CABLERS CaucusTeams: Maddow + Burnett Get Promotion

Two women get rare promotions in the cable news world. Rachel Maddow is MSNBC’s sole anchor of their coverage and new CNN anchor Erin Burnett has earned a slot on the CNN’s election desk.  Keith Olbermann anchors CURRENT TV’s coverage.  Here is the New York Times’ Brian Stetler’s preview of your favorite channel’s coverage.

“America’s trifecta of cable news channels, Fox News, MSNBC and CNN, are just about ready to show off their election year staffs.

Each channel plans to cover the one-night Iowa caucus for a stretch of several days, maximizing both their investments in the state and the ratings potential of a Republican presidential campaign.

On caucus night, Jan. 3, each channel will replace its usual prime time schedule with special reports. The extensive coverage plans highlight the importance of politics to the bottom lines of the cable news channels.

Past ratings indicate that the more seriously the channels treat events like the Iowa caucus, the more viewers tune in. So the networks are starting early.

Candy Crowley, the chief political correspondent for CNN, will report from Iowa starting Wednesday. Chris Matthews will anchor his MSNBC show, “Hardball,” from there starting Thursday, and the MSNBC anchors Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell will be there starting Friday.

But the coverage will be most visible starting Sunday, when the weekly public affairs programs like “Fox News Sunday,” anchored by Chris Wallace, and “State of the Union,” anchored by Ms. Crowley, will emanate from the state. On Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern, both Fox and CNN will have caucus previews.

On Monday, the day before the caucus, more cable anchors will plant themselves in Iowa, including the Fox News anchor Shepard Smith and the cast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Sean Hannity also will have his radio show and prime time Fox show there.

A new generation of anchors have stepped up since the last presidential election, so the coverage this year will look quite different than it did on Iowa caucus night in 2008. Back then, Brit Hume and Mr. Wallace led Fox’s coverage; this time, the co-anchors will be Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.

They will both be in Iowa beginning Sunday. On Tuesday, they will be on from 8 to 11 p.m.; Mr. Hannity will then be on until midnight.

Similarly, in 2008, Keith Olbermann and Mr. Matthews led MSNBC’s coverage; this time, Rachel Maddow will be the main anchor, joined by Mr. Matthews and the channel’s other three prime time hosts, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

They will be on from 6 p.m. until midnight; then Chris Hayes, a weekend host, will be on until 1 a.m.

Current TV, the upstart competitor to MSNBC, has scheduled four hours of special caucus coverage on Tuesday starting at 7 p.m.

CNN’s top two anchors back in 2008, Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, will be on again this year, but joined this time by Erin Burnett, who joined the network earlier this year from CNBC. They will also be joined by Ms. Crowley and John King, who will be stationed at his “Magic Wall.”

They will be on from 7 p.m. to midnight, when Piers Morgan will take over for an hour.

CNN, which generally is lower rated than Fox or MSNBC, but benefits from big periods of breaking news, seems to be positioning itself as a nonpartisan option for viewers who perceive Fox to favor Republicans and MSNBC to favor Democrats.

In a news release on Wednesday, CNN’s Washington bureau chief, Sam Feist, said, “As the only cable news channel that has not chosen a side in this election, CNN will tap into the expertise of our anchors, reporters and analysts to equip viewers with information to decide for themselves about the candidates.”

The main anchors for the network news divisions also will be in Iowa for the caucus. Additionally, CBS says that Bob Schieffer, the Sunday morning “Face the Nation” host, will be an anchor on “The Early Show” on the morning of the caucus. “The Early Show” is being replaced a few days later by a new morning program called “CBS This Morning.”

CNN, meanwhile, is using the caucus to introduce its new morning team. On Tuesday, Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin will start their new 5 to 7 a.m. shift, and Soledad O’Brien will start her new 7 to 9 a.m. shift.”

Dems Take on Romney Directly

The Obama fundraising machine is aiming directly for Mitt Romney as Iowans are about to hit the Caucus pavement to decalre their presidentialpreference.

Here is the letter that went out to the democrats list today.

Friend —

You may have heard that Mitt Romney’s offering a supporter a chance to donate and win to spend election night with him in New Hampshire. Kind of like Dinner with Barack.

But there’s a catch: Deep pockets could go a long way to you joining him.

You see, for every dollar you donate to Mitt, you automatically get another entry to win. So someone who makes a $1,000 donation would be exactly 200 times more likely to win Mitt’s contest than someone who only chipped in $5.

We do things differently. Every few months, the President has asked to get together with just a few grassroots supporters to talk about what’s on their mind. And we don’t think your chances of winning should be determined by a big contribution.

