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Super Tuesday's Clear Winner Is... A Player to be Named Later
February 6, 2008  | By David Bianculli
When Hillary Clinton showed up on CBS on Late Show with David Letterman Monday night - the day after the Super Bowl, the day before Super Tuesday - she likened the then-upcoming "national primary" contest to the game just played in Arizona. She and Barack Obama, Clinton predicted, probably would be battling down to the very last minute.

hillary-on-letterman.jpgLetterman didn't ask her whether, in that scenario, she would end up as the New York Giants or the New England Patriots. But by around 1 a.m. ET this morning, as I'm writing this, she - and some of the network pundits - had made the right call. Super Tuesday, for the Democrats, could end up with a delegates score so close that this contest for the top spot on the ticket could go all the way to the convention.


That hasn't happened in so many decades that just the prospect of it made many of last night's network analysts swoon. It might be just wishful thinking, with everyone projecting what they most wanted to make the 2008 election campaign as interesting a story as possible. Certainly, that explains why Karl Rove, on Fox News, came closer than anyone of anointing Hillary Clinton the presumptive candidate - while warning that even anti-Clinton sentiment might not be enough to mobilize enough Republican voters to win, without the right candidate on the Republican side.

But with Mike Huckabee doing a bit better than predicted, and Mitt Romney doing worse, the Republican story has a few interesting chapters left in it, too. And the Democratic race on Super Tuesday was so complex and compelling, with delegate totals and divisions mattering as much as simple state victories, that there was plenty to explain and explore.

There were, accordingly, plenty of people dispatched as explainers and explorers, and plenty of time devoted to the coverage. CBS and ABC expanded their originally scheduled prime time coverage - ABC going the full three hours of prime time - and CNN so overloaded itself with pundits, it had enough to field two separate squads and run an internal scrimmage.

Technical gimmicks, from touch screens to Telestrators, abounded, but what mattered most last night were the analysts.

It was the biggest night yet for the new guard of broadcast network anchors - a different crew than when Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather worked the previous Super Tuesday in 2004. (Although Rather did hold his own, it should be noted, by anchoring live coverage on HD Net, and Brokaw was on view as well, and especially welcome on MSNBC.) But the anchors, by and large, served as traffic cops, though ABC's Charles Gibson did add a lot of his own observations, and good ones, too.

It was up to the analysts, though, to put the numbers into perspective as well as crunch them - and here, they did their jobs well, and early. The Super Bowl ended in regulation, but this choosing-a-candidate business was about to go into overtime.

Play ball...

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