Politico on TV: Winning way to get inside Election 2012 tonight

Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen

Outside of CNN's performance on the night of Iowa caucuses, no one's election-related TV coverage excited me as much as that provided by Politico last week on Super Tuesday.

I heard and saw it on C-SPAN radio and TV. Politico had been streaming such coverage, but Super Tuesday was the first time it was carried nationally by C-SPAN.


The good news, Politico will be back on C-SPAN tonight with Campaign 2012 coverage starting at 7 p.m. Politico's HD livestream coverage starts at 6:30.

If you have not see it, you have not seen how smart, informed and savvy election night coverage can be. This is TV political coverage that the consultants haven't turned into a suburban cocktail party with dull, boring hosts showing off their new flat screen -- or a gathering of party operatives (think Sean Hannity and Lawrence O'Donnell) serving up ideology and spin instead of down-the-middle information and original analysis.  Here's my review of the political powerhouse's Super Tuesday coverage.


Having spent the last five days crashing a Sunday magazine cover story that won't run for weeks, I feel like the guy who is asked, "Where have you been, under a rock?" when it comes to most of the latest breaking media news.

The magazine story subject matter is great stuff -- no complaints from me. It involves a set visit to HBO's new satire "VEEP" that includes interviews with Armando Iannucci, of "In The Loop" fame, Frank Rich, the New York magazine writer-at-large who is an executive producer on the series, and star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

If you love politics, TV and culture, this is as good as it gets. Iannucci created the series. Louis-Dreyfus plays a U.S. senator who finds herself vice president of the United States. The show debuts April 22.

I got a late start on writing the magazine story because of the half dozen pieces I had done through Monday on HBO's "Game Change," which also filmed in Baltimore. HBO sent me a screener of "Game Change" on Feb. 14, and it feels like I have been writing about the film non-stop since.

But I am trying this weekend to at least briefly mention some of the more important media moments last week that would have normally been treated here at Z on TV. And one that I really enjoyed involved Politico's TV coverage of Super Tuesday.

I am not going to go on and on because I need some R & R this weekend. So, I urge you to watch some of the video below courtesy of C-SPAN  and judge for yourself.

Politico has been streaming such coverage online, I'm told, but this is the first time C-SPAN carried it to a national TV and radio audience. I heard some of it on the radio driving home from the office about 10 p.m., and was instantly hooked by the pace, energy, edge and intelligence of the conversation. (Think of an Aaron Sorkin "West Wing" script when it was cooking.)

When I got home, I watched Politico on C-SPAN, and thought I had died and gone to a heaven where television provided smart, savvy, real, semi-raw election night coverage again -- like CBS News in the glory years but without anchormen acting pompous or saying crazy faux-folk stuff that only people in Texas were supposed to understand.

What a delight. I loved the energy of Jim VandeHei, one of Politico's founders, and the urgency of star reporter Mike Allen. I relished the consistently smart and original analyses served up by Maggie Haberman without one ounce of anchordesk diva-osity.

(If you are wondering what bubbleheaded anchordesk diva-osity is, check out Fox's Megyn Kelly who on the night of Iowa caucuses, clearly didn't understand the vote totals she was reporting with such an air of falsely informed confidence. Read that here.)

I swear, as much as I like CNN when it is on its game and the real political reporters and analysts aren't forced to trip over the mainly-useless Erin Burnett and Piers Morgan on an incredibly crowded set, I never thought once about going back to CNN when VandeHei, Haberman and Allen were firing away.

I just read an interview in which VandeHei promises more Politico TV productions, and I hope C-SPAN is smart enough to provide national distribution for them on major political nights.


And most of all, I hope they keep it semi-raw. I hope VandeHei keeps waving his hands all over the place, and doesn't let any consultant convince him he has to keep them folded like an undertaker on the desk in front of him.

And keep the inside stuff (and jokes) about political coverage and the media coming. I loved hearing VandeHei & Company wondering on-air why Jonathan Martin's analysis piece on election results was not yet posted on the website.

After explaining that there were some issues with getting through to Martin who was working out of hotel room in Boston, they decided to play a game in which each of the Politico team wrote a line of Martin's story for him. They did this on-air, and it was wonderful -- full of their keen insights into the day's vote totals, but also a real sense of newsroom humor and attitude.

How good was it? After 14 frustrating hours of working on a magazine story and leaving the office feeling as if I still didn't have a lead worthy of the subject matter, hearing and seeing Politico's Super Tuesday coverage made me happy and proud to be a journalist.

As flawed and even pathetic as the GOP candidates might seem, and as dirty as the game is already being played by both parties in 2012, it made me believe that with reporters and editors like this covering the election, democracy would be served. Here's hoping millions of viewers get the chance to see Politico on TV in 2012.

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