Karl Rove was brought onto the FOX team for last night’s Super Tuesday coverage and stole the show. Blowing some much needed data into the hot air that has dominated the network for six months, Rove rattled off numbers and names and counties and expected returns, fitting it all within a strategic template that made sense.
FOX, still, like all the other networks, suffered from evangelical deprivation, missing where and how and why the evangelicals were voting. They had weeks to catch up, to prepare, to understand the Mormon-Evangelical dance, how the evangelicals in Iowa polled for Romney and then melted like snow in the grass on a hot day 48 hours before the caucus and how that would overlay in the South. How the LDS’ers are miffed by that and stiffing Huckabee in the Mountain States.
And mostly, they ignored the very clear and compelling demographics of these voters in California, where 60% of all evangelicals are under the age of thirty and less monolithic in their voting habits.
Rove’s substance seemed to intimidate the whole FOX studio. Chris Wallace, who was interviewing him was blown away, giggling aloud with pride and admiration that this is what “we are going to be getting from our new FOX contributor.”
The aftershock was a bit amusing as if all the other, normally, glib contributors scattered around the studio suddenly realized their finely honed, prepared comments were going to sound empty and speculative by comparison. The normally unflappable Britt Hume, seemed diminished, even humbled. Bill Kristol, of the Weekly Standard, often their most intelligent commentator (though occasionally, painfully off the mark on evangelicals) seemed to lose his voice, which cracked.
Most of my e-mail network, and I must have had 600 e mails last night, said they waited for Karl to cycle back around and talk again. Meanwhile, they surfed to the other networks. It seems that FOX, which still has the most diverse commentary, consistently scrolled the wrong figures for their Missouri returns, showing a confusing list that had McCain beating Romney with a distant Huck.
Actually, Missouri was a razor close call for Karl Rove too, who impressed the viewers with his take that the populous suburbs of St. Louis boded well for McCain and he would likely carry the State. It looked like he was wrong. At the same time, local television feeds from Springfield, Missouri were reporting an especially heavy turnout, where a larger than average contingent of the Assemblies of God and Baptist Bible Fellowship were flooding the polls, giving Huckabee their last minute support.
There was a wonderful “blonde moment” on FOX that cannot be missed. The network reported that Hillary Clinton had clearly won the Jewish vote over Barrack Obama in New York State. There was no commentary on how and what this meant. What were the differences between the two candidates on Israel, for example, or were some in the Jewish community reading something into Obama’s Islamic family connections in Indonesia. Did his middle name, “Hussein” make them nervous? That was all too complicated for such an evening. Instead the commentator seriously intoned into the camera that this data would be interesting to watch in those “other states with Jewish folks.”
Simma Holt, my wonderful Jewish friend, former MP from Vancouver, thought this was hoot. Hmmm, now just what other Jewish states did FOX have in mind? Certainly not Montana. The only one she could think of other than New York, itself, where the numbers of Jews would make a critical difference, was the state of Israel but then they didn’t get to voter on Super Tuesday.
Still, it was an impressive night for Karl Rove and for FOX. By early morning McCain had indeed taken Missouri, barely. Rove’s substantive contributions may now inspire a little work ethic among the celebrity talking heads who may be forced to bring to the news a little more data and a little less opinion, a recalibration that would be welcome to its devoted viewers.