Ringer staffers will be posting updates from the various cable news and late-night shows throughout election night. Watch, laugh, cry, and tweet through it with us.
The Maddow Sigh
9:10 p.m. PT, November 8
Sam Schube: Shortly after MSNBC and Brian Williams called Iowa for Donald Trump, bumping his electoral vote tally to 228, Williams’s cohost Rachel Maddow let loose a colossal sigh. The exhaustion was palpable — and then Williams tossed to Steve Kornacki to give an update on the count in Michigan. Kornacki, still chipper after a day of wild gesticulation and mental math, went granular, and optimistic, pushing Hillary Clinton’s chances in the state. Elsewhere, Fox had called Wisconsin for Trump — effectively stonewalling Clinton’s path to the White House. But not on MSNBC.
Maddow and the rest of the crew seemed to vacillate between disappointment — that sigh! — and we-can-do-this pluck. Chris Matthews started quoting political movies, while former RNC lawyer Ben Ginsberg wore a barely-concealed grin; the panel talked smack about Trump’s utter lack of policy, once a joke and now deadly serious. Long-toothed Democratic operative James Carville looked flinty and resigned: He had done the back-of-the-envelope math, he said, and things didn’t look good.
As news of Trump’s seeming victory set in, foglike, Maddow tried to ask Steve Schmidt about the outlook for Muslim citizens in President Trump’s America. She halted and stumbled, but got the question out. And then tossed it back to Kornacki.
Coping, Sort of, With ‘Desus & Mero’
8:56 p.m. PT, November 8
Harvilla: It was either “go to bed” or “flip to Desus & Mero over on Viceland.” We are all entitled to our coping mechanisms. Desus and Mero’s coping mechanism is to host an anarchic live show where everyone’s cheerfully yelling at everyone else and they cut away to some random, bewildering thing every 30 seconds, possibly to keep any one thing — or the One Big Thing — from sinking in. Talib Kweli is sitting between them and doesn’t say much. At one point they request an update from a thoroughly shook-looking dude sitting in front of a laptop in an otherwise deserted office. His report: “We might be looking at President Trump very soon.” Desus and Mero react by thanking Kweli for dropping by, then cutting to Ezra Koenig, of all people, conceding that Donald Trump, among these presidential candidates, would be the best Secret Santa. Commercial break. Flip to Fox, which calls Wisconsin for Trump. Flip back and Kweli has been replaced by Cardi B, and they’re airing WorldStar-esque clips of brawls in fast-food joints and golf courses and such. Nobody knows what to do, so they’re doing everything at once. It feels as real as anything else.
It’s Not Colbert’s Fault, But It’s Not Working, Either
8:56 p.m. PT, November 8
Herman: The smooth, choreographed hilarity of the Colbert election special feels terribly suited to the mood of dread that’s gripped his audience in its icy fingers over the last couple hours. That’s also not his fault.
There are only two outcomes to this election, and “comedy” as a broad category doesn’t work for 50 percent of those options. That’s a profoundly odd state of affairs, even if comedians don’t break the top 30 groups who have to fear for their livelihoods in the event that Trump wins. One result, which it seems increasingly apparent was the one the executives who ordered up all these live late-night election specials were planning on, allows us to start putting the campaign behind us via snark, our distancing mechanism of choice. The other is something that feels profoundly irresponsible to laugh at or otherwise look to escape.
It’s unfair to expect Colbert and his peers to crack a puzzle on air that’s stumped his profession since the beginning on barely an hour’s notice. But that leaves us with a zombie show that was increasingly obviously planned in advance, stumbling along even after the spirit that animated it has drained away: Jeff Goldblum cameo, wisecracking monologue, pretaped Nate Silver appearance …
“I can’t put a happy face on that,” Colbert said at the prospect of 270 electoral votes for Trump. “And that’s my job.”
