The 2020 presidential race is tightening with close races in the battleground states. But most journalists still expect Trump to lose handily to Joe Biden. Some perspective from 2016 should help any reporter who might get too excited. The day after Labor Day weekend four years ago, CBS predicted a 341 electoral vote landslide win for Hillary Clinton.
Citing the CBS News “battleground tracker, co-host Gayle King cheered on elections director Anthony Salvanto: “The way you’ve got this now, 341 electoral votes for Hillary Clinton. You only need 270 to win. That suggests a blowout.”
Using language that will sound familiar in 2020, Salvanto agreed: “It does at this point. It's not over but it does. It's even the case where we're starting to see some reliably Republican states places like Georgia and Arizona that just don't vote Democratic have started to get close and Clinton is within striking distance.”
As you may remember, Clinton won none of the above mentioned states. She only ended up with 227 electoral votes. Not exactly 341. CBS wasn’t isolated in this hyperbole. On August 10, 2016, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki predicted an even bigger Democratic blowout. 363 electoral votes for Clinton.
Sometimes journalists just want something to be true so badly, they just can’t help themselves.
For more examples from our FLASHBACK series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.
A partial transcript of the September 6, 2016 segment, which aired at 8:04 AM ET on CBS This Morning, is below:
CBS This Morning
GAYLE KING: CBS News elections director Anthony Salvanto is with us at the table to break it all down. Good to see you, Anthony.
ANTHONY SALVANTO: How are you?
KING: I'm good. Really good. So, 63 days and counting. What do the numbers tell you as we sit here today?
SALVANTO: Clinton is leading. She is leading where it counts. You’ll see the national polls bounce around here and there. But if you look state by state and this election is won state by state, the story of the summer has been that in all of the states we thought the race might be close, we have seen her take a lead. Sometimes in single digits. Sometimes in double digits. So what that does is makes Donald Trump's road a little harder. And it puts some states a little bit harder — You’ll hear about Ohio, of course. You’ll hear in Florida. He's got to win those states. He's got a narrow path, he can do it, but he's got to start picking them off.
O’DONNELL: But Anthony, the way you’ve got this now, 341 electoral votes for Hillary Clinton. You only need 270 to win. That suggests a blowout.
SALVANTO: It does at this point. It's not over but it does. It's even the case where we're starting to see some reliably Republican states places like Georgia and Arizona that just don't vote Democratic have started to get close and Clinton is within striking distance.