Why didn’t Fox News, CNN, and the three networks declare Youngkin the winner earlier on election night? And why did McAuliffe come out and give an equivocal statement late in the evening when it was clear that he was behind?
Hint: It’s the same reason McAuliffe’s campaign hired famed election law attorney Mark Elias in the week before the election in Virginia. The McAuliffe campaign and its media allies (the networks, CNN, and Fox News) knew that the election would be very close and suspected that Terry might lose, so they were preparing for a lawsuit to contest the election results.
If McAuliffe had come out election night and conceded the race, he would, in effect, be discarding the option of a legal challenge to the vote count. Public opinion would have already settled on the idea of a Youngkin victory. But, by coming out and making a non-concession speech, saying that there were still lots of votes to be counted, he was preserving the option of declaring that he had won and suing.
For their part, his allies in the media likely decided not to call the race — even after Newsmax had said Youngkin had won, and the Republican had solidified a lead of at least three points — because they wanted to protect McAuliffe’s flank by leaving the impression that the results were still up in the air. By leaving the question of who won open as Virginians went to bed for the night, they laid the basis for a morning announcement of a McAuliffe lawsuit.
In the event, the Youngkin lead was insurmountable, and the campaign had retained — and presumably paid mightily for — Elias’ services in vain.
But the confluence of the networks’ reluctance to call the race — when competitive pressures dictated that they should have kept up with Newsmax and declared a winner — and the hiring of Elias indicate that they were preparing for a lawsuit in the event of a narrow loss.
The enduring lesson here, is not that McAuliffe was planning to sue. That seems to go with the territory these days. But that the TV networks, CNN and Fox News were in bed with McAuliffe on his plans and withheld declaring a winner to keep the Democrats’ option open.
In 2020, in the face of massive evidence of Democratic chicanery, Fox News called Arizona for Biden 20 minutes after polls closed, largely at the reported prompting of Fox’s election decision desk director Arnon Absalom Mishkin.
Mishkin, a known Democratic operative with ties to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, should have been fired for his unseemly haste on the election night of 2020
Instead Fox News has stated he will continue to be in charge of election coverage through the 2024 election.
It made no sense that Fox News hesitated all Tuesday night before bowing to the obvious and declaring Youngkin the winner.
Apparently, Fox News only declares races prematurely when the Democrat is winning.
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