Looking for Laughs on ‘The ‘Daily Show’
8:27 p.m. PT, November 8
Concepcion: The Daily Show ambled onto television at 11 p.m. ET and seemed like a funeral march. Trevor Noah spent most of his monologue (a term that seems wholly inadequate at the moment) apologizing for not having jokes. He put on a fedora and glasses to demonstrate a once-planned bit about being a real reporter for once. Then, Roy Wood Jr. came on and announced Ohio for Trump. The moment landed like a body blow. It’s been just over a year since the South African–born Noah took over for the beloved Jon Stewart. He’s spent that time assembling, block by block, the identity of wisecracking outsider, possessed of a perspective beyond the reach of most Americans. It hasn’t really worked. This episode, thus far, isn’t working either. But Noah seems genuinely shaken.
11:21 p.m. ET. The Daily Show returns from commercial with a video bit about Americans having to live together after the election. Trump voters in MAGA hats and shirts, espousing the hope that the President of the United States will use the levers of power to jail his opponent. It’s hilarious, really. In an ominous, get-racial-slurs-yelled-at-you kind of way. In the video, correspondent Jordan Klepper asked the candidates’ respective supporters if they like anything about their opponent. In what feels like a rather strained grasp at hope and humor, they eventually decide on: hair.
11:28 p.m. ET. Ana Marie Cox looks like she’s about to cry.
11:35 p.m. ET. Roy Wood Jr. is back. He sings “Empire State of Mind” to celebrate Hillary winning the state. Donald Trump is preparing his victory speech.
11:38 p.m. ET. Rice University professor of history Douglas Brinkley comes on and reads from the Book of Revelation. “People are shattered right now all across the globe,” he said. He made a trenchant observation: that the Trumpist alt-right succeeded because it co-opted the energy of the counterculture and combined it with ancient racial grievances. By doing so, they’ve appeared to have won a crushing victory — the presidency, the House, and, too soon, too soon, the Supreme Court.
Don’t Panic, But Every Network Is Panicking
8:12 p.m. PT, November 8
Bereznak: The most amazing live television clip to come from election night 2012 took place on Fox News the moment it became clear that President Obama was going to beat Mitt Romney. Karl Rove practically had a meltdown as he sat there, arguing with anchors that Ohio could still turn for Romney, when it very clearly couldn’t. Watching someone reject reality on live TV is always surreal. But for a Fox News talking head, it was kind of like breaking the third wall: proof that in moments of panic, the “fair and balanced” mantra disintegrates, and anchors reveal their true political delusions that were there all along.
I can’t help but think of that moment as I watch BuzzFeed News slog through this past hour of bad Clinton news. The beginning of the broadcast was essentially a chipper “Look, Ma, we made it on the internet” variety show. There were beer pong competitions, demonstrations on how to properly fold a cheese-filled pretzel (and other cheese-related content), and frequent funny tweet recitals. But within 20 minutes, as Trump unexpectedly carved a path to the presidency by taking a few key states, the quips about being “anxious AF” dissolved into what seemed like a solemn reckoning with the truth. “Are you seeing any signs of hope on Twitter?” one anchor asked the designated Twitter correspondent. Her answer: No. “Have you seen any good jokes on Twitter?” Her answer: I’ll bring some on my next visit. “Twitter is crying,” another anchor reasoned. When they cut away to the feminist-themed election night party, it looked a little like a candlelight vigil.
Flipping through the channels tonight, others are showing the same symptoms. Jake Tapper is visibly upset. Even Fox’s Chris Wallace exclaimed surprise earlier that “Donald Trump could be the next president of the United States.” These mood swings are unnerving for viewers at home, who want the stakes of each announcement delivered as calmly as possible, who just want to try to understand the maze that is America’s voting system, who would prefer not to see the media panic in real time. The only people we can count on to be consistent in tenor at this point are the weirdly cheerful ladies from The View, who are giggling and sipping on “Bad Hombre” cocktails over at Lifetime. God help us.
Dispatch From Fox News and a Look at the Odds
8:07 p.m. PT, November 8
Justin Charity: As my colleague Victor Luckerson noted below, the first hours of election night coverage are largely made up of armchair guesswork about percentages of percentages. Much to the chagrin of the network’s in-house GOTV wizard Karl Rove, the rest of the Fox News desk is now uniquely obsessed with the betting indicators, which as of this writing show Trump with an 81 percent chance to win the Electoral College.
