PBS NewsHour Defends AP's Premature Call of Iowa Caucus: 'Been Doing It for 170 Years'

January 19th, 2024 12:11 PM

Even some in the liberal press were a bit bothered by the Associated Press’s decision to call the Iowa caucuses for Donald Trump at 7:30 p.m., just 30 minutes after the caucuses had begun and before some caucus-goers had even voted. (Shades of the 2000 presidential election, when the state of Florida was falsely called for Al Gore 12 minutes before the polls closed in the Panhandle part of the state.)

AP’s move likely didn’t affect the outcome, but the decision was significant given the handwringing in the pro-Biden press about the dangers a second Trump term would pose to free elections and democracy itself. Can't the media let voters vote before they rush in with their proclamations? Who's getting in the way of democracy? And just for a "scoop" that they now say was obvious? 

But the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday night was unfazed, defending their fellow media outlet against valid Republican complaints of election interference. Anchor Amna Nawaz tried to get her Republican strategist guest Kevin Madden (an aide in two Mitt Romney presidential campaigns) to defend the over-aggressive AP.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, I want to get your take on some consternation around how early the call came for former President Trump by the Associated Press last night. It came just a half-an-hour after those caucuses first began. A lot of Iowans hadn't even voted yet. But the Associated Press put out an explanation today. Here's what they said. They declared Trump the winner of the caucuses based on both an analysis of early returns, as well as their AP VoteCast, which is a survey of voters who planned to caucus. Both, they say, showed Trump with an insurmountable lead. Kevin, they make these calls when the math lines up, they have been doing it for 170 years. Is the criticism warranted, do you think?

KEVIN MADDEN: I mean, you're right, first of all. Every campaign I have ever worked on, we have seen these type of early calls, and you would think that campaigns would be used to it. But we also have to be very cognizant of the fact that there is a very high sense of distrust among a lot of Republican voters and a lot of Republican campaigns, and that's what's driving that level of consternation. So I think they're -- we all know that the AP has rigorous standards and rigorous protocols with how they announce this. But I think the media does have to have a little bit of self-reflection about whether or not there is a great utility in answering or releasing the calls so early, when you still have people voting, especially in an age of the smartphone, where everybody has a supercomputer in their pocket inside these caucuses, and they're able to see that type of information while still voting.

An excerpt from the AP’s lame explainer:

The Associated Press declared Trump the winner of the Iowa caucuses based on an analysis of early returns as well as results of AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who planned to caucus on Monday night. Both showed Trump with an insurmountable lead.

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