CONTENTS: CBS CALLS + ELECTORAL COUNT, CBS/CNN FLORIDA MISCALL TIMELINE, DELAY in CALLS UNDER NEW STANDARDS first to call CBS REPORT – p 12
CLOSING STATE CBS ABC NBC/MSNBC FOX VNS WINNER
7:00 PM Florida, 7:50:11 PM 8:02 PM, 7:49:40 PM*, 7:52 PM, 7:52 PM Gore,
Retraction 10:00 PM 10:16 pm Retraction
2:17:52 AM 2:20 AM 2:17:30 AM 2:16 AM Bush Bush
Retraction 3:57:49 AM 4:00 AM 4:02 AM 4:05 AM Retraction
Georgia 7:32:35 PM 7:30 PM 7:33 PM 7:55 PM 7:59:44 PM Bush
New Hampshire 10:04:59 PM 10:04 PM 10:20/10:05 PM 12:13 AM 12:07:30 AM Bush
Virginia 7:25:37 PM 7:30 PM 7:00 PM 7:00 PM 7:32 PM Bush
7:30 PM North Carolina 7:58 PM 8:15 PM 8:04 PM 8:05 PM 8:09 PM Bush
Ohio 9:16:44 PM 9:30 PM 9:19 PM 9:17 PM 9:19 PM Bush
West Virginia 10:11:25 PM 10:30 PM 10:13 PM 8:57 PM 10:46 PM Bush
8:00 PM Alabama 8:30 PM 8:19 PM 8:00 PM 8:00 PM Poll Close Bush
Kansas 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:00 PM Poll Close Bush
Maine 8:35:14 PM 8:42 PM 8:40 PM 8:16 PM 11:10:37 PM Gore
Maryland 8:00 PM 8:20 PM 8:00 PM 8:00 PM Poll Close Gore
Michigan 8:00 PM 8:05 PM 8:02 PM 8:12 PM 9:23 PM Gore
Missouri 10:05:44 PM 10:05 PM 10:11 PM 9:55 PM 10:47 PM Bush
Pennsylvania 8:47:41 PM 9:19 PM 9:10 PM 9:00 PM 9:24 PM Gore
Tennessee 9:16:46 PM 9:30 PM 9:31 PM 10:23 PM 11:02:46 PM Bush
8:30 PM Arkansas 12:05:02 AM 12:10 AM 12:14 AM 12:12:00 AM Bush
9:00 PM Arizona 11:46:47 PM 11:47 PM 11:52 PM 12:35 AM 11:51:04 PM Bush
Colorado 11:12:19 PM 11:16 PM 11:15 PM 11:16 PM 11:40:57 PM Bush
Louisiana 9:00 PM 9:15 PM 9:15 PM 9:19 PM 9:21 PM Bush
Minnesota 9:36:16 PM 9:32 PM 9:30 PM 10:28 PM 10:25 PM Gore
New Mexico 10:21:36 PM 9:45 PM 9:44 PM 2:34 AM 3:05 AM Gore
Wisconsin 6:22:49 AM 6:21:33 AM Gore
10:00 PM Iowa 2:04:26 AM 2:07 AM 2:04 AM 5:00:26 AM Gore
Nevada 11:20:58 PM 1:30 AM 1:25 AM 1:15 AM 1:31:07 AM Bush
11:00 PM Oregon Not Called
Washington 12:09:02 AM 12:15 AM 12:09 AM 12:35 AM 12:08:25 AM Gore
Call times for all networks were logged on Election Night from network broadcasts. VNS calls are taken from CBS computer records.
*according to an editor + someone who was at Fox hdqtrs, Fox was first to call it for Gore too
What follows is a summary of the CBS calls in the period though 11:00 PM, EST, when all states except Alaska had closed their polls.