As far as public polling goes, betting indicators are a sideshow that anchors discuss in order to fill time, but that overwhelmingly pro-Trump percentage has quickly taken on an apocalyptic overtone, now that the networks have called Ohio and North Carolina for Trump — two pivotal victories that effectively prohibit the sort of sweep that overconfident Democrats might have predicted, given Trump’s acute, um, shortcomings as a candidate.
As more results pour in, and the next wave of Mountain and Pacific time poll closings approach, the top-of-the-ticket outcome has only become less certain. Hold on to your wallets.
From the Department of Not Tweeting Through It
7:45 p.m. PT, November 8
Concepcion: This 8:55 p.m ET missive from Hillary Clinton. Trump leads in the electoral count. It is fair and frightening to say that Clinton’s path to the White House is more precarious than that of the mendacious orange-haired fuckwad from Queens. Invective is cold comfort now, but we use what we have at hand. Which ain’t much. I was hoping for a little more chin-up-little-soldier from Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, on CNBC
7:38 p.m. PT, November 8
Baker: I just turned to CNBC for a little while because, while CNN has seriously not stopped yelling numbers at me for even a second over the last several hours, there are some particular metrics that they’ve mostly neglected. Such as Dow Jones futures being down 400, 500, and now currently 600-plus [Update: 700-plus.] points as Trump’s chances have started to seem brighter. Or the peso trading at its lowest in decades against the dollar. Or gold indexes climbing as traders scramble toward safe assets.
In a live interview with Carl Icahn, the financier who has been outspoken in his Trump support (and fought about it on Twitter with Mark Cuban), Icahn was asked about the Dow tumble. He wasn’t aware of it: “Well, it doesn’t do me any good financially to hear [that],” he said. “I didn’t know that. However, that’s not the issue here.” (Icahn’s name has been floated as a possible Trump Cabinet appointment.)
As CNBC’s Michelle Caruso-Cabrera pointed out to a CNBC panel, the financial market chaos is similar to what went down during Brexit, when global equity, currency, and fixed income markets all took (significant, temporary) tumbles. Carl Quintanilla pointed out that it might be kinda awkward to see a candidate give a victory speech amid a “violent market reaction” — although it’s hard to really see that bothering Trump.
It didn’t seem to rattle Icahn too much, anyway. “If he wins,” he said, “I’d be elated. If he loses, I’ll make more money, and I mean it sincerely.” Icahn added that most of his New York friends had been disagreeing with his support of Trump. “All my friends are mad at me for doing this,” he said. “Or, you know, we laugh about it together in the Hamptons.”
The State of Gloating to Come
7:29 p.m. PT, November 8
Harvilla: “We’re feeling buoyant,” Kellyanne Conway says at 10:04 p.m. ET, and she is the first human on Fox thus far who looks it. Then she buoyantly says some stuff about Trump representing “the party of the working man and the working woman,” but it’s easy to tune all of that out until she says the world “buoyant” again. She’s as partisan as it gets, of course, but it’s the first crack in the network’s bewildered stoicism. The flood is coming.
MSNBC Anxiety Watch: Rising, and Fast
6:54 p.m. PT, November 8
Herman: So, uh. Things have definitely … shifted in the last hour or so, and no one’s feeling it more than MSNBC, which doesn’t have to pretend to hide whom it’s rooting for. Steve Schmidt, pet Republican, just said Trump’s “vastly outperforming expectations.” James Carville’s drawl, for once, failed to soothe, admitting, “I was expecting to be in a better mood than I am right now.” Kasie Hunt says there’s been a “pretty dramatic shift over the last few hours” among her sources, and also my insides. Carville thinks if we lose Virginia — and there’s no doubt who he means by that “we” — we lose the election. “We weren’t even supposed to be talking about Virginia in this way at this hour,” Steve Kornacki says. Watching a network that shares your sympathies is supposed to be calming, but now it just means it shares your panic. Or causes it, if you’ve been glued to your screen for the past three hours. Tonight is great! Everything is fine!
6:54 p.m. PT, November 8
Ryan: I follow a lot of English media on Twitter because of my soccer fandom. It’s a good way to stay on top of the Premier League, and find out about shows like Black Mirror and Broadchurch before they hit American television. Tonight they are talking Brexit II, UKIP, and the feeling of shock and dread that hit when Sunderland voted Leave the night of the referendum. Florida is looking a lot like Sunderland right now. The Brits I follow are aghast at what is happening in the United States, not because they can’t believe it’s happening, but because it’s happening again.
