Democracy Plaza, Magic Walls and a Virtual Senate: How the Nets Will Cover Election Night

Obama Romney Debate Waving to Crowd - H 2012
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Obama Romney Debate Waving to Crowd - H 2012

Cable news will be wall-to-wall election news all day Tuesday, while broadcast news divisions commence live coverage at 7 p.m.

With the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in a dead heat, the contested 2000 election -- when Florida initially was called for Al Gore -- will be top of mind at news organizations. Granted, TV news divisions proceeded with caution in 2004 and 2008. But the tight race in battleground states, legal skirmishes over proposed voter-identification laws, Democrats and Republicans promising to have representatives at the polls and a bitterly divided Congress have combined for an especially contentious Election Night atmosphere. Political pundits have predicted recounts in some closely watched states including Ohio -- which means, like 2000, voters could wake up Wednesday without a clear winner.

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But news divisions are ready for the turmoil, with armies of correspondents, analysts and pollsters on tap for what definitely will be a long night. The broadcast networks will begin coverage at 7 p.m. ET, when many on the East Coast already had been to the polls. And again, ABC News and NBC News -- which have studios in New York's tourist meccas of Times Square and Rockefeller Center, respectively -- will have correspondents on the street to gauge public reaction. There won't be any holograms this year, but CNN will have a "Virtual Senate."

Here are highlights of election coverage at the broadcast and cable news divisions:

ABC News will transform its street-side studios in Times Square -- one of the nation’s busiest thoroughfares and a site of celebrations four years ago when Obama was swept into office -- into Election Night headquarters. Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will lead the network's coverage beginning at 7 p.m. Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper will be at Obama headquarters in Chicago, while David Muir will be at Romney headquarters in Boston. Barbara Walters, who has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon, will be on hand to offer historical context, and Katie Couric will be monitoring social media reaction throughout the night. ABC News also will have correspondents in battleground states. Senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl and contributors Ron Brownstein and Cokie Roberts will report from ABC’s New York studios, and regular political panelists George Will, Matthew Dowd, Donna Brazile and Nicolle Wallace will be in the studio. The network’s coverage will be streamed live on various platforms and apps including and Yahoo News. The ABC News/Yahoo! News Election live stream will incorporate breaking hashtags, social analysis and an interactive map.

CBS News plans seven hours of election coverage beginning at 7 p.m. and anchored by Scott Pelley from the CBS News broadcast center in New York. Pelley will be joined by chief Washington correspondent and Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer, CBS News political director John Dickerson and CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell. (Charlie Rose will be occupied with PBS' Election Night coverage.) CBS News also will have correspondents stationed in battleground states. Jan Crawford will report from Romney’s campaign headquarters, and Nancy Cordes will report from Obama’s. Anthony Mason will handle exit-polling, and Byron Pitts will cover the House and Senate races. The network’s coverage also will be live-streamed on

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CNN will kick off at 6 p.m. with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper leading coverage from Washington, the first time the network’s election coverage has originated from the nation’s capital. Blitzer and Cooper will lead a team of contributors and correspondents from the network’s newly constructed studio there. Candy Crowley and Jim Acosta will be in Boston, while White House correspondents Jessica Yellin, Dan Lothian and Brianna Keilar will be in Chicago. John King, CNN’s chief national correspondent, will be at the Magic Wall again this year to provide analysis of projections. And correspondent Tom Foreman will appear from the virtual studio in Washington to present a “Virtual Senate.” Chief political analyst Gloria Borger and senior political analyst David Gergen will be on hand to provide analysis; they’ll be joined by Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleisher, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. CNN’s mobile app ( will offer a live stream from campaign headquarters in Boston and Chicago as well as all acceptance and concession speeches from key races.

Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly will lead Fox News Channel’s election coverage beginning at 6 p.m. They’ll be joined by senior political analyst Brit Hume, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and contributors Joe Trippi, Juan Williams, Karl Rove, Kristen Powers and Stephen Hayes. Martha MacCallum will report on the exit poll data and Bill Hemmer will break down the results on the electronic “Bill-board.” Chief political correspondent Carl Cameron and senior national correspondent John Roberts will be live from Boston, while chief White House correspondent Ed Henry and senior White House correspondent Wendell Goler will be live from Chicago. FNC will once again simulcast its coverage from a position in Times Square. Bill O’Reilly, host of The O’Reilly Factor, and Greta Van Susteren, host of On the Record, will also participate in the network's coverage, which will include Van Susteren's interview with former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin

Once again, NBC News has transformed Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza into Democracy Plaza with various interactive exhibits including replicas of the Oval Office and White House press briefing room. Brian Williams will anchor NBC News coverage from network headquarters at Rockefeller Center. He’ll be joined at the anchor desk by Meet the Press moderator David Gregory and Today co-host Savannah Guthrie. Tom Brokaw will provide historical analysis, and pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff will be on hand for voter insight. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell will follow key House and Senate races. Lester Holt will report on gubernatorial, down-ballot, and key local races; proposition measures and the effects of Hurricane Sandy on voting. Chief justice correspondent Pete Williams will contribute reporting from Washington on irregularities, technology and claims of voter suppression. Political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd will track the candidates’ road to 270 electoral votes via a touch-screen wall. White House correspondent Kristen Welker will report from Chicago and Peter Alexander will report from Boston. The network also will have correspondents stationed in key battleground states. will live-stream the network’s primetime coverage and also provide multimedia updates, interactive maps and reporting from teams across the country.

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Rachel Maddow will lead MSNBC’s election coverage beginning at 6 p.m. She’ll be joined in the network’s Rockefeller Center studio by Chris Matthews, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Ed Schultz and Steve Schmidt. As he is for NBC, Todd will crunch the numbers in battleground states for MSNBC. Tamron Hall will be stationed on NBC News’ Democracy Plaza, where she’ll interview voters and provide exit-poll results. Melissa Harris-Perry will report from  Chicago, and Chris Jansing will report from Boston. Contributors will include Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, former RNC chairman Michael Steele, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman and CNBC’s John Harwood will provide reports from the campaigns and their reactions.