In the November 2000 presidential election, the Big 3 TV networks prematurely declared Democrat Al Gore the winner before the polls in those portions of the Sunshine State in the Central Time Zone had even closed. According to one post-election study, the networks' arguably politically motivated calls cost Republican George W. Bush 10,000 votes, led to the most bitter post-election battle over presidential balloting in at least a century, and almost swung the election to Gore.
Politico's Glenn Thrush appears to have engaged in a similar attempt to influence the outcome of Monday's Iowa caucuses. In an email sent out at 9:40 Eastern Time (8:40 p.m. Central), accompanied by a post at the web site with the same time stamp — hours before dozens if not hundreds of caucus discussions had concluded — Thrush irresponsibly "reported" that "both the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton camps see her winning by a tight but clear margin of two to three points."
Here is the full email:
I don't see why anyone would believe that someone in a genuinely responsible position in the Sanders campaign — let alone the entire Sanders "camp" — would have conceded at 8:40 Central Time that Mrs. Clinton was "on track" to win when, as confirmed by reviewing my Monday evening live blog, only about half of the delegates had been determined, and her lead had begun to shrink.
Here are my relevant entries from just before and after Thrush's email (Eastern Time Zone; bolds are mine, and, except for the final bold below, weren't in the original post):
9:20 p.m.: With 41 percent counted, Hillary’s lead is about 3.4 points.
9:23 p.m.: Hillary’s lead is 3.23 points with 42.5 percent counted.
9:26 p.m.: Halfway counted, Hillary has a 3-point lead. If the university towns aren’t in yet, she’s in trouble. If they are, Sanders is in trouble.
9:32 p.m.: Hillary’s lead has held steady at barely under 3 percent at the 53.5 percent counted mark.
9:40 p.m.: It’s a race to see which gives out first, the number of precincts counted or Hillary’s lead, which is now 2.85 points at 55.5 percent counted.
9:43 p.m.: At just over halfway, Cruz is up by 3.7 points. I don’t think Trump has nearly the chance of turning that deficit around as Sanders does with Hillary — though Politico is claiming in an email that her 2-3 point lead will hold up. I say Politico is trying to poison the well, because the caucusing isn’t over. ...
From 9:20 to 9:40 (8:40 Central), Mrs. Clinton's lead shrunk by about 20 percent, from 3.4 points to 2.85.
I'd say that the burden of proof is on Glenn Thrush to prove that he wasn't passive-aggressively making a premature election call to help Hillary Clinton in the caucuses which were still in session. This would especially be a concern if Thrush or the Clinton campaign knew that the college towns or other pockets of known strong Sanders support hadn't yet weighed in.
Though I would expect that there were attempts at each caucus meeting to ensure that people turned off their cell phones and other devices, it's hard to believe that they could have been enforced against everyone, especially given the existence of smart watches and the notification features built into even some rather basic fitness watches.
It seems more than slightly possible that Hillary Clinton supporters, having learned what Thrush had just "reported," could have told on-the-fence caucus attendees who might have supported Sanders or even Martin O'Malley that "She's going to win, so come along with us."
Glenn Thrush almost certainly knows the history of what happened in Florida in 2000. I find it difficult to believe that he didn't know exactly what he was doing by sending out that 8:40 p.m. CT email and putting up that related post.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.