The national media committed a major faux pas tonight against the people of Wisconsin. With people still in line waiting to vote, all of the major national news outlets called the vote for the incumbent (AP and the Times were among the last). One commentator went so far as to talk about the science of vote prediction on election nights, lauding how well statistics can predict the outcome.
Whether or not this is true, it completely misses the fact that an early call has real potential to affect the outcome of the election. That this particular race was split by less than one percent by some polls the day before the election makes an accurate outcome even more important.
To be clear, this is not a partisan message – it is equally likely that someone could step out of line thinking “we won” or “we lost.” The news media is largely expected to objectively report the events of the day, and this puts the drive for a “scoop” ahead of our democratic process. Should one person step out of line based on these messages strikes me as an affront to our democracy.