In the presidential election of 2000, all of the major networks but Fox News Channel blew it. Not by declaring Gore the winner too early or, later in the evening, Bush the winner too early. Those are predictions and you should always take predictions with a grain of salt.

No, they blew it by getting a simple fact wrong, a fact that ended up mattering greatly. When the polls closed in the Eastern time zone of Florida, all the networks but Fox announced that the polls were closed in Florida. But the polls weren’t closed in the Florida panhandle, which is in the Central time zone. They were open another hour. Yet apparently thousands of people fewer than usual showed up in the panhandle to vote during that last hour. Given that Bush was running 2-1 against Gore in that part of Florida, if only 6,000 people, hearing that news, decided not to vote, then that cost Bush a margin of 2,000 votes (4,000 minus 2,000). Bush won Florida by under 1,000 votes. With that extra 2,000 of margin, the country would have been saved a lot of grief.

Will they blow it again tonight?