Savoring the Moment

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008 11:44 PM

Eleven o'clock, on the dot.

President-elect Obama.

The anchors wisely kept quiet and let the cheering crowds tell the story.

They were jumping up and down, singing, waving American flags in Chicago. Some black people were crying. What had once seemed impossible was now reality.

"Have American attitudes toward race shifted this much in 20 years?" Brit Hume asks.

"Some 232 years after the Declaration of Independence . . . , " says Wolf Blitzer.

David Gergen is quoting Martin Luther King.

"In a country that was stained by slavery, he is now president of the United States," David Gregory says. "The ultimate color line has now been crossed."

"This country has changed history," Chris Matthews says.

"The world will never forget this moment," Gene Robinson says.

"This is man on the moon," Keith Olbermann says.

Television is very good at overstating and overdramatizing things. That is not the case tonight, whatever your party and political preferences. Even for journalists who make their living talking, words somehow seem inadequate.

Finally, Virginia Results--11:11 p.m.

Fox News has been a step ahead on many of these calls. Which is great, if you get them right.

Fox has just awarded the commonwealth of Virginia to Obama. The first Democrat to carry it, as you've heard again and again, since LBJ in 1964.

It was certainly closer than the pre-election polls indicated. Many of the pundits thought an early projection in Virginia would signal that Obama was on his way to the White House. By the time it was called shortly before 11, that seemed likely, courtesy of the voters of Ohio.

The Waiting Game--10:57 p.m.

Some anchors are dancing around the obvious.

"It's looking exceedingly grim for John McCain right now," Wolf Blitzer says.

The McCain camp has become a no-spin zone. Dana Bash asked top advisers by e-mail whether they see a path to victory, and they said no.

Chris Matthews says there's "no evidence" that being an African-American hurt Obama -- which, if true, is a milestone.

Howard Fineman notes that Bill Clinton and Al Gore are staying out of sight. "This is all about a new generation," he says.

Bill Kristol, one of Sarah Palin's biggest boosters, doesn't think she hurt McCain. Forty percent of the respondents in exit polls say the choice of running mate was an important factor in their vote, and that group split 53-47 for Obama.

Brit Hume, looking at GOP chances in the Senate, says "the filibuster might be very much in jeopardy."

Not that long ago, Brian Williams tells Tom Brokaw, "all the smart money was, it was going to be Giuliani versus Hillary in the general." All the media geniuses, he means.

There's a bit of a lull in the action. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert seem to be having more fun on Comedy Central.

What will it take to put Obama over the top? He's expected to win California, Oregon and Washington. They close at 11 p.m. If none are close, you can cue the network graphics.

Schieffer Says It's Over--10:22 p.m.

Bob Schieffer says it's over.

"Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States," he says. "You just can't figure out a way that John McCain can win now."

Obama hasn't done it yet, but the math is decidedly against him. It is just past 10 p.m., and the networks aren't waiting for the other states to fall into place. They are using common sense.

Fox's Carl Cameron, with the McCain camp, says advisers acknowledge that the math appears "virtually impossible" for them.

Brian Williams is more cautious: "It's easier to see now . . . how Barack Obama does get to that 270 mark."

After 2000 and 2004, we're so accustomed to elections that go on into the wee hours, with battleground states hanging in the balance. That doesn't appear to be the case tonight. One of the few cliffhangers is McCain's home state of Arizona.

Slate makes it (un)official: "President Obama."

The Tenor Changes--10:08 p.m.

An Obama presidency is drawing closer, if you believe the networks and their projections.

CBS and NBC have called New Mexico for Obama. That was one of three Mountain West states that could have decided the election if it were razor-close.

The awarding of Ohio has completely changed the tenor of the coverage. The most optimistic scenarios for John McCain involved him holding Ohio and Florida. Virginia may be an afterthought now.

"You're going to see a lot of cheering, a lot of happy folk sitting in Grant Park," Chuck Todd says.

