It’s Monday morning as I type this, almost a week after I was marked safe from talk of a “blue wave.”
Every establishment media outlet called the presidential race for Democrat Joe Biden on Saturday.
What’s interesting, though, is that quite a few of them still haven’t called the state of Arizona, where Biden’s lead was under 17,000 votes as of Monday morning. According to the Arizona Republic, there were still at least 70,000 votes outstanding in the state as of Sunday night.
CNN hasn’t called it. ABC News hasn’t, either. No one would question the ideological drifts in those newsrooms, which make the version of Edward R. Murrow’s CBS News evoked in “Good Night and Good Luck” look like a model of disinterested impartiality.
Meanwhile, Fox News called Arizona and called it early, you may recall. In fact, the network called it almost earlier than any other network, and for Biden. We’re not supposed to question the ideological drift there, where even the news division is supposed to consist of fire-breathing Father Coughlin types.
Conservatives tend to gravitate toward Fox News. The reason behind that decision depends on who you ask. We’re either worse than those fire-breathing Father Coughlin types (that’s the left’s explanation) or we don’t like being told we’re worse than those fire-breathing Father Coughlin types by the CNNs of the world (don’t know about yours, but that’s my reason as a conservative).
And yet, Fox News’ early Arizona call makes many of us question what, exactly, is going on at the network.
No, it doesn’t affect the outcome of the election in any substantive way. Fox could have projected it for Kanye West and brought on a cadre of analysts who told us he carried it because of an untapped demographic of those among us who are still, in 2020, keeping up with the Kardashians. It’ll still either get called for President Donald Trump or for Biden, no matter how much the Murdoch kids like Kanye’s “Gold Digger.”
It does rather delegitimize what we think of how the 2020 election was covered, however — particularly given how badly every other network missed due to systemic media biases. It also means conservatives are pretty miffed at how the network handled the Arizona call and are taking it out on Fox News on social media.
But wait, I can hear my friends on the left say. When we’re talking about systemic media bias, are we going to neglect this is the network that ensured Tucker Carlson was, until recently, the owner of a nearly $4 million home in Northwest Washington, D.C.?
Yes, well, about that. As Just the News noted, the man helming the network’s decision network on election night was Arnon Mishkin, a Democratic Party operative who worked for the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign and is a frequent donor to Democratic candidates.
The Trump campaign was also unhappy with Mishkin’s decision.
“Why would Mishkin put his finger on the scale for Joe Biden before so many votes are counted?” the campaign said in a Thursday afternoon statement.
“Mishkin is a registered Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, worked as a Democrat political consultant, and has a long record of donating to Democrats, including the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign,” it said.
“As the votes are counted, President Trump continues to cut into Joe Biden’s lead in Arizona. Five major election decision organizations have refused to follow Mishkin’s lead and call the race in Arizona, because they know what the Arizona Republic knows: ‘Trump received almost the exact share he would need to charge back to win Arizona’s 11 electoral votes and potentially reelection.'”
It’s not just the Trump campaign that thought this was a premature statement:
538’s Nate Silver on Arizona: “I sure as heck don’t think the state should have been called by anyone, and I think the calls that were previously made should be retracted now.”
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) November 5, 2020
Also, it’s worth noting Mishkin didn’t just whiff on making the Arizona call so early.
Jerry Dunleavy, a reporter with the Washington Examiner, noted that Fox also wrongly projected that the Democrats would gain at least five seats in the House.
Fox projects Democrats will retain control of the House and will expand their majority by at least 5 seats.
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) November 4, 2020
Democrats definitely not going to expand their majority in the House. Along with the very quick Arizona projection, this is another big question mark for the Fox News decision desk. https://t.co/uU7ExSyIYj
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) November 9, 2020
Conservative lawmakers weren’t impressed either.
Fox News & AP both made a HUGE mistake calling Arizona for Biden. Before the votes were counted.
Trump still has a real path to win AZ. So does McSally.
Even CNN admits it. https://t.co/Hwm7vliLSR
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 5, 2020
Is Fox News still seeing the desert mirage of a Biden victory in Arizona?
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) November 5, 2020
Neither were many other observers:
Would not know. I have not turned them on since they called that state BLUE – just so wrong! Thanks Matt for all you do for Florida and the US of A!
— MEG Audit WI MI PA NV AZ NC GA (@MEGNightHawkQN) November 5, 2020
Fox has turned a corner.
— Joe Fox (@foxyorthodoxy) November 9, 2020
What happened to Fox News???
— Rob Hill (@Hilla_Good) November 6, 2020
Fox has gone rogue. And we have switched to Newsmax.
— RL (@I_should_know_) November 7, 2020
RealClearPolitics co-founder Tom Bevan may have put it best:
It doesn’t matter if Fox’s call of AZ ends up being correct in the end. It was totally unnecessary to call it as early as they did. And the fact they jumped to call it, after waiting hours to call FL when 97% was in and Trump up 3+points is an awful double standard.
— Tom Bevan (@TomBevanRCP) November 6, 2020
This isn’t to say Biden won’t end up winning Arizona, of course. It’s a state with a changing electorate and where the down-ballot races didn’t help draw out conservatives who might not necessarily be Trump fans.
(This marked the second straight election Sen. Martha McSally, who lost to Democrat Mark Kelly, was defeated in a Senate election. Not only that, she was outperformed by Trump. As impressive as you may find McSally’s CV — and it is impressive, given she was a colonel in the Air Force and a U.S. representative — it may have been a wiser idea for Republicans to look elsewhere on the depth chart when McSally was appointed to fill the late John McCain’s seat shortly after she lost to Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018.)
That said, Fox News’ models clearly had Arizona being much more Biden-friendly than it was.
Almost a week later, even as the establishment media have called the election, Arizona still remains undecided.
Given that Fox News called it on election night, that’s a problem for conservatives — as well it should be.
As for how this augurs going forward, satirical site The Babylon Bee has an idea:
Fox News Preemptively Calls Arizona For Biden In 2024 https://t.co/OE5SyQirln
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) November 6, 2020
Sounds about right.
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