Tuned In

Election Watch: Karl Rove Vs. the Arithmetic

In a bizarre interlude last night, Fox News analyst and GOP rainmaker Karl Rove went to war against math--his own network's.

  • Share
  • Read Later

It was, as Bill Clinton told us at the Democratic convention, about the arithmetic. And last night, the arithmetic won.

Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States. The polls, beaten up for weeks by partisans as being “skewed,” were generally correct. Polling nerds like Nate Silver, pooh-poohed by some pundits, proved even more correct. After billions of dollars of spending, the election was remarkably predictable, and predicted.

But in a bizarre interlude last night, Fox News analyst and GOP rainmaker Karl Rove went to war against the math–his own network’s.

It was an earlier night than expected even by many who thought Obama would win, as NBC and Fox called his re-election at about 11:15 p.m. ET. But after Fox called Ohio and thus the US for the President, Rove immediately began complaining, on Fox’s air, that Fox had called the election too early. “Do you believe that Ohio has been settled?” Chris Wallace asked him. “No, I don’t,” Rove said, adding that he had the director of the Romney Ohio campaign on the phone. “I would be very cautious of intruding in this process.”

But Rove was not cautious of intruding in Fox’s independent election-calling process. Fox, like many networks, keeps a separate “decision desk” of analysts to make calls on states independent of influence by anchors and on-air talent. It’s not unusual to call states, even if there’s only a small gap in the reported vote, on the basis of what they know about the vote yet to come in. (And as it turns out, they were absolutely right.)

What is unusual–really, one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen on cable news–is for one arm of a network to basically turn against itself on-air. “Here’s what we’re going to do!” said anchor Bret Baier. “We’re going to get someone from the decision desk and we’re going to bring them in here and we’re going to have them on air and we’re going to interview them about this decision.”

That’s right: One of you nerds had better get in here and explain yourselves to Karl Rove! You have made an important Republican very upset!

As it turns out, a network decision desk is rather busy on a Presidential election night, so Fox instead had anchor Megyn Kelly walk down the hall–the camera following her in an Aaron Sorkin-style walking-and-talking shot–to interrogate the decision desk. Whose data guys, smiling uncomfortably, basically demolished Rove’s complaints. “We’re actually quite comfortable with the call,” one said. “Cleveland is overwhelmingly Democrat. As the vote comes in, we would expect the president’s margin to rise.”

It was a fitting moment for an election that often seemed to be a campaign over the idea of mathematical knowability itself. But it was also a glaring, and embarrassing, example of the extent to which Fox News has become an arm of the Republican Party and is expected by GOP operatives to behave as one. Rove may be a party big shot, but he’s just a guy giving analysis on Fox’s air. He does not run the network, even if his friends do.

And yet apparently no one in Fox’s studio felt empowered to tell him that, just because he’d raised a squillion dollars for his Republican SuperPAC this election, he is not entitled to have the decision desk hauled out to answer to him like chefs who sent out an undercooked steak. It’s the sort of thing that might cause you to examine your mission as a journalistic network. I’m not waiting up for that to happen, though.

In the end, Rove is a numbers guy too, and he finally had to concede to the arithmetic–but not before creating a defining image of a partisan, and a network, at war with the very reality it could not avoid reporting. Kelly, who at least took the whole interlude in good humor, at one point deadpanned, “That’s awkward.” Yes, it was. And kind of amazing.

(PHOTOS: Election 2012: Photos from the Finish Line)

100 comments
sandifjm
sandifjm

Four days later, and I'm a little ashamed to say that I'm still engaging in a bit of schadenfreude.  But in reading the right-wing blogs and "news" sites, there is very little introspection going on.  They seem to honestly believe that they lost because of a hurricane, a weak candidate, a biased media or because Obama gave away cell phones(?)The few commentators who have dared suggest that they're facing an existential crisis and may need to reflect on how their ideology fits in with a changing nation are either being shouted down, called "RINOs" or simply being ignored.

Many seem to honestly believe that becoming MORE conservative is the answer, and that appealing to minorities doesn't matter. From Rush Limbaugh: "Isn't Condoleeza Rice enough? Isn't Marco Rubio enough?" (Hahaha...Rush, the answer is "no")I think it's definitely better for a nation to have more than one viable national party, the more the merrier in fact, but the GOP seems either incapable or unwilling to take a serious look in the mirror and address some problems that have been building for a while.  This is the 2nd election cycle in a row in which they chose ideological purity over control of the senate.  They've completely lost it, and any facts that don't support their increasingly unhinged worldview are dismissed as biased, including polls, and especially Nate "fifty-and-oh" Silver's.On the one hand, it's endlessly amusing to watch them implode and completely turn on each other, but for the good of the country, I hope that moderate conservatives find a voice again. Whether through a revamped Republican party, or through a new party entirely if the GOP decides they want to let the Tea Party destroy what's left of them.But for now, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the show.