Brit Hume has moved on to talking about whether the "ultra-liberal Obama" of the campaign "may not be the real Obama" when he has to govern.

"Reality is setting in inside the McCain campaign," CNN's Dana Bash says.

Her husband, John King, just pressed the magic map and gave a bunch of close states to McCain, except the solid-blue West Coast, to see what would happen. "I can't get him to 270," King says.

ABC has a live shot up from Kenya. Apparently the people there are excited.

Now everyone is scrambling to explain how Obama did what he seems close to doing. Chuck Todd harkened back to the three debates. "The public said, hey, Obama won these debates, and the race froze," Todd says.

"I've never seen a campaign go down so calmly," Chris Matthews says of the McCain operation.

Charlie Gibson has taken to questioning his guests about Obama's potential victory. "I'm curious just how cataclysmic you think that would be for the party," he asks Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who lost out to Sarah Palin in the running-mate sweepstakes.

On CBS, Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan/Bush speechwriter, is suggesting what Obama should say when he becomes president-elect.

The contrast between the happy masses gathering in Grant Park and the somber mood at the Biltmore in Phoenix says more than any commentator could.

First Big Call--9:44 p.m.

Stop the presses: the first dramatic call of the evening!

Fox News calls Ohio for Obama. If Brit Hume and company are right, that's an awfully big nail in McCain's political coffin. And it's only 9:20.

Barring an unforeseen development, Hume said, "McCain's situation is looking pretty dire."

MSNBC and CNN have just called it, too.

Moments earlier, Katie Couric said that McCain "doesn't have any room for error, really." It's hard to see how he wins the presidency without Ohio's 20 electoral votes, a linchpin for every modern Republican winner.

The dominos may start falling now.

Florida isn't looking good for McCain either, says Mike Murphy, who worked for Jeb Bush. He's talking to his sources there. It's near even in Jacksonville, when McCain ought to be up 7 or 8 points, Murphy says on MSNBC. "The numbers are the numbers."

Defending Home Turf--9:24 p.m.

It's like a chess game at the moment. Each candidate is defending his squares but hasn't captured any enemy territory.

Fox calls Georgia for the Republican nominee. "McCain's folks can keep hope alive," Brit Hume says.

Brian Williams asks McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace about Obama winning big among Hispanics. "The Republican Party has really done itself a lot of harm in the immigration debate," she says, exempting McCain. But then she goes all Yogi Berra on us: "It ain't over till it's over." Wallace says they haven't given up on Pennsylvania.

MSNBC's David Gregory chats up Obama strategist David Axelrod, who brags not just about Pennsylvania but that Indiana, Virginia and Florida haven't been called yet. It's true that Indiana usually gets painted red real early.

Okay, the 9 p.m. states are done voting, and again, each side holds its territory. No call in Colorado or New Mexico, two of the absolutely key swing states. No call in Arizona. ( No call in Arizona?)

But the anchor calls make it sound like Obama's momentum is building. Especially when Charlie Gibson calls New York for Obama, prompting cheers from a Times Square crowd where ABC has cameras.

"A story line favoring Barack Obama," Brian Williams says as he puts such blue states as Minnesota and Wisconsin in Obama's column.

Katie Couric touts Obama's projected win in Michigan: "It was once called John McCain's best shot to win a blue state." McCain pulled his ads there several weeks ago.

McCain's only haul: North Dakota and Wyoming.

Obama is up to 174 electoral votes. As more blue states fall his way, it becomes harder to see a takeaway state for McCain.

The CNN gang is getting a bit carried away. "Some Bradley effect, huh?" says Bill Bennett. "The country's grown up." If Obama wins, he says, "we have just achieved an incredible milestone."

"I don't think there is anything comparable in American history," says Jeff Toobin, talking about the impact on world opinion.

"A huge milestone," says David Gergen.

But it's not just CNN. "The best situation in Washington for the Democratic Party in 30 years, and arguably since Lyndon Johnson." A loony liberal pundit? No, Bill Kristol on Fox News.