So donate $3 or whatever you can to be automatically entered to win dinner with the President and First Lady.

You’ll have the same chances as everyone else, no matter how you enter.

This is precisely the difference between us and the other side. Instead of auctioning the President’s time off to the highest bidder, we believe anyone should have a shot at a seat at his table.

And instead of relying on big spenders, corporate lobbyists, and Super PACs to do our work, we rely on grassroots supporters like you.

The President wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chip in $3 or what you can to be automatically entered for dinner today:

And remember, when Mitt’s spending election night with other folks who can afford $10,000 bets, we’ll be doing things our way.



Hildy Kuryk
Finance Director
Democratic National Committee

Iowa's Most Wanted

If you want to understand the electoral process about to take place in Iowa read Real Clear Politics’ Scott Conroy’s Iowa primer.  “A week from today, somewhere between 80,000 to 150,000 Iowans are expected to head to their local precincts to participate in the caucus system that has governed the state’s politics since the mid-1800s.

Even if turnout far exceeds projections, only a small percentage of Iowa’s 3 million residents will participate in the event that plays an outsized role in determining which Republican candidate will face off against President Obama in November — and possibly lead more than 300 million Americans over the next four years.

Despite the national media saturation, the process by which the Iowa caucuses are run can seem incomprehensible even to politically attuned outsiders, and it is rarely explained in detail.

But some quintessential Iowa quirks notwithstanding, the Republican caucuses are rather straightforward.

Iowans who wish to participate on Jan. 3 must first find the voting site of their local precinct. The venues tend to change every four years, so even longtime caucus-goers are advised to double-check with one of the campaigns, the Iowa Republican Party website, or their local newspaper.

There are 1,774 precincts in this year’s caucuses, and many of the state’s rural outposts will see just a trickle of participants. On the other hand, some of the more populous counties combine their precincts into one location, which means that thousands of caucus-goers will gather at a single location.

Blackhawk County, for instance, is holding this year’s caucuses at the UNI-Dome, where the University of Northern Iowa football team plays its home games.

The gatherings are run entirely by the state Republican Party, which will deliver to each precinct a list of registered Republicans as of Nov. 14.

Once people start arriving at their caucus sites, they will be checked in and directed to their seats if they are already registered with the party. Non-Republican voters are allowed to register on site with the GOP upon providing a driver’s license or other photo ID with proof of residency and will be added instantly to the party’s registration rolls and can participate that night.

Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 by Nov. 6, 2012 are allowed to take part.

Refreshments are typically provided, and neighbors and friends will mingle before the session is called to order by a volunteer precinct captain.

The caucuses begin at 7 p.m. Central Time, but Iowa GOP officials and the campaigns themselves encourage voters to show up early, since the process typically starts on time. Michele Bachmann’s website, for instance, directs supporters to be at their caucus precincts by 6:30 p.m. and does not mention that the event actually begins a half-hour later.

After a few minutes of procedural business, the captains will move on to the main event: the Presidential Preference Poll.

Each campaign will then be allowed to have one surrogate speak on its behalf. These speeches, which typically last two to three minutes, are among the most important elements of the entire process and figure to be even more critical this year, given the especially high percentage of undecided voters.

“I hope to make a decision before I go in there, but a lot of people will actually go in there, visit with their neighbors not knowing what they’re going to do, and say, ‘Who do you support?’ ” said longtime Iowa Republican activist Becky Beach. “And what happens a lot is people who they are friends with or that they respect, they’ll vote with those people because they know them and like them.”

In the past, well-organized campaigns have placed volunteer speech-givers at almost all of Iowa’s precincts, providing them with talking points for closing the deal.

But in a year that has seen a much lower level of organizing than usual, not a single campaign has announced chairpersons in all 99 counties. Bachmann seems to have come the closest, as her campaign announced earlier this month that she has 91 counties covered.

Mitt Romney’s campaign will not say how many county chairpersons it has in place, though the remnants of the extensive organizing Romney did in the state throughout 2007 may prove invaluable.

At his Ida County precinct in 1996, Iowa GOP campaign veteran Tim Albrecht delivered his first caucus night speech on behalf of Pat Buchanan — while just a high school senior. According to Albrecht, the visual stimuli at each site can have a significant last-minute impact.

“You want to plaster that room with your signs and plaster anyone who will wear one with a sticker, because people like to go with a winner when they are undecided this late,” he said.

The candidates themselves will usually speak on their own behalf at one or two precincts in the more heavily populated counties.

Once the speeches have concluded, voting begins promptly.