WallyDadog
WallyDadog

Here is an interesting thought regarding the Republican's ability to compete at the national level. In the last six presidential elections, the Republicans only carried the popular vote once.

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

I know this week is a good one for gloating (and having fun doing so) but how about next week the newsies chart a new course themselves?  I put this note on Rachel Maddow's FB page - don't know if she'll read it, but here's hoping:  Rachel- just finished listening to part of your 6:00 broadcast here on theleft coast, and I have to say I loved your list of "things that aretrue." I also have a request. Someone else on another show this morning(MSNBC) suggested that the Republicans "muzzle" these crazies on theright. I can't agree with that entirely, but I can suggest somethingelse. Please don't give them any more free air time than they deserve.If they say something shocking that is relevant to a current discussion,by all means cover it. But please don't cover it just because it'sshocking. I want to hear more about what our people are doing, about ourown arguments about what is best, abouthow things are actually working or not working, and ideas on if and howthey could work better. I stopped listening to MSNBC when it seemed likeevery show began with a clip from Glen Beck or Rush. The conversationdoesn't have to be about them. It can be about things that are actuallyinteresting. It can spell out succinctly what a piece of legislationactually says, talk about what it will actually do or not do, hold ourPresident and congresscritters' feet to the fire or allow cogentarguments for their positions - or both. I did finally discover UP,which I love, and I DVR that one as well as Fareed over on CNN. Pleasegive me a reason to DVR you as well.

MatthewValHall
MatthewValHall

Rove was quite surprised that his vote-switching hack on the machines wasn't working out as intended...

Ordnry1
Ordnry1

I am not a Karl Rove fan and I don't listen to Fox News.  But, I must say that your article and especially Karl Rove's panic hysteria made my day!  Doesn't Karl Rove look like a clown?  Bill Clinton was right.  We must do our arithmetic first (before algorithm).  I am feeling so gay (I am straight by the way) today because President Obama won the election by a wide margin on both electoral and popular votes. 

grasspress
grasspress

hey everyone, this is just another example of republican 'math'. just like republican 'science', it's 'faith based'.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

Never found a compromiseCollected 'voters' like butterfliesIllusions of that grand first prizeare slowly wearing thin

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Knowing that Rove is the epitome of right wing fanaticism, I was still dumfounded watching his display last night.  I had switched to Fox to see the reaction after CNN had called the election, expecting right wing-nut jollies.  Fox had also called the election, and Rove did not disappoint.

JoeBachofen
JoeBachofen

Apparently you have forgotten that Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News.  In my opinion, Mr. Murdoch is also part of the consortium that owns the GOP; other members being the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson.  Donald Trump may imagine himself among that group but my guess is that the others view him as their foolscap along with the Rush Limbaugh aka "The Court Jester".

GaryKennedy
GaryKennedy

Rove reminds me of Hitler in the movie "Downfall", and the much parodied clip on Youtube.  Screaming at his staff which is trying to tell him the truth, i.e. that the army divisions he is blaming no longer exist.  "Awkward" is an understatement.

MrObvious
MrObvious

I apologize right now but this is someone I can't find it in my heart to feel sorry for.

Karl Rove belongs to a select few people I would pee on if they were on fire.

It pains me to say it, but at least I'm going to be honest about it.

73yearoldVet
73yearoldVet

Since I lost my bet on the presidential election this will be my last post on Swampland. I have a couple of thoughts to leave with the  Swampland community.

1. The Associated Press called this a Big Win for President Obama. A 49-50% win of the popular vote is a Win but not a Big Win. My  hope  for President Obama is that he governs in the best interest of all our citizens and not just the 49-50% who voted for him.

2. My second hope is that we have not created an American Hugo Chavez, an individual who was elected democratically but then became a   Dictator that used the illusion of Democratic elections to maintain his power and dictatorship.

kowch_mom
kowch_mom

They can deny math and science all they want, but the reality will eventually bite!

GaryMcCray
GaryMcCray

After this election, it seems to me that it would be a really good idea to question the way Poll and poll information are handled.

We were told up to the bitter end it was a tight race and there was no indication of who had the edge.

A two + percent popular vote victory is VERY significant and should have been reflected in the polls rather than saying we have no idea.

