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Election: Fox News takes its time with Pennsylvania

November 4, 2008 |  6:08 pm

Fox News took its time deciding which way Pennsylvania was going to go on election night.

Other networks reported around 8 p.m. Eastern time that the state, which is closely watched because of its 21 electoral votes, was likely to go for Sen. Barack Obama. But Fox declined to make the call.

"We are holding back on doing so," Fox anchor Brit Hume told viewers.

Fox analyst Michael Barone explained that, while exit poll data did show a "significant" advantage for Obama, the network did not want to call the race because it still had no actual returns from the state.

Many Republicans have complained that exit polls are misleading and tend to favor Democrats. Barone spoke on-air about "WPEs" (within-precinct errors) that refer to the gap between exit-poll results and actual voting returns. He said Fox analysts looked at exit polls with "a gimlet eye" because the final results "vary so much."

But by 8:30 p.m., Fox News announced that it was calling the state for Obama.

The difference, as Barone later explained on the air, was that the WPEs had come in — and suggested that the chances were less than 1-in-250 that McCain could carry the state.

— Scott Collins