Networks To Call Them as They See Them

By Chris Ariens 

Sheldon Gawiser has been calling elections for NBC for 40 years — his first as polling director at Cleveland’s WKYC in 1968. After the debacle of 2000 (where Gawiser appeared on-air with Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert to explain what went wrong) to the data problems of the 2004 race, Gawiser tells TVNewser, “We have made major changes to the models and to the entire system to see what’s going on.” As for the exit poll data, Gawiser says, “We are seeing 200 models as compared to two in 2000.”

As we reported Friday, the networks have agreed to wait until 5pmET to release that data on the air. Then it’s a two hour wait for the first polls to close in several states including battlegrounds Indiana and Virginia.

And once the polls close, the counting begins. And 270, is 270.

“The CNN Decision Team lives by the simple motto: better to be right than first,” political director Sam Feist tells TVNewser. But if either candidate makes it to the 270 needed to win before the polls close in some western states, the networks won’t wait.

“There’s no way to get around it,” CBS News senior VP Paul Friedman tells The Hollywood Reporter’s Paul J. Gough. “If one man gets 270 electoral votes before the West Coast polls are closed, we’re not going to pretend (he doesn’t).”

Says ABC News senior VP Jeffrey Schneider, “No one is rushing to project a state.”

But like Obama and McCain, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN all want to win too.