Though methods may vary from precinct to precinct, each caucus-goer is typically handed a blank piece of paper on which to write the surname of the candidate for whom they are voting.

“In our precinct, I know this sounds cliché, but we passed around a red-white-and-blue sequined shoebox with a hole slit in the top, and you drop your ballot in there,” said Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn, who plans to attend his local caucus this year but will not vote out of deference to his position.

In contrast to the far more complicated procedures involved in the Democratic process, Iowa Republicans do not maintain a viability threshold, and there is no second-choice realignment vote for candidates with little support.

Votes will be tallied in full view of attendees at a table in the back of the room, where each campaign is allowed to station an observer.

Decisions about misspellings are made by precinct leaders, but a liberal interpretation of voter intent is typically employed. There have been surprisingly few disputes over the years.

The results for each precinct are announced to everyone who is still on hand, and precinct chairs then forward their counts to the Iowa Republican Party.

The state GOP is likely to launch a website in the coming days, which it will use to announce the results as they come in on caucus night.

In 2008, the Iowa GOP tabulated and announced the outcome soon after the caucuses closed, and the party has enacted further improvements that it hopes will help it determine the outcome even more efficiently.

Unless the tally is extraordinarily close, the winner should have enough time to make a victory speech while most TV viewers on the East Coast are still awake.

The candidates who decide to continue their campaigns will then hop on red-eye flights to New Hampshire, where a one-week sprint in the first-in-the-nation primary state begins promptly the next morning.” Thank you Scott!

Bloomberg Wins Regan Vote

Trish Regan joins Bloomberg Television as co-anchor of “Street Smart.”  Regan will start January 9, 2012 and in addition to the show, she will appear in primetime specials and help lead anchor coverage of the 2012 Presidential election campaign for Bloomberg TV.

Regan was formerly with CNBC and ABC.  Read the story by Chris O’Shea on Fishbowl NY here.

Hitchens: The TV Gladiator

Christopher Hitchens and Graham Moore

Every pundit that has tried to make a point, throw a punch, or declare victory should pause today to salute Christopher Hitchens.

He burst on the U.S. media scene first on William F. Buckley Jr.’s television series Firing Line, then on CNN’s Larry King Live and Crossfire in the early Reagan Presidency. He (along with now presidential candidate Newt Gingrich) knew immediately that cable television was the new media play for serious public policy combat. The “disruptors,” as our web friends say now. Hitchens didn’t talk to the empty chairs each night on C-SPAN as Gingrich did to make his points and show the American people that he was still at work, he just swung for the rafters with every comment on the only two cable shows.

Pat Buchanan, a great verbal brawler in his own right, is the only person I ever saw who could anticipate the blows. Hitch had a big fight with Bob Novak once on Crossfire and Bob banned him from the show for a while. It was like losing a world champion. I think Bob finally let us bring him back because he knew Hitch had real fight in him, and we kept bringing up his name.

Hitch was even more dangerous in person. The twinkle, the total confidence — he never missed anything. To be invited to Hitch’s home was Washington’s equivalent of the Vanity Fair Oscar party. There was no doubt that anyone who mattered would be there. With his incredible wife and partner, the writer Carol Blue, you knew you were at ground zero for intellectual conversation.

When longtime friend Christopher Buckley’s book, Thank You for Smoking, hit the movie screens, I attended a small dinner celebration at the Metropolitan Club. Being with these magical word masters and best of friends on such an important occasion was a total treat. These gladiators of language would throw something in the air and it would burst into fireworks dazzling those lucky enough to watch it rain down. It was then I decided the greatest TV show of all time would be The Dueling Christophers. (Yes, I did later pitch the idea to PBS.)

Carol, Hitch and I went to the Naval Academy to attend the memorial service for the father of our friend, Elizabeth Edwards. Hitch wanted to be there for his friend. After selling millions of books condemning religion, to my surprise, he gently sung all the hymns. I asked when the last time he was in a church and he said six months earlier at Bill Buckley’s funeral.

One of my favorite TV stories was when a young ABC News producer booked him to give funeral commentary for one his favorite targets, Mother Teresa. It was another brief but great Hitchens TV moment. You didn’t have to share his beliefs to share his passion for debate. He was voted one of the top five public intellectuals on a website for a publication only the very elite read; we used to joke he moved down the list when he quit smoking. In the last few years, when I was lucky enough to get to know him well, he was telling me about his summer plans. I interrupted him to tell him I already knew his exact schedule and told him every TV producer in town knew about his annual trips and his phone numbers at the various locations. He was a ringer, a sure thing, and we tracked him like a criminal to bring into an important show.