Cumulative Electoral Vote
6:00 PM Two states close
Two states called for Bush (IN, KY) 20
7:00 PM Six states close
One state called for Bush (SC) 28
One state called for Gore (VT) 3
One state called at 7:25 (VA - 7:00 PM close) 41
7:30 PM Three states close
One state called at 7:32 (GA - 7:00 PM close) 54
One state called at 7:50 (FL - 7:00 PM close) 28
One state called at 7:58 (NC) 68
8:00 PM 16 states and District of Columbia close
Four states called for Bush (KS, MS, OK, TX) 121
Eight states and D.C. called for Gore
(CT, DE, DC, IL, MD, MA, MI, NJ) 119
One state called at 8:25 PM (AL - 8:00 PM close) 130
8:30 PM One state closes
One state called at 8:35 PM (ME - 8:00 PM close) 122
One state called at 8:49 PM (PA - 8:00 PM close) 145
9:00 PM 12 states close
Five states called for Bush (LA, NE, ND, SD, WY) 153
Two states called for Gore (NY, RI) 182
One state called at 9:17 PM (TN - 8:30 PM close) 164
One state called at 9:17 PM (OH - 7:30 PM close) 185
One state called at 9:36 PM (MN - 9:00 PM close) 192
One state retracted at 9:54 PM (FL) 167
10:00 PM Five states close
Three states called for Bush (ID, MT, UT) 197
One state called at 10:05 PM (NH - 7:00 PM close) 201
One state called at 10:07 PM (MO - 8:00 PM close) 212
One state called at 10:11 PM (WV - 7:30 PM close) 217
One state called at 10:21 PM (NM - 9:00 PM close) 172
This is an amalgamation of the CBS and CNN reports complete Florida miscall timelines- each has different facts and strengths- with duplication excised.
THE FLORIDA CALLS
As CBS News began its Election Night coverage at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, November 7, Dan Rather pointed out that since Florida wasn’t called when a majority of the state’s polls closed at 7:00 PM, this would be a tight race. Rather told the audience, “We’re waiting on a possible decision in Florida, but you’ve got time to put on another cup of coffee, and pour it, because in Florida it’s generally considered to be so close that it may be a long while before anybody is able to call it.” Given what eventually happened, that may have been the wisest comment of the night. But less than 20 minutes later, CBS and other networks called Florida for Gore, and the evening’s roller-coaster ride began. Let us review what happened.
5:00 p.m. EST: CNN’s on-air coverage of the presidential election begins. (CBS + CNN shared the Decision Desk)
Over the next two hours, there are occasional references to Florida, such as correspondent Mark Potter noting that “Underscoring Florida’s political importance, Vice President Gore ended his campaign here, with early morning stops in Miami Beach and Tampa… Historically, for Republicans, a win in Florida’s presidential race is considered essential. No Republican has made it to the White House without winning Florida since 1924.” Anchor Judy Woodruff describes Florida as “just one of several states where the race for the White House is incredibly close.”
5:45 p.m.: As part of a rundown on what lies ahead, Schneider says: “In the 7:00 p.m. eastern hour, polls close in nine more states: Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. Total: 106 electoral votes. The big prize: Florida, with 25 electoral votes.”
7:00 PM: The vast majority of Florida polls close. CBS News decides not to project a winner in the Florida Presidential race at poll closing, even though the best estimate, based upon exit-poll interviews from the 45 survey precincts, shows Gore leading Bush by 6.6 points. The Decision Desk decides to wait for some actual votes from sample precincts to confirm the exit-poll results.
Anchor Bernard Shaw tells viewers, “At 7:00 the polls have closed in certain states and CNN is looking at what is going on. In Florida, this race between Gore and Bush [is] too close to call.” Senior analyst Jeff Greenfield adds, “This is the one we will be watching all night. Gore made 19 visits to the state, Bush 13. They’ve poured in millions of dollars. Fourth biggest prize and it’s up for grabs.” In fact, not all the polls in Florida had closed, as noted above. The panhandle of Florida is in the central time zone, and polls there still had another hour of voting remaining with people on line at poll closing time still able to vote. This information was not broadcast until much later in the evening.
At this hour, VNS exit polling information supplied to the CNN/CBS Decision Team shows Gore leading Bush in Florida by 6.6 per cent. The Decision Team advises its two clients not to project a winner, and the Decision Team decides to wait for some actual vote data to come in.
