NEW YORK — NBC's "Nightly News" on Tuesday flashed a clip of Barack Obama speaking on the night he was elected president two years ago, with anchor Brian Williams remarking on how much younger Obama looked.
Plenty had changed in two years, and news organizations harnessed firepower on the air and online to record what looked like a long, tough political night for the Democratic president.
"This could be a blowout for Republicans and we're seeing nothing in the early polls to indicate otherwise," Bob Schieffer said on the "CBS Evening News." ABC's George Stephanopoulos had the same assessment looking at the exit polls, saying voters "are uncertain, they are unsettled, they want change."
News organizations, aware that viewers were also checking smart phone or computer screens along with their televisions on the midterm election night, provided a blizzard of widgets, apps, dashboards, Twitter tie-ins and iPad doohickeys for the night.
Akamai Technologies Inc., which delivers about 20 percent of the world's Internet traffic, showed rising traffic on Tuesday afternoon. Around 5 p.m. EDT, traffic was peaking at over 4.6 million global page views per minute. That's one of Akamai's highest traffic rates in five years of measurement — even more than during Obama's election night win in 2008.
ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox News, BBC, the New York Times and the political blog Politico offered live webcasts Tuesday night. New media partnerships paved the way: ABC News with Facebook; CBS with Google and NBC with Twitter. News organizations are also putting a focus on customization: getting local results to voters through their mobile phones, for instance.
"We can go in a lot deeper online and mobile. People can dig deep into results," says Manuel Perez, senior supervising producer for CNN.com.
The social media site Facebook had a reminder atop its pages that Tuesday was election day, and a running ticker counted the number of people on Facebook who clicked that they had voted. Conversation on the election also dominated Twitter.
On 24-hour cable news, the political junkies could barely conceal their excitement. CNN's Wolf Blitzer called it "the most dramatic and monumental midterm election in the recent history of the United States."
MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan jumped the gun. Before 5 in the afternoon eastern time, he aired a segment with the headline "2010 in the Rearview."
Involved in its own political brushfire, ABC News said Tuesday that it had pulled back its invitation to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart to participate in its election night coverage. ABC's Andrew Morse said Breitbart had been invited to participate in a digital town hall to be shown on the Internet — not over television — and that Breitbart had publicly stated that he had a much bigger role. Liberal media advocacy groups criticized ABC for including Breitbart.
"As we are still unable to agree on your role, we feel it best for you not to participate," Morse wrote to Breitbart.
Throughout the night, the news organizations faced the challenge of building a national narrative out of hundreds of local races. At times, the specialization required by the political reporters was reminiscent of sports networks covering professional sports drafts.
AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle contributed to this report.
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