Super Tuesday on TV

The Polls Close, and the Floodgates Open
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March 6 2012 9:41 PM

Super Tuesday on TV

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The polls close, and the floodgates open.

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People watch and wait for results from the Super Tuesday elections at Rick Santorum's primary night party in Steubenville, Ohio

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

One hates to get cynical about politics, but CNN presents the conscious viewer with no other choice. And the unconscious viewer? CNN will rouse him with a presentation that is louder than Erin Burnett's form-fitting fuchsia dress.

CNN has labeled tonight's coverage “America's Choice 2012” and packaged it with a bombast that would be over the top on a promo for The Voice. The network heads into the 8 o'clock hour with a montage involving state maps reeling across the screen—OKLAHOMA, TENNESSEE, MASSACHUSETTS—and the candidates' names blazing across the frame like prizefighters' on a poster. Some producer decided to use footage of Santorum saying, of the primary season: "It's an episode of Survivor. ... Just need to stay on the island and not get booted off." Thus did the former senator echo the mocking words of Republican strategist Steve Schmidt in a November New York Times article: "Who gets kicked off the island, or who gets kicked off the talent stage, is now deeply embedded in the American culture.” The tribe is speaking.

But it is hard to hear the tribe over the music on CNN, where a medium-to-heavy-metal guitar crunches even as polls close and reporters report and analysts analyze. CNN being CNN—pioneer of the on-screen big-screen touchscreen, dabbler in memorably dumb holograms—I am eagerly awaiting CNN's latest gimmick, the "virtual convention." A sneak peek gives the impression that it is a rendering of an arena representing the floor of the upcoming convention. We see a vast number of computer-generated images sitting politely in their stadium seats, as if this were a Romney family reunion. I think it's a tool for delegate math, but I hope that you can treat the delegates as Sims, so that Ron Paul supporters can mount a floor challenge and all the family-values types can go out hiring SimHookers after hours.

When I finally manage to find Current TV on my channel guide, a sober Keith Olbermann is intoning to a stern Eliot Spitzer about Super PACs: "Some would call this primary election an auction." Calling it an auction once. Calling it an auction twice. Calling it an auction—sold.

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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