Race for viewers

The consensus in the media appears to be that McCain will have the nomination all but sewn up after today's raft of primaries, leaving Romney in his wake, while the race between Obama and Clinton is just "too close to call."

The consensus in the media appears to be that McCain will have the nomination all but sewn up after today's raft of primaries, leaving Romney in his wake, while the race between Obama and Clinton is just “too close to call.” Certainly the Super Tuesday elections today are being portrayed as a potential moment of truth for the election. On cable TV that can only mean one thing: Ratings war.

A Fox News spokesman, for instance, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the primaries will be the networks' “Super Bowl.” With the writer's strike cutting off new episodes for many people's favorite TV shows, the coverage starting tomorrow morning – at 6 a.m. in the case of CNN and MSNBC – might offer some genuine drama for otherwise entertainment-starved TV viewers. Then again, “American Idol” and “House” are still expected to be the ratings winners Tuesday night.

Even the regular networks are getting in on the act, with ABC opting to extend what had been planned as just a one-hour special tonight into five hours of coverage, while CBS is devoting two hours to the returns, and NBC an extended “Nightly News” as well as a one-hour special, the Los Angeles Times reports. In contrast, during the 2004 primary, the broadcast networks just gave periodic updates of the results.

The close media attention to the races may also translate into high turnout for the primaries. In Massachusetts, voter turnout is expected to double that of 2004 (when the primary was held March 4 and Kerry had a virtual lock on the nomination).

In addition, an important subplot in the news coverage of the primaries tomorrow will be which candidate curries the most favor with Latino voters in California, New York, New Jersey and other states with large Hispanic populations. This fast-growing, politically active Demographic may even get some political analysts in the coming days speculating whether the Democratic nominee might choose a Latino running mate. An Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket seems unpalatable to the two rivals.

Now once again, as it did in 2004, talk may turn to Vice President … Bill Richardson?

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