With this year’s presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in a dead heat, the contested 2000 election – during which Florida was first called for Al Gore – will be top of mind at news organizations. Granted, TV news divisions proceeded with caution in 2004 and 2008. But the tight race in battle ground states, legal skirmishes over proposed voter identification laws, both Democrats and Republicans promising to have representatives at the polls and a bitterly divided congress have combined for an especially contentious election night atmosphere. Political pundits have predicted recounts in some closely watched states including Ohio, which means, like 2000, voters could wake up on Wednesday without a clear winner.
But news divisions are ready for the turmoil with armies of correspondents, analysts and pollsters on tap for what will definitely be a long night. The broadcast neworks will commence coverage at 7 p.m. ET when many on the East Coast have already been to the polls. Once again, both ABC News and NBC News, which have studios in New York's tourist meccas of Times Square and Rockefeller Center, respecitvly, will have correspondents on the street to gauge public reaction. And while there will be no holograms this year, CNN will have a "virtual senate."
Following are highlights of election coverage at the broadcast and cable news divisions.
ABC News will transform its street-side studios in Times Square – one of the nation’s busiest thoroughfares and a location of celebrations fours years ago when Obama was swept into office – into election night headquarters. Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will lead the network's coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper will be at Obama headquarters in Chicago, while David Muir will be at Romney headquarters in Boston. Barbara Walters, who has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon, will be on hand to offer historical context, while Katie Couric will be monitoring social media reaction throughout the night. ABC News will have correspondents in battleground states. Senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl and contributors Ron Brownstein and Cokie Roberts will report from ABC’s New York studios. Regular political panelists George Will, Matthew Dowd, Donna Brazile and Nicolle Wallace will also be in the studio. The network’s coverage will be live streamed on various platforms and apps including ABCNews.com and Yahoo News. The ABC News/Yahoo! News Election live stream will incorporate breaking hashtags, social analysis and an interactive map.
CBS News plans seven hours of election coverage beginning at 7 p.m. and anchored by Scott Pelly from the CBS News broadcast center in New York. Pelley will be joined by chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer, CBS News political director John Dickerson and CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell. (Charlie Rose will be occupied with election night coverage on PBS.) CBS News also will have correspondents stationed in battleground states while Jan Crawfrod will report from Romney’s campaign headquarters in Boston and Nancy Cordes will report from Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago. Anthony Mason will handle exit-polling and Byron Pitts will cover the House and Senate races. The network’s coverage also will be live-streamed on CBSNews.com.
CNN will kick off at 6 p.m. with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper leading coverage from Washington, the first time the network’s election coverage has originated from the nation’s capital. Blitzer and Cooper will lead a team of contributors and correspondents from the network’s newly constructed studio there. Candy Crowley and Jim Acosta will be in Boston, while White House correspondents Jessica Yellin, Dan Lothian and Brianna Keilar will be in Chicago. Once again, John King, CNN’s chief national correspondent, will be at the Magic Wall to provide analysis of projections. And correspondent Tom Foreman will appear from the virtual studio in Washington to present a “Virtual Senate.” Chief political analyst Gloria Borger and senior political analyst David Gergen will be on hand to provide analysis; they’ll be joined by Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleisher, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. CNN’s mobile app (www.CNN.com/live) will offer a live stream from campaign headquarters in Boston and Chicago as well as all acceptance and concession speeches from key races.
Once again, NBC News has transformed Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza into Democracy Plaza with various interactive exhibits including replicas of the Oval Office and White House press briefing room. Brian Williams will anchor NBC News coverage from network headquarters at Rockefeller Center. He’ll be joined at the anchor desk by Meet the Press moderator David Gregory and Today co-host Savannah Guthrie. Tom Brokaw will provide historical analysis while pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff will be on hand for voter insight. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell will follow key House and Senate races. Lester Holt will report on gubernatorial, down-ballot, and key local races; proposition measures and the after-effects of superstorm Sandy on voting. Chief justice correspondent Pete Williams will contribute reporting from Washington on irregularities, technology and claims of voter suppression. Political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd will track the candidates’ road to 270 electoral votes via a touch-screen wall. White House correspondent Kristen Welker will report from Chicago and Peter Alexander will report from Boston. The network also will have correspondents stationed in key battleground states. NBCNews.com live steam the network’s primetime coverage and also provide multimedia updates, interactive maps and reporting from teams across the country.
Rachel Maddow will lead MSNBC’s election coverage beginning at 6 p.m. She’ll be joined in the network’s Rockefeller Center studio by Chris Matthews, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz and Steve Schmidt. As he is for NBC, Chuck Todd also will crunch the numbers in battleground states for MSNBC. Tamron Hall will be stationed on NBC News’ Democracy Plaza where she’ll interview voters and also provide exit poll results. Melissa Harris-Perry will report from Chicago and Chris Jansing will report from Boston. Contributors will include Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and CNBC’s John Harwood will provide reports from the campaigns and their reactions.