But Chuck Todd is more restrained on MSNBC. "This looks like a very competitive presidential race," he says.

Channel Surfing--8:57 p.m.

It all depends on which channel you're watching. Katie Couric just asked Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell whether Barack Obama would win his state, after two cable networks, and ABC, have already given the Democratic nominee the Keystone State. Fox, meanwhile, isn't calling Pennsylvania. "We don't have any actual precinct returns," Michael Barone told Brit Hume.

On NBC, former John McCain adviser Mike Murphy looks glum. "Some of the early Republican counties are frankly underperforming for McCain," he says.

Obama has a "considerable lead" in Florida, Charlie Gibson says. It's 53-47, with 30 percent of the vote in. But no one wants to jump the gun in the land of the hanging chads.

In an eerie reminder of 2000, MSNBC has a shot of Palm Beach officials looking at disputed ballots there.

CBS's Anthony Mason points out that Obama is carrying 58 percent of white women in Pennsylvania. Remember all the pundits who said he would have trouble winning over diehard Hillary voters?

What to make of this? NBC's Ann Curry says 75 percent of those talking to exit pollsters in North Carolina say race was not a factor in their presidential vote, but 24 percent say it was. McCain carried the latter group, 69-30.

CBS has a shot of Chicago's Grant Park, where Bob Schieffer recalls covering the riots at the 1968 Democratic convention. As many as 1 million people may show up, he says. Think they're confident about the outcome?

But a real tipping point in this election -- a call in Florida, Ohio or Virginia -- has yet to come.

McCain's Pennyslvania Hopes Fading--8:19 p.m.

It's after 8 p.m. Do you know where your next president is?

McCain's hope of stealing Pennsylvania, the one blue state where he felt he had a shot, appears to have vanished with network predictions that Obama is winning there.

The networks are calling a slew of states for Obama, but most, like Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, are predictable. But Brian Williams calls Pennsylvania a "major prize" for the Democrats. McCain also dreamed of carrying New Hampshire, where he won the primary twice, but the networks give that state to Obama as well.

NBC's Ann Curry says Obama won white, working-class voters in Pennsylvania, the very demographic group that strongly backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in April.

Florida, too close to call. But CBS's Anthony Mason notes that Obama is getting 55 percent of Hispanic votes in the Sunshine State, where Bush won a majority last time. "This is very important for Barack Obama," Bob Schieffer says.

Diane Sawyer says Obama is winning 68 percent of new voters in Indiana, and 52 percent of the white working class -- "Joe the Plumber voters," she says. John King says Obama is running ahead of John Kerry even in conservative Indiana counties that he will lose. These are hints, snapshots, but no more.

Williams shows a photo of the late Tim Russert and his "Florida, Florida, Florida" white board. His son, Luke, is reporting from Indiana for MSNBC.

Fox says Elizabeth Dole has lost her Senate seat in North Carolina but others haven't yet called that. She was deemed a rising star 12 years ago, her husband was the GOP presidential nominee.

Least surprising result of the night: Joe Biden wins his Senate seat in Delaware, the one he hopes to vacate.

Virtual News--7:49 p.m.

CNN's Jessica Yellin just materialized in the Situation Room.

"You've never seen anything like this," Wolf Blitzer says.

She is a hologram. She is actually in Chicago.

Shades of Beam Me Up Scotty. It looks weird. A little herky-jerky. A little gimmicky as well. Blitzer looking "at" her, instead of at a video screen.

"We can have a little bit more of an intimate conversation," he says.

Slate has more exit polls. Obama by 15 in Pennsylvania, 9 in Virginia, 8 in Ohio, 4 in Florida. For what it's worth.

But with the Ohio polls closing at 7:30, no network calls. Nobody wants to blow it. And the networks rely on more than exit numbers in making these projections. They also look at raw vote totals, key precincts, historical data and phone surveys of absentee voters. Keep in mind this is a big year for early voting.

McCain is ahead in Virginia, but John King's map shows that only two small, rural counties are reporting. So these early numbers can be an illusion.

