CNN received a lot of praise for its "Magic Wall" technology during its 2008 coverage. And John King, who worked the touch-screen electoral maps, like no one else was rightfully celebrated in connection with it by me and many others.
So, none of this is exactly new -- except the degree to which I was newly impressed watching King and Ralph Reed Monday night at one of the electronic maps explaining the evangelical road that might lie ahead for GOP candidate Rick Santorum after tonight's Iowa caucuses.
"Dazzled" might be too strong a word, but I was reminded by the segment of what I felt watching CNN during the 2008 caucuses and primaries. And it convinced me to at least start my caucus-night viewing at CNN tonight.
Unfortunately, I can't find video of this segment. And, in fairness, even though King clearly hits a higher gear at the thought of votes being counted, a lot of the dazzle Monday came from Reed who parsed the religious beliefs in rural South Carolina counties as I have never seen them done.
Here's a bit of the transcript of their segment with lots of early references to Mike' Huckabee's performance in the GOP caucuses and primaries in 2008. After that, I enourage you to check out the video also from Monday night of King using the electoral map to make his case for Iowa as a potentially crucial "swing state" in the general election.
KING: Ralph, ... we're looking at the 2008 Iowa map here. This orange in the middle, that's Mike Huckabee. Those small, rural towns where you find the Christian conservatives, the evangelicals, and today where you find the Tea Party votes. Huckabee did that here, and he beats Romney in Iowa.
But if you come out to the map and you move on from there, you go up to New Hampshire next. You'll notice, there's not a lot of orange up there. You pull out here, Huckabee did very poorly in New Hampshire. You have independents, more moderates, more libertarians. But you don't find your Christian conservative voters here.
Now you do down in South Carolina. But even down in South Carolina last time, McCain was able to eke out a win, in large part because of Thompson's numbers.
What is the challenge? If you're viewed and identified as the Christian conservative candidate coming out of Iowa, how do you pivot into a broader-based coalition Republican candidate?
REED: Well, I think you just turned, John, talking about how he plans to do it. I mean, in Iowa, you're going to have probably tomorrow night, John, you're going to have somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of caucus attenders will be self-identified evangelicals.
When you get to New Hampshire, that number is going to fall to 12 to 17 percent. Then you have Santorum. Let's assume he does well tomorrow night. If he hangs in there in New Hampshire and puts together a credible showing, he then goes to South Carolina. And there you're going to have about 45 percent of the vote is evangelical.
Now, here's what's interesting about this historically. What would happen if a Roman Catholic, somebody who I don't know that he would self-identify this way. But a John Paul Catholic, if you would, John Paul I Catholic becomes the favorite of the evangelicals.
Now here's the danger for Santorum if we can go ahead to South Carolina. If you look at the South Carolina '08 results, what you're going to see is Huckabee losing by only 15,000 votes in a state where Fred Thompson got almost 70,000. Now what happened...
KING: Michele Bachmann will still be there waiting for him.
REED: Right. And if you look at the red up here, which is Greenville, Spartanburg, over here to the far -- my far left, that's where, that's where -- this is where Thompson -- really, essentially, I don't want to say took Huckabee.
KING: That's where he started getting the high teens.
REED: This is what Romney is hoping for. He's hoping that he can win New Hampshire. Go to South Carolina. And you'll have '08 redux. You'll have Perry, Gingrich, Bachmann and Santorum all splitting that social conservative vote.
Here's some video from King using the map to explain why Iowa matters.