Fox News Is Surprised, Too
6:41 p.m. PT, November 8
Harvilla: Mike Huckabee: “We’re all hanging by a chad.” Megyn Kelly: “This race could be turning right now.” Karl Rove: “My gut tells me that it might be him.” That last one at 9:15 p.m. ET, referring to Donald Trump, for the presidency. Karl does not look smug, or even particularly pleased: just stupefied. So is everyone around him. The tenor has changed dramatically on every network, a rising sense of Holy Shit, This Is Actually Happening, given Florida’s tilting toward Trump and no major state tilting toward Clinton yet. It is fascinating to watch this take hold on Fox, which you’d figure as the most joyful outpost of them all, of course, but it doesn’t feel that way, not yet. It’s complicated. They’re just stupefied. And confused. And, most of all, anxious. “What’s it gonna take?” Kelly jokingly demands of the Decision Desk, about calling Florida. “What are they waiting for?” She might stomp in there of her own accord this year. America has, at this hour, reached Maximum Shook: Fox is shaking, too. Not with pleasure, though. Not yet.
(Confusing) Big Data Rules CNN’s Electoral Map
6:11 p.m. PT, November 8
Victor Luckerson: All the criticism of “horse-race journalism” on network television comes to a head on election night, but CNN has gone full Kentucky Derby. Thanks to moment-by-moment and precinct-by-precinct vote tallies, viewers get to watch heart-wrenching lead changes happen every five minutes, as John King talks faster than a play-by-play announcer. This makes for great TV — Trump and Clinton swapped the lead in Florida multiple times in the hour after the first precincts closed in the state. I experienced terror, elation, and a brief sense of home-state pride when Alabama was inexplicably “too close to call” in the first five minutes after its precincts closed.
But ultimately, this approach sows confusion among viewers. In Florida, for example, CNN has been zooming in on different red and blue counties to talk about where Clinton or Trump is performing best. But it’s not clear from looking at the map whether blue Miami-Dade County has just started counting votes — meaning Hillary has a windfall coming her way — or whether it’s already mostly accounted for, meaning the conservative panhandle will likely give the state to Trump. Without that kind of nuanced information, the colors on the map are mostly useless. How about at least adding a gradient so that a county or state with less than 50 percent of the vote is colored a light red or blue, and a region where the majority of votes have been counted is colored a darker shade? We’re adults — we can process more than two colors.
There are more egregious issues with CNN’s data regurgitation. Mississippi was colored blue on CNN’s map around 8:40 p.m. ET even though CNN had called the state for Trump right after precincts closed, because … it’s Mississippi. Assumedly, the votes that had been counted to this point are majority Democrat, but there’s no reason to think that state’s going to Clinton. Leave it gray if you must until you can definitively call it for Trump.
Sometimes the facts on the ground and what we know to be true are not the same, and CNN should aim to be a clear communicator rather than a data hose.
“Tweet Through It” Watch
6:11 p.m. PT, November 8
Concepcion: As I type this it’s 8:45 p.m. ET and Trump’s lead in Florida is within the margin of error. Currently trying to tweet through it: Everyone who remembers the 2000 election. An invisible hand made of ice is squeezing my chest as broken glass roils in my stomach. Panicked left-leaning Twitter users are already laying the groundwork for a full recrimination of Jill Stein. Bleacher Report NBA reporter Howard Beck tweeted one of those famous pictures of a dude trying to ascertain the status of a hanging chad — a word I had hoped to exorcise from my life. Pennsylvania is too close to call. Andrea Mitchell is on my television talking about the Democrats “privately being concerned about Michigan.” I’ve started smoking opium and may never stop.
Steve Kornacki, Marathon Man
6:11 p.m. PT, November 8
Herman: Brian Williams, ever the doting dad of MSNBC’s relatively collegial panel, earlier reassured Steve Kornacki he’s not just the graphics guy, but that’s exactly who he is tonight — and how! This man is giving what can only be described as a full-body performance tonight, and going on seven hours of it. (He still made time to tweet, though.) This man has been straight-up DJing his strangely doughnut-shaped pie charts, swiping and hunching and lunging with all the athleticism of … not a professional journalist. Parsing demographic party breakdowns across election cycles has never looked this physically draining, nor this physically impressive. We just hope Steve’s had enough stimulant of choice to power him through the night. I’m getting tired just watching him, though that might have more to do with what he’s covering that how he’s covering it.
