In the Trenches With Mark Preston: Election Overload Edition

Posted November 4, 2014 at 5:26pm

While some Washingtonians blissfully lounged around this weekend, Mark Preston, the Roll Call alumnus now serving as executive editor of CNN Politics, was in the office Saturday morning, all suited up and ready to help demystify the election projections process.  

Preston — along with other veteran CNN personalities such as omnipresent anchor Wolf Blitzer, Chief National Correspondent John King, Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist and a slew of others — was on hand for a day-long dry-run featuring every possible voting scenario political prognosticators could throw at the magic wall.  

HOH reached out to Preston about what to watch out for on election night.  

HOH : Most compelling race(s) on your radar?  

MP : Early in the night I think the focus needs to be on North Carolina and New Hampshire, which close at 7:30 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET, respectively.  

If the GOP defeats these two Democratic incumbents, then it is hard to argue that it is not going to be a good night for Republicans. Kansas offers the most suspense, because if independent Greg Orman defeats GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, the pressing question is going to be will Orman align himself with Senate Democrats or Senate Republicans?  

If Orman wins, I doubt he will show his cards Tuesday night.  

HOH : Satellite location you would have enjoyed covering?  

MP : No question, Alaska. Not only does it have one of the most competitive Senate races , but it also features a close governor’s race where independent Bill Walker and a Democrat Byron Mallott have formed a unity ticket to try and defeat GOP Gov. Sean Parnell.  

Adding intrigue to the governor’s race is that Sarah Palin has endorsed the unity ticket over Parnell, her former lieutenant governor. Alaska is the great unknown in politics; it is a difficult state to accurately poll and it will make staying up late well worth it.  

HOH : Weirdest/most surreal moment of the current cycle to date?  

MP : For me, it was a fan — and I don’t mean a political supporter, rather an electric fan. Charlie Crist wanted to have a fan positioned behind the podium at the CNN/WJXT Florida gubernatorial debate to keep him cool. No surprise, Rick Scott objected .  

As we were planning the debate early this year we decided other than a pen, pad, and a glass of water, no electronic devices would be allowed at the podiums. Crist agreed not to make an issue of the fan, but we made sure the studio was a cool as possible — at debate time it was 61 degrees. It turned out to be one of the best debates of this election cycle and both campaigns praised Jake Tapper as the moderator and WJXT’s Kent Justice for his questioning.  

HOH : Wildest campaign experience of your career?  

MP : Are you surprised it was in Florida? In 2010, during the Rick Scott-Alex Sink gubernatorial debate, Sink’s make-up artist showed her a message from a political adviser on her smartphone during a commercial break  coaching her on how to answer a question. I had to take the phone away from the make-up artist, and the incident became a major headline in the final week of the campaign.  

HOH : Follow any pre-election night rituals?  

MP : I wish I could say that I was planning a vigorous workout, but the reality is I am waiting until after Election Day to become healthy again.  

HOH : How do you plan to unwind after [so many] straight hours on the air tonight?  

MP : For the past two elections, I have worked more than 30 hours straight beginning on Election Day into Wednesday afternoon. Given the state of the lame-duck Congress and the quick turn to the 2016 presidential race, I am not sure there is going to be a chance to actually unwind.  

HOH : Will chyrons, holograms and infographics haunt your dreams whenever you do get some shut-eye?  

MP : That’s assuming we will get to sleep. There is chance we may not know which party will control the Senate … until January .  


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