Bloggers bold in election-night coverage

"What the matter, networks? Afraid to call Florida this time around?" says one blogger, who called the state for Bush at 11:37 last night.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
With the November 2000 smashup in mind, jittery newscasters shied away from offering early predictions Tuesday evening about which states would select John Kerry and which might pick George W. Bush.

But the Internet's cadre of part-time political analysts operated under no such restrictions, which led to sound predictions and embarrassing guesses.

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"What the matter, networks? Afraid to call Florida this time around?" wrote a contributor to Instapundit.com, which is edited by law professor Glenn Reynolds. "Et tu, Fox? It's okay. I understand. I'll call it for you. Bush wins it. He's ahead by 4.2 percent with 93.5 percent counted."

Reynolds' prediction appeared online at 11:37 p.m. EST, and about 45 minutes later CNN projected that Florida would line up behind Bush. With 98.6 percent of the precincts reporting, state election data shows that Bush could claim a sizable lead of about 368,000 votes.

Others blognosticators weren't nearly as accurate. The Timshel blog, which is penned by a Louisiana Democrat, confidently predicted a "decision for Kerry in the wee hours of Wednesday morning" and that "Kerry will also win the popular vote."

Instead, Kerry's campaign entered Wednesday on life support, while Bush supporters held a commanding lead of about 3.5 million in the popular vote totals. Bush aide Andrew Card said early in the morning that the campaign was "convinced" it has the necessary number of electoral votes, and Sen. John Kerry conceded the race early in the afternoon.

Some bloggers said shortly after midnight that Bush had won the election. Matt Drudge posted, and then quickly removed, a banner headline saying "Bush Wins." Columnist Andrew Sullivan, a Kerry supporter, said: "It's over: President Bush is narrowly re-elected (in) a victory that is unlikely to be challenged."

But John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, wasn't so quick to concede defeat. He appeared on a stage in Boston to assure a tired crowd: "We've waited four years for this victory. We can wait one more night."

Rumors ricocheted around the Internet about what was happening in each state. In New Hampshire, Republicans "think they're going to win," wrote CrushKerry.com around 10 p.m. EST. "Bush surprisingly won two wards in heavily Democratic Manchester, and one in Nashua." But by the morning, Kerry turned out to have a solid lead of more than 9,000 votes.

Bloggers and other Internet sites did influence the public's perception of the race early in the day by circulating the results of exit polls. Those showed Kerry ahead in Ohio, New Mexico and Florida and sent the stock market a little lower Tuesday before it rebounded Wednesday on numbers favorable to Bush in those states.

Online magazine Slate highlighted exit poll results in a top story on its Web site, and the Mississippi-based <="" news:link="">Sun Herald newspaper published a story saying Kerry was "ahead as a heavy turnout of voters head to the polls." National Public Radio chose not to reveal the exit poll numbers but, in an unusual twist, directed its viewers to Slate.