It’s not easy being CNN or MSNBC. They have all those commercials they have to put “news” between. While the commercials seem to arrive every two minutes — and last longer — there actually is a few minutes between each commercial break. Over the course of an evening, however, those few minutes of non-commercial time add up. Filling up that time seems to be a challenge for the networks. Especially early on a primary night when the votes are coming in slowly. The result is usually the anchor trying to wring momentous meaning from a scattering of votes. It almost makes you feel sorry for them.
But if a typical primary night is bad, pity the news folks dealing with the Texas primary. There’s nothing like them in America — thank heavens. Some states have caucuses. Others have primaries. Texas has both. Complicating things is that the number of delegates chosen by caucus or vote varies by the past voting patterns in each of the state’s 31 Senate districts. Yet another complication? The delegates selected on March 4th are for a state convention in early June. That’s where delegates to the national convention will be selected.
Since the caucuses begin after the polls close, the networks will have primary results before the caucus returns. This will favor the winner of the overall vote even though, in a close race, the loser could wind up with more delegates. But the reporters have to report something. That’s what reporters do.
What all this means is that in the hours leading up to the closing of the polls in Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Texas, the networks will try, gallantly no doubt, to explain the Texas voting process. Again, and again, and again. The problem of course, is that they’re only human. And explaining the Lone Star State’s delegate selection method could turn anyone’s brain into grits.
And then when the polls are over, and they’re done talking about what happened in the other states, they’ll still have to explain the Texas two-step because the results won’t be in for quite some time.
It’s going to be a long, and painful, night.
By the way, one of the most cogent explanations of the Texas primary/caucus wa put together by Greg Giroux of Congressional Quarterly. I highly recommend it.