Wed, Nov 03, 2004 - Page 5 News List

US Election: Just one more long night after voters hit the polls


The campaign is over, but unless the polls are wrong there is still one daunting prospect facing the US voter: another long, long night in front of the television set.

Some election-night hosts are planning slumber parties. Others are planning to fill the lulls with movies, poker games, burlesque dancers, contests and some drinking games that sound like a recipe for alcohol poisoning -- like one in which guests take a swig each time someone on television says "dead heat."

The first test of viewers' patience will come early in the evening, when most of the polling places are still open and the network anchors are under strict orders not to give away the results of the exit polls that have been circulating all afternoon among news organizations. The result in the past has sometimes been a version of the Dance of the Seven Veils, in which anchors or correspondents will pretend not to know what's happening in a state but give enough clues for the discerning viewer. They might allude to the high spirits at one campaign headquarters, or start speculating about what effect the loss of this state would have on the other candidate.

"I'll go into the Socratic zone and keep asking questions and hope that nobody on the panel will giggle it away," said Chris Matthews, the MSNBC anchor, who added that he would have on his best poker face to mask the exit-poll results.

Inquiring minds, though, may be able to find some of the exit-poll results on the Internet well before the polls close. The leaked results have appeared on past election days in the Drudge Report and at Slate. Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, said he planned to post the poll data again if Slate gets it.

"The big news organizations withhold this data on the totally unproven theory that exit polls reduce turnout," Weisberg said.

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