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Sunday, September 14, 2008

John King & Battleground BINGO

Photo by Haitian Creation (Flickr

I found two interesting interviews with John King posted online. The first is from Boston Magazine and the second has been running on the AP this week.

The Schwartz Factor: John King By Jason Schwartz

You have that perfect nondescript Ohio accent. Did you have to flush out the Boston first?

When you’re on the phone all the time as a reporter, you just somehow take the edges off. Although, if I get really tired or spend too much time out supporting the wheat, hops, and barley growers, it can come back pretty quickly. You can see it late at night on TV, sometimes on election nights—I’ll start “pahking cahs.”

Seems as though that could happen a lot. Do you ever sleep?

You’re always on-camera. I’m as busy as I’ve ever been. I have a little sign in my office that says, “Well, today was a total waste of makeup.” I always joke that a makeup-free day is good for the pores.

How does all that makeup go over in Dorchester?

My brothers make very good fun of me, as they should. I need my thick skin.

You’ve become the keeper of the “magic wall,” that graphic-heavy info-screen in the CNN studio. It’s probably informative, but I just sit there and go, “Woo! Look at the colors!”

This is one case where the colors are actually conveying information. When I travel, the questions people ask me are much more specific than they were before. I think that’s because they’re getting visual reinforcement instead of just seeing a white guy on TV who’s throwing a bunch of numbers at them.

You’ve used that “just a white guy in a box” line before. I guess now that makes you a white guy in a box with a box.

I’m a white guy in a box, in a wall in a box. We could take this to an extreme. I do worry that maybe someday I’ll be in the retirement home because the wall will be doing all the talking.

So without the wall’s help, tell me: Who’ll it be in November, Bob Barr or Ralph Nader?

I’m not ready yet to say that Barr and Nader won’t matter. If it’s close between McCain and Obama, two or three or one percentage points in a state or two could make a difference. We ignore them at our peril.

Heading into home stretch with CNN's John King
By David Bauder, AP Television Writer

If a stranger appears in the back row of your town's school board meeting sometime during the next two months, a baseball cap worn low to partially obscure his face, don't be alarmed.

It could very well be CNN's John King, on a mission to take the nation's political pulse ahead of the presidential election. He likes stopping off at school meetings, since he's bound to find people interested in talking about their country and community.

King, 45, stands out among CNN's crowded political stable for his reporting ability — he broke the news, post-midnight, that Barack Obama had selected Joe Biden as a running mate — and his mastery of CNN's "magic wall," the screen with a world of political trivia at his fingertips.

He will travel briefly with John McCain and Barack Obama for the campaign's final eight weeks to get a feel for their messages, but much of his time will be spent trying to see how Americans feel. He's most interested in blue collar towns in the Midwest that voted heavily for Hillary Clinton during the primaries.

"If you don't go into the communities and get a feel for them, then on election night when something surprising happens, you don't understand why," he said.

King spoke by phone from St. Paul, Minn., where last week's Republican national convention was wrapping up. It was a tough environment for reporters, who found themselves under attack from the McCain campaign for aggressively investigating the background of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

He saw resentment bubbling up early, since he received more than 100 angry e-mails from people he's met along the way — mailmen, doctors, preachers — wondering who reporters were to be questioning Palin's qualifications.

If McCain's people didn't know that their surprise selection of Palin wouldn't draw serious scrutiny, "then they're naive," he said. "And they're not naive."

The attacks on the media were a campaign tactic, and while it doesn't mean reporters shouldn't be very careful about their work, especially when a candidate's family is involved, they should be recognized for what they were, he said.

"I've been doing this a long time," he said. "I don't get as worked up about this as some people do, because I've been bullied by the best of them."

His "seen it all" tone of a veteran reporter seems jarring, since King still looks like a college linebacker, despite the flecks of gray hair. (And he's a newlywed, to fellow CNN political reporter Dana Bash). Yet he has been doing this for a long time, covering presidential politics since 1988 — first with The Associated Press and, since 1997, with CNN.

The Biden scoop brought back memories, since a similar beat set his career in motion. He was first to reveal Michael Dukakis' selection of Lloyd Bentsen as a running mate two decades ago, leading the AP to entrust a key role covering that campaign to a man barely 25.

King had heard from a trusted source that Biden was the choice, but he wouldn't go public with such a big story based on only one source. He was anchoring CNN's political coverage that Friday night, Aug. 22, leaving him little time to make phone calls. He got the key second confirmation as the clock ticked close to 1 a.m. on the East Coast.

"The Biden night is one of those things where I laugh and say it's time for the kids to do that kind of stuff," he said. "But I got off the air and there's a buried treasure out there and if nobody is going to find it then, damn it, I'm going to find it."