Either the polls themselves are incredibly flawed or the American people were being purposely mislead either by the politicians or the news media or both.

In some ways, I think it would be better to not have the whole poll thing in the first place because the very act of having them causes people to want to vote for the winner and can certainly influence an election.

But if you are going to polls, it seems that manipulating them to show what one party or the other or the news media wants is not serving the American People at all well and it should be held up for common ridicule and censor.

If on the other hand the polls are so dismal that they don't reflect a 2 percent majority, they are useless and should be decried as such.

ijbtheterrible
ijbtheterrible

Murdock's empire in England is failing because of his support for lies to control the masses. His problem is that the truth in parts is located in media at many locations and people ( many people) are not as dumb as he and Rove wish they were. Fox news does not have the power to control  truth as Soviet Union had and Russia is returning to. 

steveot
steveot

Hey, 

If I were to spend a billions dollars of someone else'e money and fail miserably, I would be delusional and paranoid too.

ijbtheterrible
ijbtheterrible

Karl Rove learned early in his job that to lie is the way to cause doubt and leave open a chance to circumvent the truth. He studied  all masters of deceit and has become one of the best. 

CoolRanch
CoolRanch

Faux news was the most entertaining to watch once it became clear that Obama was going to win. Not a shred of facts or real math was used, just a bunch of butthurt neocons crying over their loss.

TheInsomniac
TheInsomniac

This was not just about Karl Rove. This is about all of the anti-intellectualism, propaganda, and flat-out lies perpetrated by Republicans and the conservatives voices in media that trumpet their talking points. The idea that Nate Silver is biased, that Obama just got lucky because of a storm, that all the models are wrong through some grand liberal media conspiracy (except for the ones that back their position), all point to this being a problem of the right wing in this country. Karl Rove is the Goebbels of this movement, certainly. But he is not in and of himself the only problem. Pardon the Reductio ad Hitlerum, but you really do have to look to the most extreme, fascist governments in the modern media age to find something comparable to their bald-faced willingness to disregard reason and knowledge, and lie in the face of their citizenry, in order to "win" politically.

Quetal1
Quetal1

I suppose the Repub's will blame the loss on:

the storm 

miscounting

unemployed blacks and hispanics

people on welfare

undermining techniques used by the Democrat's

and of course denial that most American's are not as smart as a Republican

oh and that the South still hates the idea having a Black man in the WH 

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

"This video is currently unavailable."  --YT

BobDevaughn
BobDevaughn

Karl Rove is just frustrated that he's going to have to account for a failure to the people who gave him hundreds of millions of dollars.

gurliekangaroo
gurliekangaroo

I'm setting my DVR to tape Saturday Night live,,,,,,,,,,,,the Carl Rove rant will be hilarious no doubt.  But what really happened is almost funnier than anything one could make up, no?

pblakeii
pblakeii

I do so hope that this is the beginning of the end for the mythical abilities of one Karl Rove. He had a run with two unusual victories, (Bush 2000 & 2004), and now maybe the real GOP power brokers will see the emperor truly has no clothes. His scorched earth tactics, his no holes barred rhetoric, and just his overall personality leech into the process and alienate the electorate to the point he really has become irrelevant. In my opinion, Crossroads GPS will forever be tied to what I saw as the nastiest campaign in my lifetime. And as an intelligent voter, I was insulted. 

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

Sorry about the run-on words - I copied it directly and the format didn't transfer cleanly.  Should have proof-read better.

vrcplou
vrcplou

Yes, yes YEEESSSS!!!!!  The media needs to stop giving the crazies (on both sides) so much air time and space.  Every time Limbaugh or Trump spout off something stupid and get coverage they also get legitimized to a certain extent.  They are like tantrumming toddlers - sometimes you just have to ignore them because anything else only empowers them and prolongs their time in the spotlight.

MrObvious
MrObvious

wouldn't pee...important distinction

Ordnry1
Ordnry1

President Obama actually won by a large margin in both electoral and popular votes (2 million votes more than Romney's total votes).  The Republican Congress as well as the Democratic Senate must equally bear the responsibility of working out their differences between them and work with the President, focusing on what is best for the country and its citizens.  I look forward to better days ahead.  Lastly, thank you for your service to the country.

bronzee
bronzee

@73yearoldVet Ok, so fresh off of becoming very oxygenated over the "peer" strand above, I have to respond to this.  How very ridiculous and childish of you to refer to someone who had a bunch of supporters who wished he would pull rank, but never did as "Hugo Chavez!"  The very party that practices ranchor and acrimony beginning at breakfast could accuse this man of being a dictator?!  I promise you, he practiced more grace and self-control than anyone should have been expected him to under very extreme circumstances from those who obviously hate him as you do.  You are likely afraid that he might become someone who morphs into a hater because now he's got nothing to lose and a whole bunch of folks to get back at.  Alas, I know he won't.  And thank God for those decent folks among us, which does not include you.

