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Critic's notebook: Lots of talk, but he hasn't won yet

November 4, 2008 | 11:18 am

Election day dawned in a typical fashion, with every news outlet on American television bouncing between stories about long lines, anticipated high voter turnout, weather, early glitches (wet ballots in Virginia, lost military mail-ins) and the fact that Starbucks was offering a free cup of coffee for every "I voted" sticker. (First blood — that of every publicist and advertising exec working for a company that isn’t offering a similar election day freebie.)

Over at "The View," the ladies engaged in one final blowout over the Rev. Jeremiah A Wright Jr., William Ayers, Cindy McCain ... heck, I don’t actually know what all, they were just mad, but what I want for Christmas is a smarter, less irritating conservative voice. Elisabeth Hasselbeck may be the only host on the show who looks good in a tank top, but in terms of her political leanings, she’s not only outnumbered, she’s outclassed.

Meanwhile, cable news continued its twitchy anticipatory coverage, on screens so cluttered with crawls and weather graphics, electoral college breakdowns and mini-maps it looked like our entire election coverage was being art-directed by Mondrian. CNN, which brought us the unbearably irritating "cardiac lines" that registered real-time reactions during the debates, was the hands-down winner with its Countdown to First Poll Closing box. (If only there were Starbucks tie-in.)

Overall, the morning was dominated by the by now signature ability of pundits, anchors and Rudolph W. Giuliani alike to explain, analyze and argue about something that hasn’t happened yet. There was an admirable attempt to broaden the story to all those pesky congressional races, but really, will anyone care until after the presidential race is called? Which, as MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell kept reminding us in a way that can only be described as self-satisfied, will not be for a long while yet, since no one will be calling any race until the polls close.

Which, according to CNN, is in 4:16:16 as I write. Until then, if you are having any trouble at your polls, all you need to do is look to your closest TV, where every network has its own voter hotline. Because you know television, it’s all about public service.

— Mary McNamara