King's political obsession met its perfect partner on the night of the New Hampshire primary, when he first manned the magic board.

Throughout the primary season, King used the tool to analyze the votes. He'd call up a map of a state and, with his finger, circle counties expected to be heavy in favor of one candidate or another and explain why. Since the nominations were decided, he constantly uses it to call up an electoral map, showing different scenarios how McCain or Obama could win.
"We've seen other networks use the touch-screen, but without the essential component — John King — it becomes just another piece of technology," said CNN U.S. President Jonathan Klein.

Klein calls King "relentlessly objective," with an encyclopedic political mind. King is paid to understand and respect all points of view, not to pontificate. This sets him apart on CNN's political set, filled with opinionated folk identified with one side or another.

"There is a disconnect between some people in our business and the everyday human being," King said. "If you watch television, and read certain columns, you are seeing people who still haven't come to terms with the fact that George W. Bush won the last two presidential elections and that Bill Clinton won two presidential elections by tacking to the center."

Once again, the nation seems headed for a very tight presidential election, even though the unpopularity of the Bush administration would indicate Obama should be further ahead.

It made for a fascinating atmosphere at the Democratic and Republican conventions, he said.

"In Denver, it was `there's no reason why we shouldn't win this,' and yet there's some anxiety," he said. "Here, it's like `there's no reason we should win this, yet we have a chance. How can that be and how can we capitalize on it?' It's a funny flip side of the mood."

King's contract with CNN expires at the end of the year, although neither he nor Klein expect any drama.

"I have every reason to believe I will be here for a good, long time," King said.

The latest Metro article, Playing Battleground Bingo, by Tom Foreman has been posted on the Metro's website.

Surrounded by cheering crowds, bright posters, and babies in grave danger of being kissed, the McCain/Palin “Come From Behind” tour dazzled Missourians this week, with snappy jabs at Obama and Biden, a flurry of national magazine covers, and the kind of vague promises of better days ahead that make us all misty every four years as we try to pick a president.

Republicans are riding a new wave of hope that, after months of being dispirited, they might be able to outrun the Democrats before the leaves of November fly. The reason lies in a simple rule of presidential politics: All the people of this nation are created equal (at least in theory), but all states are not. And right now, the states that matter most are those that are up for grabs. Like Missouri, where the GOP thinks the game of battleground Bingo looks promising for their side.

McCain likes Missouri for three reasons.

First, Missouri is old. According to the U.S. Census, Missouri’s population is the thirteenth oldest in the country. Older voters tend to like McCain, and when Obama comes around, many of them get queasy, like he’s a teenager who is playing his music too loud.

Second, Missouri loves God. The Pew Forum found that 37 percent of the people there are evangelical Christians, compared with only 26 percent in the rest of America. Evangelicals really like Sarah Palin, who is herself a staunchly religious conservative. And by the way, since 2000 the Republicans have put a lot of effort into organizing the religious movers and shakers in Missouri into a political force that can reliably turn out votes in great number.

And thirdly, Obama barely beat Hillary Clinton there. See? That’s why all states are not equal. Details. And Missouri is not alone. Two other undecided, electoral powerhouses, Ohio and Florida, are also among the older states demographically.

The electoral advantage has consistently fallen to Obama in this race so far. Look at the projected electoral results, and he looks like the eventual winner. And he can find encouraging demographic signs in some battleground states, too.

But keep an eye on which states are in play, especially as they shift around. Think about who lives there and how they have voted in the past. Consider how the economy has affected the people in those states.

Because right now, one of the battleground states is waiting to be the one that gets to call this race, deciding not only where the White House movers take their trucks to this January but also which candidate gets to yell “Bingo!” first. That’s why all states are not equal.”

Playing Battleground Bingo | Catch Tom Foreman on CNN every Saturday at 6 p.m. on This Week in Politics for a look back at the presidential campaign trail.

The CNN Election Express is scheduled to be at the following locations:

9/16-17Street Scene Music Festival
San Diego, CA
9/26Presidential Debate
Oxford, MS
9/27 – 9/28Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival
Birmingham, AL

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ACAnderFan said...

Great JK find BoookAsylum. I love reading John interviews. I don't think he has to worry about being a retirement home. The Magic Wall will always need someone to work and realy the information to the viewers at home.

BookAsylum said...

@acanderfam- thanks! That last line of the second article is hwat got me excited- I was thrilled to hear that he expects to be staying at CNN.

ACAnderFan said...

@bookasylum, it is great news that he expects to be staying with CNN. I would be sad if he left CNN, he is one of my favorites there.