Wall of Sound
5:34 p.m. PT, November 8
Ryan: One thing you notice watching CBS is how quiet it is. Everyone waits their turn, and when they happen to interrupt they stop and apologize. Everyone is taking two dribbles and making a crisp bounce pass. This is nice on your synapses, but tough on the desire for panic, ecstasy, and narrative. Where MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki talks like Jesse Pinkman after going through a J.Crew carwash, the CBS director of elections Anthony Salvanto … sounds like a director of elections. No shouting, no gesticulating. He makes data sound like data, which is to say, it’s tough to parse and you have no idea whether you should move your money to a Cayman Islands hold ’em account (they don’t have those anymore, do they? Just as well).
Meet the Swinging Trio of Fox News
5:30 p.m. PT, November 8
Harvilla: OK, status updates from your two seediest uncles. For starters, Karl Rove cashed in a few Amazon gift cards. “They made fun of our little whiteboard?” he crows. “Make fun of this one. Big electronic whiteboard.” It’s a very pleasing analog/digital hybrid, the scrawl just human-looking enough, divided at this hour into two headers: the “Swinging Trio” (FL, OH, NC) and “Holes in the Blue Wall” (PA, MI, WI, MN). No analysis as of yet, but he can erase the board with the push of a button, and he does, and flashes the exact same smile my 3-year-old had the first time he tried an M&M.
And then, Rudy Giuliani on the tight race in Florida. I transcribed this. This is exact. You’re welcome. “I know the Cuban community in Little Havana. I happen to spend a lot of time there. For a totally relevant reason: The fact that I love cigars.” His smile is less delightful. Bill O’Reilly is talking now. I am unhappy.
BuzzFeed Is Being BuzzFeed AF
5:20 p.m. PT, November 8
Alyssa Bereznak: Someone at Twitter thought it’d be a good idea to let BuzzFeed News do an election liveshow. If the emoji face pillow decor, word vomit backdrop, or Izod-sponsored Ken Bone interviews haven’t made it obvious enough that this is a program for capital-Y Youths, then the buzzwords will! Here are a few snippets of conversation that have been uttered on-air since the broadcast began at 6 p.m. ET. You will not find a more lit broadcast on air tonight.
- “Anxious AF”
- “Anxious as fuck”
- “Dumpster fire”
- “Reply or reply all?”
- “Fire tweets”
- “Classic troll”
- “What-the-fuck moment”
- “You’re the man”
- “This will make you feel some things”
- “The Russians have come in and fucked with the election”
- “My ex-boyfriend Obama”
- “Foooine as hell” (in reference to BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief)
- “Kanye West is gonna take 2020”
- “Is this a thing that I just don’t know about?”
- “Who here is happy about cheese?”
- “Considering neither of these two candidates are serious about climate change, let’s throw this whole earth into a dumpster fire.”
- “I’d like to keep Taco Tuesday, and throw racism in the trash.”
And they’ve played only one round of beer pong (seriously) so far. There’s plenty more where that came from.
4:53 p.m. PT, November 8
Ryan: A very calm roundtable of coverage, led by Scott Pelley and Norah O’Donnell, flanked by Charlie Rose, Bob Schieffer, Gayle King, and John Dickerson. So far “hashtag” has been pronounced like it’s the German word for “the Warriors blew a 3–1 lead.” Gayle King started talking about Beyoncé to the visible delight of O’Donnell, and the Stonehenge bafflement of Schieffer, who looked like he was doing an unintentional mannequin challenge. Why am I writing in memes? This is about what I expected. Everything is clean and quiet on this set. Charlie Rose has yet to ask a rhetorical question. I feel like I am driving with the parking brake on.
