COMMENTS: Cheese Steak Pollwatchers

As usual on a Campaign 2008 primary Tuesday, all three networks led off their east coast newscasts with previews while the polls were still open. So the Democrats' contest in Pennsylvania was Story of the Day but none of those previews was posted online, superseded by the time the news hour arrived on the west coast by projections of Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory over Barack Obama. So Tyndall Report offers a flavor of that broadcast content without the videostreams to link to.

What can a correspondent cover on Election Day while the polls are still open? NBC's Andrea Mitchell (no link) called it "the last battle of the cheese steak photo opportunities"CBS' Jim Axelrod (no link) documented Rodham Clinton's order: "The specialty cheese steak but without a lot of sauce"ABC's Jake Tapper (no link) saw the candidates "pressing flesh, eating cheese steaks and playing the expectations game." Tapper seemed relieved: "For the first time in a month and a half, the contest is not in the hands of the candidates, the party, the activists--or even the media. It is finally in the hands of the voters."

As for that expectations game, CBS' Dean Reynolds (no link) noted that Obama "has made up a lot of ground" since the polls showed him trailing in Pennsylvania by 20%. NBC's Mitchell observed that Obama could afford a loss whereas for Rodham Clinton "behind in money, behind in votes, the stakes are a lot higher." ABC's Tapper contrasted Rodham Clinton's "demographic advantages" in an elderly, working class state with Obama's well-funded frontrunner status. CBS' Axelrod refused to handicap the contest, talking vaguely about her needing "a big win" in order to "sow seeds of doubt" about Obama. So his colleague Jeff Greenfield asked CBS' in-house political analyst Joe Trippi to get specific about how big a margin she needs: "She wins by double digits, it is a huge win. If she wins by three, it is a huge loss."

In a sign that Obama knew he could not win Pennsylvania, his campaign had already moved on to Indiana, which votes in the first week of May. CBS' Reynolds and NBC's Lee Cowan (no link) both filed from Evansville, where the "luck of geography" may be on his side, Cowan suggested. Obama has a record of winning states that border on his Illinois base.


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