On primary night, was CBS smart or lucky?
Called Clinton's Indiana win hours before other netsNEW YORK -- It was a lonely five hours or so after CBS News on Tuesday called the Indiana primary for Hillary Clinton before rival networks felt comfortable to join them.
The network's decision desk called the state at 8:09 p.m. EDT, about five hours before everyone else. Although it turned out to be correct, the other networks were wary of votes in Lake County, believed to be a Barack Obama stronghold, that came in late. So the networks waited, and CBS News' call hung out there, even as Clinton's margin dwindled from eight percentage points to three.
"We didn't feel like we could make projections before we saw some votes from Lake County," said David Rhodes, vp news coverage at Fox News Channel. "It's the second largest county in the state. It's one where Obama was expected to do well and the Clinton margin was so small."
Fox News, which has been both aggressive and correct in its calls so far, wanted to wait and make sure. The channel leaned heavily on the expertise of Michael Barone and waited.
CBS News wasn't talking today about its decision other than to say that it was positive throughout the night that it would be correct.
"We remained confident Sen. Clinton would carry Indiana based on the information we had gathered about vote projections and the demographic composition of the vote that was yet to be counted," said director of surveys Kathy Frankovic in a statement Wednesday.
Others weren't so sure. One feeling among network news execs was that CBS had been lucky, though a network source said that there hadn't been any feeling of despair in the newsroom when CBS had made the call and no one followed. The other networks had a feeling that it was the right call but wanted to make sure.
"They've made it early, and I wonder as the results tighten if there's some tightening in the blood veins of some of those people over there," Fox News Channel's Brit Hume said of CBS News on the air Tuesday night.
Even after Sen. Obama in his speech seemed to concede Indiana, it was a full four hours before the other networks agreed. It was just too tight a race, Rhodes said.
"Obama's comment surprised all of us," Rhodes said. "But we also didn't project the race based on that comment."