COMMENTS: Wheeling into Super Tuesday

As the networks waited for the polls to close, the Super Tuesday primary dominated the news of the day, occupying 72% (44 min out of 61) of the three-network newshole. CBS and NBC both kicked of with the wheel format, five correspondents each filing from the headquarters they were assigned to. Both networks chose the same hierarchy: Hillary Rodham Clinton first in New York City, then Barack Obama in Chicago, next John McCain in Phoenix, followed by Mitt Romney in Boston, with Mike Huckabee in Little Rock rounding it out. NBC, courtesy of its single sponsor Chrysler, ran an hourlong newscast with an extended newshole (24 min v ABC 18, CBS 18) in its first half hour. Instead of the candidates, ABC chose to lead with the topline from the exit polls.

"A surprise win," as ABC's Jake Tapper called it, kicked off Super Tuesday coverage. The Republicans of West Virginia held a convention during the day, which was won on a second ballot. "Supporters of Ron Paul and John McCain threw their weight behind Mike Huckabee so as to prevent Mitt Romney from getting the win," Tapper told us. "The old enemy of my enemy is my friend." The Romney campaign called it "backroom wheeling and dealing" and "inside-Washington shenanigans," reported CBS' Bill Whitaker (no link). NBC's Ron Allen pointed out that West Virginia had been on Romney's "short list" for the day. CBS' Nancy Cordes (no link) speculated that the West Virginia deal "provides new fodder for those who accuse the former pastor of running, at this point, to be Chief Spoiler rather than Commander-in-Chief." ABC's Tapper argued the alternative--"frankly it reminds voters that Huckabee is still running"--and touted his prospects in Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alabama.


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