7:40 PM: The VNS computation shows a “call” status in the Florida Presidential race. This status means that statistically Gore is leading, but the Decision Team needs to check more data.
7:45 PM: The CBS News Decision Team begins an intensive review of the state exit polls and the trickle of actual votes in the sample precincts. The CBS News analysts look at the calculation that compares the exit-poll results with the actual votes in the same precincts. The CBS News Decision Desk is aware that two years ago, in the VNS survey of the Jeb Bush race for governor, exit polls underestimated the Bush lead. This year, the exit poll is overstating George W. Bush’s vote in the first precincts to report. The analysts had noticed a similar overstatement earlier in the evening in the Kentucky exit poll.
Now the analysts examine the actual vote of the 4 percent of precincts statewide that have reported at this time. Although the tabulated vote shows Bush with a 6-point lead, they see this as an early aberration, the result of absentee ballots that had been entered into the system early in the evening. The absentee vote was expected to favor Bush, so the analysts do not consider this one-time occurrence to be representative of the vote to come. Later, this judgment proves to be incorrect. The CBS News Decision Team also notes that the standard margin of error on the estimates is small enough to make the probability of a Gore win fall within CBS News guidelines for a call.
7:48 PM: NBC projects Gore the winner in Florida.
7:50 p.m.: CNN and CBS project Gore the winner in Florida. The CNN call is authorized by political director Tom Hannon and executive producer Sid Bedingfield.
“A big call to make,” Woodruff tells CNN viewers. “CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column.”
Greenfield calls this outcome “a roadblock the size of a boulder to George W. Bush’s path to the White House. They had counted these 25 electoral votes from the moment George Bush entered the campaign, before he was even nominated.” Correspondent Candy Crowley says the loss of Florida “is not a happy moment for the Bush campaign…it really was one that they counted in their column, that they thought they could use as a base of votes from which to get to that magic 270 [electoral votes needed to win].”
Former Senator Bob Dole, asked how this affects Bush’s chances to win the Presidency, says “They can still get there, but this certainly makes it tough.”
Bill Schneider, CNN’s polling expert, uses exit polling information (supplied by VNS although not so identified on the air) to help explain why Gore was the winner in Florida, including the statement that most Florida voters said their finances had improved in the last four years and that these Floridians “voted very heavily for Al Gore.”
This typifies the tone of the references to Florida over the next two hours, except for the insistence by CNN’s conservative commentator Mary Matalin that there are a huge number of absentee ballots to be counted in Florida and that “when the real count is in…that state’s going to flip.” Commentator Mike McCurry, President Clinton’s former press secretary, dismisses Matalin’s warning as “a little bit of wishful thinking.”
7:52 p.m.: VNS calls Florida for Gore.
8:00 p.m.: Polls close in Florida panhandle.
8:02 p.m.: By now, all five networks and AP have projected Gore the winner in Florida.
8:10 p.m.: The CNN/CBS Decision Team continues reviewing Florida data
and concludes that the exit poll has underestimated the Gore victory margin by
nearly 4 per cent. That, along with other sets of data, makes the team more certain
of a Gore win there. “Even if we had not made the Gore projection at 7:50, we surely would
have made the projection looking at this data at 8:10,” the Decision Team since
has reported to the two networks. “In our many years of examining decision screens we do not believe that
there has ever been a single instance in which the leader changed in a race in
which we had this much data from survey, VPA [Voter Profile Analysis], and
county vote and ten estimators all showing a six point lead or more. Presented
with this consistent data there was no reason to justify not calling this race. We
would not have been doing our jobs if we had not called this race at this time when
presented with this data. If we cannot believe data this convincing from VNS the
entire purpose of our Decision Team is undermined.”
8:40 p.m.: The Florida decision screens indicate some contradictory information in the data sets, although the Decision Team apparently was not
watching them at this point. With 24 per cent of the precincts now reporting statewide, Bush leads by 3 points and in one of the key estimates known as CORE (based on the county reporting system) by 7.3 points. The VPA estimate still has Gore ahead, by between 4 and 10 points.