Last year I asked him if he would talk to a young writer, Graham Moore, who had just signed with Jonathan Karp at Hitch’s publisher, TWELVE. Hitch guided Moore through the publication of the best selling novel, The Sherlockian. During a book party for The Sherlockian at Vice President Biden’s home, Moore got to meet and thank Hitch for his mentoring. Despite serious health challenges, Hitch was determined to go and finally meet his protégé in person; and in the company of all who glitter in Washington no one twinkled more than Hitch, with Carol and his kids at his side. For a town and an industry still mourning the loss of Tim Russert, this is a painful day. So let’s drop our iPhones and iPads, and raise a glass to remember a great gladiator.

White House TV Holiday Party

For the first time the anchors of television news were not the most exciting to watch at this year’s White House Holiday party for television journalists; it was all the children of television’s best.

The “Today Show” sent a battalion of talent both on-air and off, beginning with Matt Lauer and his daughter; Ann Curry; Washington favorite Savannah Guthrie; and top producer Don Nash and his wife, Geylan.

Chuck Todd’s mom gave Gene Sperling a frontline small business pool report, while Bloomberg’s new TV Chief Andrew Morse caught up with ABC colleagues Ann Compton who brought her newly engaged daughter Annie Hughes, Robin Sproul and daughter, and Kate O’Brien and daughter. Terry Moran, Rick Klein, and Jake Tapper brought their better halves, too. Polson Kanneth brought young brother, James, before they jet off to India.

NBC News President Steve Capus with Elena Nachmanoff, and CBS’s Bob Schieffer and his daughter. Meet the Press EP Betsy Fischer brought fiancee Jonathan Martin, and MTP host David Gregory brought his wife, Beth Wilkinson.

All the president’s men attended in force from Jay Carney, Jon Favreau and Cody Keenan to Ben Rhodes. Marvin Nicholson stood tall in his new role as the president’s body man, and Sam Tubman lead the parade of media for the grip and grin photos.
The new webified David Chalian brought his step father while C-SPAN’s Steve Scully brought a priest.

No one looked happier then the man who issues the invites, White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard. He knows the joy the holidays bring.

Graham Moore Tops The Black List

Nikki Finke, of Deadline Hollywood, breaks the story about Graham Moore’s screenplay The Imitation Game winning the top spot on the coveted “Black List” by film executive, Franklin Leonard. Moore, the son of former FLOTUS chief of staff Susan Sher, first novel, The Sherlockian, was a fiction hit in 2010.

The Imitation Game by Moore is “the story of British WWII cryptographer Alan Turing, who cracked the German Enigma code and later poisoned himself after being criminally prosecuted for being a homosexual” and is based off the book “Alan Turing: The Enigma.”

For the full story by Deadline Hollywood click here.

Susan Sher, Graham Moore and Valerie Jarrett at a book party celebrating the publication of Moore's "The Sherlockian"

Chicagoans at Kennedy Center Honors

Brad Keywell, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod and Kim Keywell

One of the biggest nights in DC are the Kennedy Center Honors, and this year’s group of honorees had no shortage of talent or star power.  Honored Sunday night were Meryl Streep, Neil Diamond, Barbara Cook, Yo-Yo Ma and Sonny Rollins.  The show was packed with star studded performances and speeches.  Famed screen writer Nora Ephron even declared that actress Meryl Streep, whose movie, Iron Lady, where in which she plays Margaret Thatcher, comes out December 16th, should also play Hillary Clinton.  Ephron said to Clinton from stage about Streep, “you met her tonight, and I’m sure you thought she was charming, but she was just soaking you up.”

After the ceremonies, there was a moment when all traffic stopped at the Kennedy Center Honors dinner to watch actress Anne Hathaway hug Kennedy Center Honoree Barbara Cook at a table that included Patti Lupone and Glenn Close. Inches away, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped to chat with political stars David Axelrod, Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons, Governor Markell and Groupon Co-founder Brad Keywell.

The Kennedy Center Honors will be aired December 27th on CBS.

Check out more photos from the evening below:

Jennifer Siebel Newsom's Documentary "Miss Representation" toasted at the Jefferson

White House Staff such as Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard, Mayor Cory Booker and more came out to to celebrate Jennifer Siebel Newsom‘s documentary Miss Representation, which is about imaging and cultural perspectives on women and girls in the media.  The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year and has been since been seen by millions around the world. Siebel’s husband, Lt. Governor Gavin NewsomSecretary Hilda Solis, Regina Hopper, Eve O’Toole, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) were also in attendance.

Check out the photos and and full story by the Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie here.

Watch the trailer for Miss Representation below:

Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from Miss Representation on Vimeo.