Karl Rove and His Whiteboard: A Love Story
4:46 p.m. PT, November 8
Hello From the Land of the Touch Screens
4:34 p.m. PT, November 8
Katie Baker: Remember how, back in the day, you’d sometimes fall asleep while watching a DVD and eventually jolt awake to the ambient home-screen audio blaring on repeat? (The one for Old School was particularly intense.) I’m expecting a whole lot of that out of CNN tonight. This is the channel of loud, flashy KEY RACE ALERTS screaming at us about 1 percent of a vote; of Wolf Blitzer shifting his weight and intoning “interesting stuff indeed” again and again; and of touch screens, so many touch screens. In between the pulsating beats that accompany CNN Election Decision Desk projections, I am most looking forward to Jake Tapper’s deadpan clowning of fools, John King’s map-screen-cast malfunctioning like a Westworld robot, and Corey Lewandowski smashing a chair through the stainless-steel set. Overall, it’s nice knowing that if/when I fall asleep, Anderson Cooper’s voice will be there to wake me up.
Greetings From Your Friendly Colbert Watcher
4:19 p.m. PT, November 8
Alison Herman: I’ll be watching MSNBC, a network just as hysterical as CNN but in a way that’s more aligned with my own anxiety, and Stephen Colbert’s much-vaunted live special on Showtime. Colbert et al. have been hyping this thing for months, both because the man genuinely seems to be looking forward to it and because “I miss the old Stephen” is still a sentiment widely held enough to hinge a marketing campaign on. The gloves are off, CBS-CW-Showtime would have us believe, and that means we get to hear all the PG-13 Trump insults Colbert has had saved in his Drafts folder this entire time. It’s a weirdly close-to-explicit acknowledgement that Colbert really is muzzled in his current position, one that’ll be interesting to watch both in the moment and when Colbert has to put that muzzle back on Wednesday. For now, I’ll be concocting an elaborate drinking game pegged to Colbert’s soon-to-be-free-flowing f-bombs.
Greetings From Your Disgruntled Fox News Watcher
4:19 p.m. PT, November 8
Rob Harvilla: Hello. I will be monitoring Fox News tonight in a professional capacity, as my employers, apparently, despise me. (My wife would like me to add that, by dint of our owning just the one television, she, too, will be watching Fox News tonight in a less professional capacity, and so now she hates me, also.) (My mother will hopefully not read this at all.) Let’s make the best of this. Let’s see how the other half lives / thinks / rejoices / mourns. As you recall, Fox News generated the single-greatest cable-news highlight of the 2012 election, in the person of Karl Rove’s post-Ohio-call freakout. And now, even at this early hour, there are already signs of slap-unhappiness, as seen in this daffy argument between Chris Wallace and Shep Smith about ChapStick addiction and the definition of the word fetish. It’s gonna be a long night. Or maybe the opposite!
Greetings From the Tweet Through It Bureau
4:19 p.m. PT, November 8
Jason Concepcion: Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway is the Queen Cersei of Tweeting Through It. Tweeting through it is the act of exponentially doubling down on bad news, via Twitter. It’s shitting your pants then trying to return them to the store without a receipt. That’s an essential skill for anyone involved in national politics, but KAC takes have a higher level of unflappability. It’s like playing tennis against a wall. Conway has been figuratively reacting to the news of Tommen’s defenestration with steely determination ever since she joined the campaign in July. Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns? Just tweet through it. Trump brags about committing sexual assault? Just tweet through it. Mike Pence prefers Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama? JTTI. Strong support for your candidate from racist and anti-Semitic elements? The official KKK newspaper endorses him? He pretends that a guy with a sign was actually making an assassination attempt? You know what to do, KAC. Almost done now. Will anyone be able to take her crown tonight? We’re in the great game now.
Aloha From the Eye
4:19 p.m. PT, November 8
Ryan: [Extreme Terrence Malick voice-over voice.] How lit is Bob Schieffer? For a while now, I’ve been wondering what life would be like if information weren’t being blasted at me like I’m the guy in the famous Maxell advertisement.
How did we process information that wasn’t being delivered through countless streams, innumerable platforms, at all hours, at increasing volumes, with less and less relationship to facts? What is election coverage without six people screaming at me about fraud, models, Facebook, and Ken Bone? Can you go back? Is CBS still there? Did we know how good we had it? Was it good in the first place? We’ll find out tonight.