We have our first split decision. Fox News is calling West Virginia for McCain. That wouldn't be a surprise, but CNN and MSNBC aren't making a projection.

Virginia Could Scramble Pundits' Predictions--7:39 p.m.

Most important fact at this moment: Virginia, too close to call. No projection as the Old Dominion polls close at 7. If Obama had seized it this early, we'd be looking at a Democratic blowout. If McCain can hang on there, it could scramble the pundits' predictions.

No network call in Indiana either. Republican Mitch Daniels hangs on as governor. Had he been projected to lose, it would have been a great omen for the Dems.

The networks go with two safe and unsurprising projections: McCain wins Kentucky, Obama takes Vermont. So McCain is leading in the electoral college, 8 to 3. But as they say in sports, it's early.

On Fox, Megyn Kelly warns that Obama tends to do worse in real voting than he does in exit polling. But on MSNBC, Pat Buchanan is undeterred, saying Obama could win a "transformational" victory like FDR in 1932 and Ronald Reagan in 1980. "We could be at the cusp of a new, frankly liberal era," he says.

MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell quotes an unnamed GOP source in North Carolina as saying that Elizabeth Dole is headed for defeat. CNN panel also all but burying her. Maybe it was that ad accusing her Democratic opponent, Kay Hagan, of being godless.

Wolf Blitzer notes that Obama has a 50-49 lead in Indiana, but only 11 percent of the vote is in. If Obama does manage to win Indiana, you can turn off your television set.

Filling Time Waiting for the Real Returns--7:05 p.m.

Katie Couric alludes to her interview subject Sarah Palin (their exchanges later immortalized on SNL), saying the country is about to elect its first African-American president or first female vice president. Almost no one else talking about Vice President Palin.

Jeff Greenfield says McCain is "sailing into a gale." Bob Schieffer recalls that in 1860 there were 4 million slaves in America.

On Fox, Bill Kristol says McCain was courageous to back the surge when few thought it would succeed, but as a result he "may well lose this presidential election."

Gawker seems to be first posting the leaked exit numbers (unreliable as they are). They show tighter margins than recent opinion polls: Obama by 4 in Pennsylvania, 2 in Virginia, 1 each in Florida and Ohio, and McCain by 2 in North Carolina. But this could be meaningless.

To wit: Drudge says Obama by 15-plus in PA. There are different waves of exit polls, in case you were wondering.

Josh Marshall: at Talking Points Memo: "The exit polls we're seeing suggest a substantial Obama victory. That's encouraging. However, I have to emphasize that they showed something very similar with Kerry four years ago."

McCain's aunt, Rowena Willis: "I'm hoping he wins, for the country's sake. I figure it will kill him, but he's going to die one day anyway, so he might as well do it there."

Not a great campaign slogan.

Don't Be Fooled by Exit Polling--6:08 p.m.

The operating assumption in cable land is that an Obama victory is imminent. Beyond an occasional "if," almost no one is bothering to pretend otherwise. There is lots of talk about the historic nature of a Barack Obama victory, and none about the prospect of a female vice president.

A word of warning about exit polls: Don't be sucked in, as President-elect John Kerry's staff learned to their dismay four years ago. They have been unreliable for theplast several elections, and stats guru Nate Silver points out that, among other things, they tend to skew Democratic.

Still, even if they're substantially off, the exits contain this unambiguous good news for Obama: 62 percent say the economy is the top issue, only 10 percent say Iraq. But in a sign of how the war helps Obama, 63 percent of those who say it's the top issue also say they voted for the senator from Illinois; 36 percent said they backed John McCain.

Don Imus tells Fox that while he voted for McCain -- despite the senator joining up with "skunks" from the Bush machine -- he thinks an Obama victory will send the message that any kid, black or white, can grow up to be president.

Racial reconciliation may be a theme tonight. CNN's Donna Brazile says she could neve have imagined a black president growing up, and her Republican sparring partner, Alex Castellanos, who emigrated here from Cuba, says: "This is the day we all become one."