9:00 p.m.: The Decision Team is alerted by one of its crew to the CORE lead for Bush. The team begins a review and discovers some problems with the Florida data.
9:07 PM: VNS reports county-tabulated vote data from one county, Duval, that puts
Gore in the lead in the tabulated-vote estimate. It turns out that this was an error,
apparently an entry mistake by a keypunch operator at VNS headquarters. Although this
error occurs long after the Gore call has been made, it seems to support the accuracy of a
Gore win until the data-entry mistake is discovered. (The wrong data showed Gore
receiving 98 percent of the tabulated vote. In the end, he received only 41 percent of the
vote in Duval.)
9:20 p.m.: The CORE estimate now shows Gore ahead again, but it turns out this is due to the mistaken Duval County data which has gotten into the estimate.
9:38 p.m.: VNS removes the Duval County vote from its system and sends a message informing its members. Gore’s total in Florida is reduced by 40,000 votes.
9:54 p.m.: The Decision Team recommends that CNN and CBS retract their Florida calls for Gore. The two do so and are the first networks to retract (AP retracted approximately four minutes earlier). CBS is in a local cutaway at 9:54 PM (the seven minutes at the end of the hour when local stations broadcast their own election results), and so CBS does not withdraw the call until 10:00 PM.
“Stand by, stand by,” Shaw tells the CNN audience. “CNN right now is
moving our earlier declaration of Florida back to the too-close-to-call column.
Twenty-five very big electoral votes, and the home state of the governor’s brother,
Jeb Bush, are hanging in the balance. This is no longer in the victory [column]
for Vice President Gore. We’re moving it back into the too close to call
Greenfield cracks, “Oh, waiter, one order of crow.”
Woodruff says that “what we’re being told by our executive producer Sid
Bedingfield is that based on the information we have from Florida, we don’t
entirely trust all the information that we have.”
At that point, Schneider gives CNN’s first description of the calling process
and the fact that all the data, such as exit polling and sample precinct results, has
come to the network from VNS. “And they’re the ones who provide us with the
information that allow us to call the states. We’re normally very cautious. We
haven’t retracted, we’ve simply said at the moment that we’re not sure of that call
so we’re going to say we’re not ready to confirm it as this point.”
The anchors and correspondents then discuss the impact of the fact that the
Florida outcome is now unknown until more votes are counted, and Greenfield
concludes: “Well, you know, listen, there’s nothing more delightful — and I have to
say this as a member of the press — than watching an election when you actually
have to wait and see what the voters are going to do.”
10:16 p.m. VNS retracts Florida call.
10:18 p.m. All networks have reversed Florida call.
The Call for Bush and Its Withdrawal: How It Happened
10pm-2am: Following the retraction of the call for Gore in Florida, CNN and the other networks tracked the vote count in Florida for the next four hours. Between 10 p.m. and
2 a.m., the figures show a Bush lead, but not one that is certain enough to warrant a call.
During this time, Karl Rove, chief strategist for the Bush campaign, is
interviewed by Shaw on CNN and says, “…let me tell you, Bernie, you all called Florida
before Florida even closed its polls. Florida is a state which votes in two time zones.
The Republican panhandle of Florida is in the central time zone, and you all called
Florida before the polls had even closed in Panama City and Fort Walton Beach and
Pensacola.” Shortly after, CNN commentator Hal Bruno acknowledges that Rove “made
a very good point when he said that, you know, the panhandle in there in the west is on a
different time zone. That’s on central time, not on eastern time, and a lot of votes still
had to come in from there.”
12:27am: Bad Volusia County vote data entered the AP vote total (earlier than it entered the VNS total). Beginning at 12:27 AM, Bush held a narrow lead in historically Democratic Volusia County in the AP count.
1:45 a.m.: Shaw reports that Florida is “too close to call.” Shortly after,
commentator Hal Bruno notes a declining Bush lead and says Florida “has gotten so close
now that there’s just absolutely no way of counting it until probably every last vote is in.”
