To whom are you turning to get your Election 2006 news? On cable television, the horserace coverage that dominated the summer season (e.g. the U.S. Senate races in Virginia and Connecticut) has, in recent weeks, been replaced by more generalized, sweeping coverage in which many hosts and pundits are making big-picture forecasts as to which political party will control Congress in January 2007.
Always entertaining, the tone of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ (“Hardball”) coverage clearly anticipates a wholesale takeover of the Hill by the Democratic Party come November. Matthews frequently documents how the big errors made by Republicans during the past year (e.g. Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley) are turning the tide towards the Democrats, while not spending much air time on corruption or ineptitude on the democratic side (e.g. William Jefferson). Matthews’ fellow “Hardballer” guests (e.g. Howard Fineman, Chuck Todd) are not partisan hacks by any stretch, but do follow Matthews’ lead in the tone of their analysis. Last night Matthews even went so far as to suggest the Arizona Senate seat (held by Republican Jon Kyl) may be in play (a seat viewed by the New York Times, Cook Political Report, and Roll call as “Safe Republican”).
On Fox News, long-time political observers Mort Kondracke and Fred Barnes (also co-hosts of “The Beltway Boys”) also both now officially predict a Democratic takeover of the US House—with Kondracke expecting a bigger victory than the more conservative Barnes. Unlike Matthews, both analysts frequently point out the difficulty in Democrats winning the Senate.
However, Fox’s cable television news king Bill O’Reilly (“The O’Reilly Factor”) has largely avoided political analysis of the US House and Senate races, bringing Newt Gingrich or Dick Morris on his program perhaps once a week to discuss the elections. O’Reilly, frequently reminding his viewers he is not a conservative or a republican but a “traditionalist,” may be silent because he has not yet figured out how discussing a potential Democratic takeover fits into his program’s tone (or with the message of his brand new book “Culture Warrior” in which he paints a war of traditionalists against ‘secular progressives’ – those who reside in the far left wing of the Democratic Party).
On CNN, it is unlikely Larry King will spend much time addressing politics (scandals aside) until a few days before the election, while Anderson Cooper’s 360 program has split its time with his travels to Africa and the John Mark Carr tabloid developments. Wolf Blitzer’s coverage of D.C. is extensive, but nearly always straight—you won’t hear any predictions from him.
So, who do you trust on cable television to provide the best Election 2006 analysis this autumn?