Chris Matthews wonders whether people want "a smarter president, a more on-the-job president . . . The word, I think, is hope, and I know that's Obama's slogan."

With Karl Rove already saying it's over -- Obama to win 338 electoral votes -- is the outcome really in doubt? We'll see. As I wrote this morning, the story of this election may be Virginia Virginia Virginia.

Whoopi and the Perils of Punditry -- 9:59 a.m.

It has been two years and one week since Barack Obama told Tim Russert that he was going to think about running for president, opening a door that he had previously kept shut.

Now, millions of news stories, cable segments, blog postings, debates and attack ads later, as voters head to the polls today, is there anything that's been left unsaid?

In fact, the degree of advance punditry has been remarkable. We're already having a debate about what the Obama administration will look like, how John McCain blew it, whether the Democrats will overreach and what path the Republican Party will take toward revival. Why wait for the voters (at least those that haven't cast early ballots)?

The commentariat has spoken. George Stephanopoulos, Mark Halperin, George Will, Matthew Dowd and Donna Brazile all predict an Obama win. So do 12 of 14 analysts doing the crystal-ball thing for The Washington Post.

About the only thing that hasn't been addressed is Whoopi Goldberg talking about me. My column yesterday on "The View" and other feature shows being rough on McCain and easy on Obama drew some complaints from the ladies. Whoopi made the point that the friendly interview with Obama was in March (while the encounter with McCain in which Joy Behar accused him of lying in his ads was in September):

"Howard, when he came here, he wasn't the nominee yet. Let's get that very clear because you know, you're all about reliable sources. He wasn't the nominee. When John McCain came the first time with us, he was not the nominee and we had a great ride with him. And Barack Obama has yet to come since being the nominee."

Absolutely true -- which is why I quoted Bill Geddie, executive producer of "The View," as making those very points.

My piece noted that Barbara Walters had said to Obama that "we thought you were very sexy" -- and based on her autobiography, she knows something about the subject. "I rue the day," she said of the remark yesterday.

Whoopi also said that when she asked McCain whether she should "fear being returned to slavery," she was making a point about strict constructionists who insist on mining the original intent of the Constitution -- which, of course, embedded slavery in our country's DNA. I might have provided more context on that point.

As I wrote yesterday, they're more than entitled to their opinion. But the unmistakable pattern is that Obama had an easier time on Letterman, Ellen and similar shows.

Here's how you know, in a single sentence, that the media are wholly focused on an Obama victory: No one is writing about the groundbreaking prospect of Vice President Palin.

It will all be settled tonight (here's my guide to watching the action on TV). For the moment, newspapers have to treat the results as an open question. The NYT says this campaign has fundamentally upended the contours of presidential politics:

"It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage -- and withstand -- political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago. It has challenged the consensus view of the American electoral battleground, suggesting that Democrats can at a minimum be competitive in states and regions that had long been Republican strongholds.

"The size and makeup of the electorate could be changed because of efforts by Democrats to register and turn out new black, Hispanic and young voters. This shift may have long-lasting ramifications for what the parties do to build enduring coalitions, especially if intensive and technologically-driven voter turnout programs succeed in getting more people to the polls."

That is true -- no nominee will ever take public financing again. And if Obama wins states such as Virginia, the old maps will have to be thrown out, or at least rendered in new colors.

The New York Post is less subtle: "Barack Obama Poised for a Landmark Victory."

And say it ain't so: "Joe the Plumber says McCain's chances slim." Is he going rogue, too?

But what if the outcome isn't as advertised?

"If Barack Obama wins the election, it will be historic," says Slate's John Dickerson. "And if he loses, it will be pretty historic, too: It would mark the biggest collective error in the history of the media and political establishment.

"An Obama loss would mean the majority of pundits, reporters, and analysts were wrong. Pollsters would have to find a new line of work, since Obama has been ahead in all 159 polls taken in the last six weeks. The massive crowds that have regularly turned out to see Obama would turn out to have meant nothing. This collective failure of elites would provide such a blast of schadenfreude that Republicans like Rush Limbaugh would be struck speechless (another historic first).