2:00 AM: The CBS News Decision Team tracks the Bush margin in the Florida popular
vote. He leads by 29,000 votes in VNS, with some strongly Democratic counties yet
to complete their counts. But the AP numbers are telling a different story. The AP
independently collects election returns from each county. Since 1:12 AM, AP tabulations
show the Bush lead dropping precipitously. But the people on the CBS News Decision
Desk are not following the AP reports, nor are they listening to Ed Bradley in the studio
talking about irregularities and outstanding Democratic votes in Florida.
At 1:43:43, Bradley points to the fact that a third of the vote is not yet in from Dade and
Broward Counties, which are Democratic strongholds. At 1:48:10, Bradley says: “Bush
ahead by 38,000 votes. And still out there, about 5 percent of the vote is still out,
270,000 votes. So that’s a big chunk of votes.” Bradley has been getting additional
information from the AP wire, as well as from CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts,
who is reporting from Florida that there are a number of counties still tabulating votes,
many of them predominantly Democratic.
What has not yet been discovered is an erroneous entry from another Florida county,
Volusia. Because of a faulty computer memory card, the county has reported votes that
are off by thousands. The initial report from Precinct 216 incorrectly subtracts more than
16,000 votes from Gore’s total and adds votes to Bush’s total.
2:05 AM: Bush leads by 29,386 on the VNS screens, with 96 percent of the precincts reporting. The models project a very small Bush win for the end of the night. But at this time there is still no way to call the race.
2:09 AM: VNS adds Volusia County’s erroneous numbers to its tabulated vote. With 171 out of 172 precincts in the county reporting, Gore’s vote drops by more than 10,000 while Bush’s rises by almost the same amount. This 20,000-vote change in one county increases Bush’s VNS statewide lead to more than 51,000 votes.
2:09:32 AM: At almost the same time, Bradley fires off what in retrospect was a warning shot, but one that sails right by the CBS News Decision Desk: “Among the votes that aren’t counted are Volusia County. Traditionally they’re…one of the last counties to come in. That’s an area that has 260,000 registered voters. Many of them are black and most of them are Democrat.”
2:10 AM: The CBS News Decision Desk begins to seriously discuss calling Florida for Bush. According to the new VNS vote count, Bush is ahead by 51,433 votes, with 5,575,730 votes counted in 97 percent of the precincts statewide. The CBS News Decision Desk looks at how many votes are outstanding in three major Democratic counties (Dade, Palm Beach and Broward). The statistical analysis projects that Bush’s
margin of victory will remain greater than 30,000 votes even when those counties are factored in. But there is an error in the assumption: instead of the 179,713 votes the VNS model says have yet to be counted, there are in fact about twice as many outstanding votes, many of them absentee ballots from Palm Beach County. Bush’s lead in the VNS count includes the 20,000-vote error (19,000 really) undercounting Gore in Volusia County and does not include 4,000 additional votes for Gore in Brevard County. These 24,000 votes would have nearly eliminated the 30,000-vote final Bush margin the CBS News Decision Desk has estimated. There would have been no call if these errors had not been in the system.
2:12 AM: In the AP count, Bush’s margin falls to 47,854. (But again, the Decision Desk is not checking the AP wire.)
2:15 AM: Fox calls Florida (and the Presidency) for Bush. The immediate reaction of the CBS News analysts is frustration because the CBS News Decision Desk is within minutes of calling the race itself. The CBS News analysts spend the next 90 seconds confirming the numbers.
2:16 AM: NBC calls Florida for Bush.
2:16 AM: The AP lead for Bush drops by 17,000 votes, to 30,000. This 17,000-vote drop, occurring in only four minutes, is the Volusia County correction. But VNS does not catch the correction until later, and no one on the CBS News Decision Desk is watching the AP wire or listening to Bradley’s reporting.
2:16:17 AM: Dan Rather talks with Bradley about outstanding absentee votes and the potentially large number of votes still out in Daytona (Volusia County).
2:17:52 AM: The CBS News Decision Desk calls Florida for Bush, and Rather declares him the winner of the Presidential election.
Shaw tells CNN viewers: “George Bush, governor of Texas, will become the 43rd president of the United States. At 18 minutes past two o’clock eastern time, CNN declares that George Walker Bush has won Florida’s 25 electoral votes and this should put him over the top.”
