As a rule, the most interesting coverage of an election night is always the losing side’s coverage. Last night, MSNBC’s anchors, most of whom would concede they are more ideologically friendly toward Democrats than Republicans, lost and lost big.
While there was some stellar analysis and measured commentary on that network from the likes of Chuck Todd and Steve Kornacki, there was also a fair bit of infighting, punchy recrimination, and general despair from the left-leaning network’s flagship personalities.
The evolution of MSNBC’s coming to terms with one of the largest Republican electoral landslides in the history of American midterm elections is worth dissecting.
9:30 p.m. Eastern:
Things are starting to look grim for Democrats nationally at this stage. After being buoyed briefly by the news of Scott Brown’s loss in New Hampshire, the good news for Democrats had begun to ebb by this point in the evening. Just 30 minutes after the polls closed across Colorado, Senator-elect Cory Gardner has begun to pull away in the Centennial State.
It was here that Rachel Maddow insisted that Cory Gardner won “because he ran to the left of Mark Udall” and “Democrats win the argument even if they lose the race.” This was also the moment when Chris Matthews began to hurl accusations of political ineptitude toward Barack Obama and Chris Hayes’s insistence that America has invested millions to install Gatling Guns along the border with Mexico.
The wheels are coming off.
10:35 p.m. Eastern:
Udall has officially lost at this stage of the night, and Maddow is not happy about it. After relating an anecdote about how personable Udall is in person and how wooden he is as a candidate, Maddow decides to gratuitously slur Gardner whom, she says, “looks like a Muppet stuck in on.” Classy.
11:10 p.m. Eastern:
This might be the moment the bottom fell out of the night for MSNBC. The Senate had not yet been called for the GOP, but the writing was clearly on the wall. In quick succession, Matthews called the gubernatorial races in Georgia and Illinois for the Republican candidates. “Unbelievable,” he muttered. “This is amazing.”
Todd later informed the panel that this represents the first time a president’s home state governor (for whom he personally voted, by the way) lost a bid for reelection since 1892.
12:50 a.m. Eastern:
The Senate has now fallen to the Republicans, and the party is on track for a historic night on both the federal and statewide levels. Matthews appeared to lose all faith in humanity when even Massachusetts turned on Democrat Martha Coakley and elected Charlie Baker to serve as the state’s next governor.
“There’s so much going on,” Matthews said. “The Denver Post endorsing Cory Gardner. The Des Moines Register Ernst. There’s something weird going on among – even among the educated crowd.”
Translation: Only hicks and idiots are supposed to support Republicans. You have a journalism degree, for the love of God.
For the record, The Register endorsed Bruce Braley, but Matthews was on an odd, misanthropic roll.
Update 4:12 p.m. Eastern, November 5: The culmination of Matthews’s frustration came on Wednesday in an appearance on Alex Wagner’s program. There, Matthews became visibly irritated with his fellow progressives who he seemed to suggest have grown to accommodating toward the president. The exchange between Matthews and former White House advisor Bill Burton became quite heated at times.