Election night with Steve Bragaw

Posted on November 05, 2012 by Janika Carey

Sweet Briar professor of government Steve Bragaw will spend election night a bit different than the rest of us — not cuddled up on the couch with a bowl of cheese puffs, streaming a marathon of “The Walking Dead” to kill time until the results are in; or monitoring as votes trickle in; or perhaps avoiding television altogether.

Steve Bragaw speaks with WSET reporter Mark Kelly on Friday. Steve Bragaw speaks with WSET reporter Mark Kelly on Friday.

Instead, Bragaw will join anchors Noreen Turyn and Len Stevens for their live election analysis on WSET ABC-13 in Lynchburg. Local coverage begins during the 5 o’clock news and continues throughout ABC’s coverage twice hourly until 12:30 a.m.

“Steve has a wealth of knowledge on the local races we’ll be covering in addition to the national races,” WSET news director, Bill Foy, said. “He’s well known for his expertise on television, radio and newspapers.”

Bragaw frequently appears on WSET and other local media outlets, and not just because of his familiarity with politics.

“He has a strong, but comfortable on-air presence,” Foy said. “His thoughts come naturally, and he expresses himself well.”

Those skills will come in handy in a news format that relies heavily on improvisation and on-the-spot analysis. Turyn knows all too well what can happen in live television when someone doesn’t think on their feet — especially during election night coverage.

She recalls one particular night in the 1990s when an inexperienced director kept pulling up the wrong graphics. Finally, all they could do was “cut to black and get out,” Turyn said. “It was a horrible mess.”

With years of news coverage under her belt, Turyn knows how to prepare for Nov. 6.

“We have been covering political stories for months, so that’s our prep and research,” she said. “We might pull up some stats or facts to have handy to fill in info … but really that night is all about what’s happening at the moment.”

And sometimes, that “moment” can turn into a marathon, as it did 12 years ago. Foy remembers it well.

“[My] most memorable was election night 2000, finally going home at 8 a.m. the next morning when it was clear we had no idea who had been elected president,” he said. “It would be thirty-five days before the courts declared [George] Bush the winner.”

With polls showing President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a dead heat in a number of states, 2012 could be another nail-biter.

“It’s about voter turnout,” Bragaw said in an interview with WSET on Friday. “Who’s actually going to show up Tuesday, and who showed up in early voting? At this point, every single person is going to count … There are three scenarios: Narrow Obama victory, narrow Romney victory, and then an unexpected, not big blowout, but an unexpected large victory for Romney — but I really don’t see a scenario where there’s an unexpected large victory for the president.”

Tune in to WSET ABC-13 at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6, for more insights from Bragaw and an in-depth analysis of local and national elections. Bragaw will also make an appearance during WSET’s 7:30 p.m. news on Monday, Nov. 5.