There was Kornacki was on Tuesday, circling precincts in North Carolina and explaining to viewers — and to network anchors Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams — why Pennsylvania is so “confusing” to make a guess on. “There are going to be some very jarring movements here,” he previewed, as he talked about the “huge disparities” in the Democratic-leaning mail-in votes vs. the Republican-leaning same-day votes in states — a key theme of the election thus far.
In what can now be called the “early hours,” Kornacki thoroughly broke down the votes in battleground states like Florida and Ohio. He was still on the air around 3 a.m. when the long-awaited Milwaukee votes landed to shake up the Wisconsin totals. He was back there again just a few hours later on Wednesday morning, as new data came in for Michigan and Wisconsin — even as he showed signs of sleepiness.
To be sure, every network thinks their “map guy” is the best. There’s Bill Hemmer, who handles the “Bill-board” for Fox News. CNN’s John King, perhaps the cable news personality most associated with those big interactive maps that have become election night staples, was back at his perch on Tuesday, walking Wolf Blitzer and other colleagues through the results well into Wednesday morning.
But Kornacki’s colleagues, like many viewers on television, have been particularly effusive in praising his persistence, passion and stamina. “We so appreciate your service, sir," MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin told Kornacki on Wednesday morning. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“We salute him every day,” said “Morning Joe” co-host Willie Geist earlier in the day. “He carries us through nights like this and days like this and weeks like this.”
“How is @SteveKornacki still lucid?” asked MSNBC contributor Joyce White Vance.
“For those of you #TrackingKornacki he’s been at it for more than 12 hours,” colleague Ali Velshi wrote on Twitter. “I’m going on to offer relief (I clearly can’t replace him) by touching the big board sometime after 6aET. That is, IF he will leave and get a nap.”
Late Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for MSNBC answered one of the biggest questions of the general election count thus far: has Kornacki even slept? Like, at all?
“He has not slept since he was on ‘Morning Joe’ yesterday,” the spokesperson confirmed to The Washington Post via text message. But, 30 minutes later, the spokesperson said that Kornacki is finally “taking a break” from screen duty — his first break.
Shortly after noon, Kornacki was spelled by Velshi, who provided updates on voting in Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. “We have removed him forcibly from the building,” Velshi told MSNBC anchor Ari Melber. “He’s in a room with pillow, blankets and warm milk.” Melber joked that Velshi would be “doing his best Kornacki."
A groggy Kornacki recorded a video on Twitter thanking all his fans. “I saw after I finally left the studio all these incredibly kind and friendly and nice messages everybody had on social media,” he said.
Through a CNN spokesperson, King reported that he left the network’s studio at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and slept from 5 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. By 11 a.m., he was back in studio and on TV. He’s planning to stay put “through midnight or longer, if needed," he said. (Hemmer got 45 minutes of sleep, he said. Same for NBC’s Chuck Todd.)
On Tuesday night, when he wasn’t doing on-screen analysis, MSNBC offered viewers at home a “Kornacki Cam,” which gave viewers a live feed of him mostly checking his phone during commercial breaks. What was on that phone? We can only surmise data, information, maps.
Kornacki, who serves as a national correspondent for MSNBC and NBC News, told GQ in a pre-election interview that pounding Diet Cokes is key to his stamina. "I couldn’t even tell you how many,” he said. “It’s just sort of a constant supply.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Kornacki told his followers on Twitter that he wouldn’t leave the network’s studio “until we’ve got a result.”
While the veteran King has given him the best run for his money, it’s the bespectacled Kornacki, with his rolled-up sleeves and trademark khaki pants, who has captured most of the imagination and wonder on social media and from at least one journalism icon.
On “Morning Joe,” Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward said that MSNBC should give Kornacki a raise — “and a big thank you and whatever awards they give out.”
Elahe Izadi contributed to this report.