"This situation lends a feeling of unreality to the proceedings as we begin to measure the time until Election Day in hours. It is the elephant on the campaign plane. No one is letting on. Journalists aren't supposed to. Plus, we've been wrong so often, and politics can be so unpredictable, it would be dumb to say that Obama is going to win big."

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is no fan of Obama, but seems to be coming to terms with him:

"In both his lack of experience and the contradictions between his rhetoric and his agenda, Barack Obama presents a particular leap of hope. It is a sign of how fed up Americans are with Republicans that millions are ready to take that leap even in dangerous times . . .

"One secret to Mr. Obama's success is how little his campaign has been marked by race, at least not by the traditional politics of racial grievance. He has run instead on a rhetorical theme of national unity, a shrewd appeal to voters weary of the polarizing debate over Iraq and the Bush presidency.

"Mr. Obama has also understood the political moment better than his opponents in either party. In the primaries, he used his inexperience to advantage by offering himself as a liberal alternative to what seemed like an inevitable, and dispiriting, Clinton replay. He then turned around in the general election to project sober reassurance amid the financial crisis, which was the moment when his poll numbers began to climb above the margin of error against John McCain. His coolness reflects what seems to be a first-class temperament. And while community organizing may not be much of a credential for the presidency, Mr. Obama's ability to organize a campaign speaks well of his potential to manage a government."

Powerline's John Hinderaker is a bit less generous:

"Maybe the American people just didn't have quite enough time to get to know Barack Obama. It seems inconceivable to me that a candidate as arrogant as Obama could be ahead in the polls if the voters had fully absorbed how out of touch he can be. A case in point is this MTV interview, where Obama says that the tax increase he proposes on people who earn $250,000 or more is 'chump change, that's nothing.' But wait! If it's 'chump change,' how is it going to fund the hundreds of billions in new spending that Obama wants?"

Didn't have enough time? Does Hinderaker think the 22-month campaign should have lasted 44 months?

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative who long ago became a passionate Obama supporter, cites what he sees as the depredations of the Bush administration in a lengthy endorsement:

"If I were to give one reason why I believe electing Barack Obama is essential, it would be an end to this dark, lawless period in American constitutional government. . . . His ability to get us past the culture war has been proven in this campaign, in the generation now coming of age that will elect him if they turn out, in Obama's staggering ability not to take the bait.

"His fiscal policies are too liberal for me -- I don't believe in raising taxes, I believe in cutting entitlements for the middle classes as the way to fiscal balance. I don't believe in 'progressive taxation,' I support a flat tax. I don't want to give unions any more power. I'm sure there will be moments when a Democratic Congress will make me wince. But I also understand that money has to come from somewhere, and it will not come in any meaningful measure from freezing pork or the other transparent gimmicks advertized in advance by McCain. McCain is not serious on spending. But he is deadly serious in not touching taxes. So, on the core question of debt, on bringing America back to fiscal reason, Obama is still better than McCain. If I have to take an ideological hit to head toward fiscal solvency, I'll put country before ideology."

Atlantic's Ross Douthat says the blame rests squarely on McCain's shoulders:

"This has been a lousy, lousy conservative campaign for the presidency. . . . I've defended the McCain folks against the liberal hysteria that treats this as the Most Evil Right-Wing Campaign Ever, and I'd defend them again. But that famous line from Talleyrand -- it was worse than a crime; it was a mistake -- seems applicable here: It's been worse than an evil campaign; it's been a dumb one. . . .

"Watching the McCain-Palin ticket stagger through the closing months of this campaign, pinning their hopes on a working-class backlash against the progressive income tax in a state that no Republican has carried in twenty years, has given me a newfound appreciation for Rove's abilities: He might not have found a way to win in 2008, but I don't think his efforts would have been quite so embarrassing to watch."