Jeff Greenfield adds that “with Florida, he gets 271 electoral votes, one more than he needs. What happens in Oregon and Wisconsin now becomes irrelevant unless by some remarkable miracle some state changes course.” Much of the discussion over the next hour discusses the apparent Bush victory and the coming Bush presidency.
2:20 AM: ABC calls Florida for Bush, the final network to do so. AP and VNS have not called Florida for Bush and never do.
2:40 AM: The Decision Team relaxes “for the first time all night” as more voting data comes in. VNS shows Bush’s Florida lead growing by just over 4,000 votes
to a total of about 55,500 with only 68,500 votes left to be counted. (In fact, there were
nearly 250,000 uncounted votes at that time).
With the data it had at 2:40 a.m., “we would have most certainly made the call
then if we had not already made the call at 2:17 a.m.,” the Decision Team said in its post-election
review. “We would not have been doing our jobs if we had declined to project
the race based upon such convincing data.”
2:47 AM: The AP reports the Bush lead down to 13,934.
2:48 AM: VNS shows the Bush lead at 55,449.
2:51 AM: VNS corrects its Volusia error, and Bush’s lead drops to 39,606.
2:52 AM: The AP reports the Bush lead down to 11,090.
2:55 AM: With a large report of votes from Palm Beach County, VNS reports the Bush lead down to 9,163.
3:00 AM: Rather tells the audience to stay tuned: “We haven’t heard yet from either Al Gore or from the triumphant Governor Bush. We do expect to hear from them in the forthcoming minutes.”
The Volusia and Palm Beach changes make the race so close as to have “eliminated our margin for error,” the Decision Team says later.
At the same time, CNN’s Bernard Shaw is telling the audience: “The United
States has a new president. He’s the Texas governor, George Walker Bush, who tonight
defeated Vice President Al Gore.” Correspondent John King reports from Nashville that Gore has called Bush to
concede and is on his way to downtown Nashville to deliver concession remarks. Gore’s
decision is based, in some large measure, on what television is reporting.
The anchors note that Bush’s lead appears to be only about 11,000 votes
out of 5.6 million cast.
3:10 AM: A consultant in the CBS News studio working with Lesley Stahl at the House
and Governors’ Desk informs the CBS News Decision Desk of the huge drop in the Bush
lead, and the CBS News Decision Team begins investigating the numbers. It also begins
tracking numbers on the Florida Secretary of State’s Web site and from the AP. While
the three sets of numbers are different, all of them show that the race has narrowed
tremendously. At this time, there is no report from VNS analyzing what has brought
about this dramatic change.
The Bush lead narrows to 10,000. VNS
has provided no information on what caused the change.
3:15 a.m: The Decision Team alerts VNS’s Murray Edelman to the questions concerning the Florida vote. VNS begins looking at its data. Meanwhile, the Decision
Team compares county vote totals from the secretary of state to the VNS vote count and
finds discrepancies in seven counties.
On air, CNN’s Judy Woodruff is wondering aloud whether “the vice president
may be hesitating because of this popular vote count that is so close,” and John King
says “CNN is double-checking the vote count, county by county.” Shaw adds, “Were I
Al Gore, I don’t think I’d be that terribly much in a hurry to rush out there and make the
King quotes unnamed Gore aides as saying that with the results as close as they
appear to be, Florida law mandates an automatic recount.
3:32 AM: There has been much anticipation during the last half-hour about the expected Gore concession speech. Rather gives a possible and uncannily prescient explanation for Gore’s absence: “It wouldn’t surprise anybody, least of all your narrator, if Al Gore said, ‘You know what? I am not going to concede this thing because it’s just too close. I want somebody to get in there and recount those ballots.’”
3:40 AM: Bush’s lead drops to 6,060 votes. At around this time, but he is not sure exactly when, CBS News President Andrew
Heyward receives a call in the control room from Gore Campaign Chairman William
Daley. It lasts less than a minute. Daley asks whether Heyward is aware of the dwindling
Bush lead and whether CBS News is considering pulling back its call for Bush. Heyward
is noncommittal and asks what Gore is planning to do. Daley says, “I’ll get right back to
you,” hangs up and does not call back. There is more talk in the studio between Rather
and the correspondents about the peculiarities now emerging in the Florida vote count.
