If, as some people believe, Tuesday’s election will be a deadlock, a split decision, or something close to it, it won’t be the first time. There was 2000, of course, but on the morning of Wednesday, November 6, 1968, it looked like something similar was going to happen. The Wisconsin State Journal‘s 3AM Election Extra banners the headline, “Humphrey, Nixon, Deadlock in Electoral Vote Battle,” with the subhead, “Presidential Choice to go to U.S. House.” It ultimately did not, of course, but it must have been mighty dramatic there for a while.
I would have been asleep long before the 3AM extra came out, although I do remember watching Walter Cronkite on Election Night 1968, probably this very part of the broadcast, which ran starting at 6:30 in the evening.
Because we often do a Top 5 on Friday, let’s look at the newspapers for the next four Election Day mornings-after. To give it a musical angle, let it be remembered that on Election Day 1968, the #1 song in America in both Billboard and Cash Box was “Hey Jude.”
On Wednesday, November 8, 1972, the State Journal puns, “Nixon Makes It, Perfectly Clear: McG Yields in Landslide for President.” On the sports page, Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds is named National League MVP for the second time in three years. The sports section is crowded with ads for tire stores as winter approaches. You could get yourself a set of snow tires for as little as $18 each. Top song in Billboard: “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash; in Cash Box, “Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues.
On Wednesday, November 3, 1976, the headline is “Carter close victor: Democrat takes Wisconsin.” On other critical questions of the day, Madison voters approved an advisory referendum legalizing marijuana by about 300 votes out of 77,000 cast, although a referendum on decriminalization passed by nearly 21,000. On that Wednesday night, TV viewers could watch a Walter Cronkite CBS post-mortem on the returns, or Charlie Angels on ABC at the same time. Top song in Billboard: “If You Leave Me Now” by Chicago; in Cash Box, “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees.
(I don’t remember watching the returns in 1972, but in 1976, I remember staying up very late to watch Cronkite again. I can’t find CBS coverage from 1976 on YouTube, but there’s this bit of video from ABC with Harry Reasoner, Howard K. Smith, and Barbara Walters, all splashy bright colors and rounded corners. All that’s missing is some shag carpet. Trivia: in 1968, presidential election chronicler Theodore White was an analyst on CBS; eight years later, he’s on ABC.)
On Wednesday, November 5, 1980, the State Journal‘s headline is simply “Reagan landslide.” A story down the page is headlined “Kasten heads toward upset.” The night before, I had been on the air at my college radio station, playing tunes between the election reports. Long after everything else was decided, we stayed on the air waiting for a resolution of the U. S. Senate race between Republican challenger Robert Kasten and liberal titan Gaylord Nelson. Seems to me it was 3AM or better before we gave up and went home. We awoke the next morning (afternoon, more likely—who needed to go to class, anyhow?) to find that Kasten had defeated the three-term incumbent. Top song in Billboard and Cash Box: “Woman in Love” by Barbra Streisand.
(The 1980 election was my first presidential election. Because I considered Carter a failure and Reagan a dope, I voted for independent John Anderson.)
I would not have seen the State Journal on Wednesday, November 7, 1984. Married about a year-and-a-half, The Mrs. and I were living in small-town Illinois. And it’s probably just as well, given the State Journal‘s smirking headline: “Reagan: 49! Mondale 1?” It was the first election in which I knew for sure that I was a Democrat, and I voted for Walter Mondale even though I knew he had no chance to defeat Reagan. I don’t remember being involved in my radio station’s election coverage that night, although we would have watched on TV, there in our little one-bedroom basement apartment. Somebody blowing off election coverage in Madison to go to the movies could have seen The Terminator, Amadeus, Teachers, All of Me, or the X-rated Centerspread Girls at the Cinema Theater (now a respectable concert venue known as the Barrymore). Top song in Billboard: “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean; in Cash Box, “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder.
Now, we await the headlines on the morning after in 2012. Perhaps like we wait for a colonoscopy or a painful dental procedure, but we wait nevertheless. (For more old clips from election night TV, click here.)