At the New Republic, Jonathan Chait has a darker interpretation:

"But the more likely possibility seems to be that the McCain campaign is not monumentally stupid, and is trying to play on fears that Obama will take money from whites and give it to blacks. Hence McCain's claims that Obama plans on 'taking from one group of Americans and giving to another,' that Obama would turn the IRS into 'a giant welfare agency,' and his television ads repeatedly flashing the word 'welfare' to describe Obama's plans."

Seems to me McCain has been making a more general class-warfare argument, symbolized by Joe the Plumber, that doesn't rest on color.

An eleventh-hour flap began when Newsbusters, the blog of the conservative Media Research Center, reported the following:

"Imagine if John McCain had whispered somewhere that he was willing to bankrupt a major industry? Would this declaration not immediately be front page news? Well, Barack Obama actually flat out told the San Francisco Chronicle (SF Gate) that he was willing to see the coal industry go bankrupt in a January 17, 2008 interview. The result? Nothing. This audio interview has been hidden from the public . . . until now."

The offending quote: "So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it's just that it will bankrupt them because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted." His larger point was that only clean-coal technology is feasible these days.

Absolutely fair game. But a big secret?

"It's not true," writes the Chronicle's Carla Marinucci. "But the Drudge Report, the Republican National Committee and apparently even GOP VP candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fell for completely fabricated news from a shady website called Newsbusters today suggesting the San Francisco Chronicle has 'hidden' audio with Sen. Barack Obama regarding his statements on coal . . .

"Let's be very clear: the Chronicle did not, and has never, hidden any interview, audio or video, of Obama from its readers.

"The truth: the paper's January editorial board session with Obama included comments about coal. The entire interview has been in the public domain, available on line to the public -- and to the McCain campaign -- since early January."

Touche. But I do think it's fair to question why the controversial comment wasn't mentioned in the Chronicle's news story at the time.

Ex-Editor Phil Bronstein: "I didn't jump out of my seat when Senator Obama made his comments about the coal industry. It didn't lead our story and wasn't in the leadline. Maybe I wasn't paying enough attention."

Alicia Shepard, the NPR ombudsman, conducted a study of campaign coverage on "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and the weekend shows in August and September:

"Overall, McCain and Palin got nearly two more hours of air time on NPR than Obama-Biden." So, do these statistics mean that NPR is biased toward McCain? Or, as I suspect, did McCain's unexpected choice of a little-known running mate mean that NPR journalists spent a lot of time filling in the blanks in a way that was not needed for six-term senator Joe Biden?"

Here's how the Times of London tracked down Obama's aunt in Boston public housing.

Has it really come to this?

"In Florida, volunteers for John McCain's campaign have been buzzing about a discredited rumor that Barack Obama is not a natural born United States citizen, but either Kenyan or Indonesian," says the Daily Beast. "That's not surprising -- the rumor has enjoyed a long life on the Internet. But now a McCain campaign official in Broward County, Fla., is indulging in the same fantasizing. Tim McClellan, the Northeast Broward County regional manager for the McCain campaign, told me on Friday that he has doubts about Obama's citizenship. 'I have strong concerns that Obama is not a citizen,' McClellan said. 'Did he go to Indonesia and become an Indonesian citizen? And if so, did he take steps to regain his citizenship?' "

Correspondent Major Garrett pushes back against a proposed Fox News story line:

"In an internal email obtained by the Huffington Post, Garrett -- who has been Fox News' correspondent following the Obama campaign -- took issue with a planned 'Fox & Friends' segment about whether Obama will try to control the media, using 'KICKED REPORTERS OFF PLANE, IGNORE FNC, BIDEN FL AV INTVIEW' as 'examples he's already done.'

" 'May I point out Obama has done 5 interviews with me and one with Chris Wallace, one with Brit Hume and one with Bill O'Reilly,' Garrett replied-all to a 'Fox & Friends' producer's email. 'That's 8 interviews. Would I like more? Yes. Would Chris Wallace? Yes. Would Brit and O'Reilly like more? Of course.' "

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