DanainNYC
DanainNYC

@73yearoldVet 

Your service is much appreciated as is your concern for our country. As to your comments:

1. Obama does not carve up the populace into percentages who "matter". Your candidate did that. 

2. Do you have so little faith in fellow Americans who elected President Obama or in the man himself. Because that's not who Barack Obama is. The people of this country would never go for it either. We would live up to the examples set by patriots like you who had the courage to serve our country. You see, Americans expect to voting for their leaders. As we just did. 

Be at peace. This is no-drama Obama at the helm. The world will bring what it will. We just elected a President and we will do it again in four years and it will be someone totally different. Hope you are still here to cast your next Presidential vote. Thanks again.

tommyudo
tommyudo

As to your first point, I hope Barack governs with the authority Bush showed after he won Florida by 1 SCOTUS vote - in other words, govern as if you had a 50 state mandate.

Your second point is idiotic tripe. Take a hike. Good riddance.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@73yearoldVet 

You know, looking back through your posts I see insulting things like this:

"Tonight or early tomorrow morning you and IQ53 will be exposed to reality. Bye, bye Obama."

...that you addressed to many of us (in this instance Outsider), and I'm suddenly not even remotely sorry to see you go.  I hope you'll lose some of the hatred you seem to enjoy spewing here everyday.  Bye bye.

bobell
bobell

@Old Vet  Not to gloat, but rather to try to reassure you: I've always believed that Obama's intent has been to govern in the best interest of all Americans. You can question whether his actions have effectuated his intent (I think that in most respects ths answer is yes; and yes, I know you disagree), but I think the intent is definitely there.

I am also persuaded thta Obama has no desire to be a dictator.  Even if he did, Congress retains enough strength to frustrate such an ambition. What worries me is that Congress will mistake efforts ro improve the lot of the American people with attempts to establish a dictatorship and do something foolish.  I'd like to think that such worries are unnecessary, but I find them more plausible than worries about a dictatorship being established.

As one vet to another, however much we disagreed on politics (and boy, did we), good luck and good health to you.

-72YOVet

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@73yearoldVet 

America is a mature democracy with fiercely patriotic people who believe in free and fair elections.  America is a country with a strong judicial system and powerful checks and balances.  And, it is vitally important to remember that America has term limits as a constitutional amendment making it near impossible for Obama to try and seize power.  There is no way that America turns to days of illusionary elections.

Anyways, I'm not sad to see you go, but I do wish you the best.

anon76
anon76

@GaryMcCray The polls were incredibly accurate.  Almost all data-driven sites, whether run by Ds or Rs or Is, that aggregated polls and took the average to make a prediction did very well last night.  Nate Silver at http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com and Sam Wang at http://election.princeton.edu are prime examples of this, and they have left up graphs of their predictions over time to show that they were basically predicting this outcome back in June.

What you're referring to is the media narrative.  The media has an economic interest in portraying a tight race, because that is more exciting and generates more viewers on tv and more site traffic on the web.  They deliberately focused only on polls that showed close races, and consistently neglected to mention that the weighted average of polls showed a small but significant lead for Obama.

anon76
anon76

@MementoMori One of the most amazing things to me about Nate Silver is that instead of throwing out Rassmussen's polls, he actually corrected them, incorporated them into his model, and used their results to make his predictions more accurate.  That dude is good.

GaryMcCray
GaryMcCray

@anon76 @GaryMcCray 

Certainly makes sense, I'm an engineer and I understand that statistics are relatively straight forward, it seemed incomprehensible to me that the so called extensive polls could not accurately reflect a two percent bias.

Clearly politicians would like to use polls to benefit themselves and the news media aside from misrepresenting them to build excitement often represents political bias's of it's own.

It is sad that they become simply one more tool to manipulate the American public with in any case.

And this fact should be clearly exposed to the American public.

If what you are saying is accurate the public was PURPOSELY misled to serve themselves.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@TyPollard

I rather pee on an electric fence. I can just see how someone like Karl Rove would like it.

RugeirnDrienborough
RugeirnDrienborough

@GaryMcCray @anon76They did reflect the bias! Did you read any of them? It would seem not!