- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2014

The networks are not holding back on their coverage of the midterm elections, showcasing top talent, cutting-edge technology, talking heads and eager field reporters for a night that could be a cliffhanger in some states. The election itself is bodacious, estimated to cost $4 billion - and even more should there be run-offs.

Still, the coverage is a balancing act, tracking multiple story lines, playing out before an audience that could top 35 million.

“Midterms election night is more complicated to deal with than presidential election night,” said Sam Feist, Washington bureau chief at CNN. “In the presidential version, you’re essentially talking about one national race. In the midterms, you’ve got 50 to deal with. You’re juggling results from the U.S. Senate and House, gubernatorial races, even state referendums. That gets complex.”

The network begins coverage at 5 a.m. Tuesday, with the main event getting underway some 12 hours later anchored by Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper — with the help of two dozen correspondents scattered throughout the nation. It will continue until all official results have arrived.

“We won’t make any call on any race until we’re absolutely certain,” Mr. Feist said. “Because in the end, this coverage is all about the news. That’s the focus.”

CNN — as do the other networks — features a range of on-air bells and whistles, along with companion coverage on radio, online and in Spanish. Anchor John King once again mans an electronic “Magic Wall” that displays real time results with a sweep of the fingertips. “Ballot cams” will offer live images in select polling districts. To follow the Senate races, CNN has also commandeered the top spire of the Empire State Building in Manhattan to display a political meter lit in red or blue to gauge the results.

There’s similar hubbub at Fox News, co-anchored by Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly and a seeming supporting cast of thousands — including Chris Wallace, Charles Krauthammer, Karl Rove, George Will and Juan Williams. Additionally, Shepard Smith will offer election coverage for from the formidable FOX News Deck, providing updates on the midterm race results throughout the evening.  
The network’s coverage also includes Bill Hemmer and his electronic “Bill-board” to display incoming results and projections.

Congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel will report on the potential shift of power in the Senate from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee headquarters in the nation’s capital. The Fox Business Network, meanwhile, is anchored by Neil Cavuto beginning at 8 p.m. He will be joined by Rich Edson and an eight-person team who focus on the impact of the midterm results on the economy and stock markets.

MSNBC bills their coverage as “Vote 2014!”, with Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews in the anchor chairs, aided by such progressive favorites as Jose Diaz-Balart, Al Sharpton and Kasie Hunt. Not to be outdone, Comedy Central offers a pair of election-night specials titled “Democalypse 2014: America Remembers It Forgot to Vote” hosted by Jon Stewart, followed by “Midterms ‘014: Detour to Gridlock: An Exciting Thing That I Am Totally Interested In — Wait! Don’t Change The Channel. Look At This Video Of A Duckling Following A Cat Dressed Like A Shark Riding A Roomba! ‘014!”, hosted by Stephen Colbert.

It’s tough for the three major broadcast networks to pre-empt regular prime-time programming with election fare, though all will feature live hourly updates and companion broadcasts at their web sites. That changes at 10 p.m. when live coverage takes over.

ABC’s “This Week” moderator George Stephanopoulos joins Diane Sawyer, “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, “Nightline” anchor Dan Harris, Matthew Dowd and William Kristol, among others. At NBC, Brian Williams anchors two hours of live program with input from “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, special correspondent Tom Brokaw and “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough. At CBS, Scott Pelley and “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell anchor a special one-hour broadcast, joined by “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer and “CBS This Morning” co-hosts Charlie Rose and Gayle King.

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