With the 2020 presidential election on everyone’s mind, TVNewser is launching a new, recurring feature for the presidential election year: The TVNewser Notebook.
For this bimonthly feature, TVNewser is speaking with veteran political reporters from across the TV news spectrum about their presidential election memories.
Fox News’ chief political anchor and the anchor/executive editor of Special Report, Bret Baier kicks off our unique feature for 2020.
Here’s what he had to tell us:
TVNewser: Give us an interesting anecdote from the first presidential election you ever covered.
Baier: While I covered various campaign events for the Clinton-Gore races in 1992 and 1996 for local stations I worked for, the first real campaign I covered was in 2000. I covered Vice President Al Gore and his team and on election night was in Nashville, Tennessee watching as the race came down to the wire. The crowd was elated when Florida was called for Gore and it seemed he was destined to win. Then it was pulled back to undecided and then it was called for George W. Bush. Early in the morning (about 4 a.m.), campaign chairman Bill Daley came out to the crowds in Nashville to say the Vice President Gore had pulled back his concession to George Bush, saying, “Without being certain of the results in Florida, we simply cannot be certain of the results of this national election.” That started a whirlwind of legal action and planes being booked to Florida Lawyers, campaign aides, reporters, technical people hoofing it to the airport to catch the next plane to Tallahassee with the Presidency hanging in the balance. I was one of them… and covered all elements of the court cases and the hanging chads for 40 days in Florida’s state Capital.
Is there anything you’ve learned from your previous election coverage that you’re taking into account as you cover this one?
It’s never over until it’s over. From my experience in the 2000 election and my experience anchoring our 2016 election coverage, polls and exit polls are sometimes wrong. No matter what the “conventional wisdom” says, watch the numbers coming in. People vote how they want to vote, not how someone tells them to, and it’s the votes that matter, not the pundits. Having anchored all or part of election coverage in 2008, 2012, and 2016, 2020 is positioned to be the most interesting and potentially craziest yet!
How has social media transformed how you cover presidential elections?
It can be a tool in breaking news, especially trusted Twitter pages from well-known campaign reporters and news organizations in various swing states can help give us more on the ground view to what is happening and can help our own reporters in those states. It also gives viewers and voters a way to weigh in, so it’s interactive. That said, in today’s day and technology, you have to be careful that what you’re getting is real.
Who is one political reporter whose work you truly admire?
Besides our own people, John Roberts and Peter Doocy, who are great at getting the story of the day. They will do an amazing job in covering the general election as will others at FNC. But as for another network or news organization, I’m friends with and I truly admire Jonathan Karl from ABC. He covers the White House, obviously, but will be on the trail and does a solid, fair job.
What’s the best meal/restaurant you’ve had/been to during election coverage?
It’s usually pretty on the go for most meals on the campaign trail, or catered food outside a make-shift studio. But I remember a 14-hour day covering the Iowa Caucuses and going to the 801 Chophouse in Des Moines and thinking, “This is one of the best steaks I have ever had.” I am sure it is excellent always but that day, that moment—the steak and glass of cabernet really hit the spot.