trouble as the pre-Election polls have indicated.

At 7:30 p.m., the polls in Ohio and North Carolina close. If Sen. Obama quickly wins one or both,  it would be a further indication that he will be the next president. If the races are too close to call that would be good news for Sen. McCain.

At 8 p.m. the polls in Pennsylvania, Florida and Missouri close. If Sen. McCain quickly loses Pennsylvania, Todd suggested that his chances diminish or may even end. If the races are too close to call, it would be good news for the underdog.

Of course, the networks are expected to be cautious in declaring a national winner since the 2000 debacle but viewers probably can tell how things are going by the demeanor and the code words used by their analysts.

-- Alan Pergament

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About Talkin' TV

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament

Alan Pergament has continued to blog about television topics since retiring in 2010 as The News' television writer after 28 years on the beat. From local on-air personalities to ratings to the latest on network and cable programming, he keeps you informed.

@StillTalkinTV | apergament@buffnews.com

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