They discuss the AP count of the decreasing margin for Bush.
Correspondent Candy Crowley reports that “the vice president has recalled the
governor and retracted his concession.” Woodruff tells viewers that CNN is checking vote discrepancies between VNS,
the AP, and the Florida secretary of state.
She, Shaw, Greenfield, and Schneider conduct a lengthy telephone interview with
a Florida elections official who explains the state’s recount law.
3:48 AM: Rather says, “Now the situation at the moment is, nobody knows for a fact who has won Florida. Far be it from me to question one of our esteemed leaders [CBS management], but somebody needs to begin explaining why Florida has now not been pulled back to the undecided category.” He goes on to say, “A senior Gore aide is quoted by Reuters as confirming that Gore has withdrawn [his] concession in the U.S. President race.”
3:57 AM: The Bush margin has narrowed to fewer than 2,000 votes. Before the CBS News Decision Desk can officially advise a retraction, CBS News President Heyward, who has been watching the Bush lead melt away and listening to Rather and Bradley discuss the Florida situation, orders that CBS News retract the call for Bush.
The Decision Team advises CNN
and CBS to retract the Florida call for Bush, and they do so, with the other networks
retracting shortly after. Florida, once blue for Gore on the CNN map, then red for Bush, returns to yellow
“As it was explained to me when we did this,” says Woodruff, “it means that
while we still believe that George W. Bush will have the advantage in votes in the state of
Florida, we do not believe that he will have enough of an advantage over Al Gore to
avoid a recount.”
4:05 AM: By this time, the other networks rescind the Florida call for Bush.
4:10 AM: Bush’s lead drops to 1,831 votes, which is roughly where it remains until the first recount.
A bit later, after some 12 hours on the air, the CNN anchors and correspondents, obviously frustrated by the declarations, retractions and uncertainties, wrap up their long night without an election result, which was, indeed, the result. They seem to sense that in some way they have complicated the situation by adding to the public confusion. As Woodruff says near the end of the broadcast:
“You know, it’s one thing to say it’s a close race, but clearly, part of what’s been going on with the roller coaster nature of it tonight is the fact that we are a news organization. “And there are news organizations out there that have been anxious to call these results just as soon as we were able to — based on exit polling, interviews with voters as they left the polling places, and also based on key precincts, sample precincts around the different states. “So it’s the news organizations that are frankly creating part of what’s going on tonight — the atmosphere, the ups and downs.”
The CNN/CBS Decision Desk has a record of projecting winners in most races faster than the other networks in every election since 1996. While these new standards will prevent the wrong winner being projected on air, they will also delay the projection of winners in many races. We have reviewed the decision screens for 23 presidential races in 2000. Applying these new standards would have delayed our projection of the winner in many of these states:
Time of Projection
State Actual Estimated using new criteria
Georgia 7:32 7:32 – no change
New Hampshire 10:05 10:05 – no change
Virginia 7:25 7:25 – no change
North Carolina 7:58 7:58 – no change
Ohio 9:16 10:10
West Virginia 10:11 10:40
Alabama 8:30 8:30 – no change
Maine 8:35 8:35 – no change
Michigan 8:00 8:40
Missouri 10:05 10:40
Pennsylvania 8:47 9:40
Tennessee 9:16 10:10
Arkansas 12:05 AM 1:10 AM
Arizona 11:46 12:40 AM
Colorado 11:12 11:12 – no change
Louisiana 9:00 10:10
Minnesota 9:36 9:36 – no change
Wisconsin 6:22 AM No call on election night
Iowa 2:04 AM No call on election night
Nevada 11:20 1:10 AM
Washington 12:09 AM 12:09 AM – no change
To summarize, the implementation of these changes in the decision criteria would have prevented all errors in projecting the winning candidate in any race. In addition these criteria would have led to four states not being called at all on election night and the projection of a winner being delayed by at least 30 minutes in 10 other states.