Around 7 p.m. Pacific last night, the light of political reality was beginning to dawn on Fox News. The cast on set was already looking uneasy when anchor Megyn Kelly noted that "the polls are turning out to be pretty accurate."
By the polls she meant those things that the right-wing spent so much energy attacking, frequently on her show.
That's when the crepe hanging began.
For lo and behold, the faith-based Mitt Romney surge in swing states oft prophesied in the Fox News Channel (FNC) echo chamber simply wasn't materializing. Barack Obama certainly wasn't blowing Romney away, but the exit polls mirrored the credible (i.e., non-Rasmussen) public polls and the raw vote was tracking with the exit polls.
Former anchor-turned-senior pundit Brit Hume said that maybe they had figured the ideology angle wrong.
He had figured, he explained, that in an electorate which identifies itself as "Twenty-two percent liberal, 35 percent conservative, and 40 percent moderate" that Obama was in deep trouble. Because Obama is such a super-liberal kind of guy. But no.
It turns out, Hume ruefully opined, that "a lot of those moderates are pretty liberal."
Oh, and that 7-point Democratic edge in partisan ID used in the polls they'd been bashing so hard? Well, that turned out to be about right.
After that, Sarah Palin popped on the screen, satelliting in from Alaska.
All these attacks against Romney for his role in Bain Capital, for opposing the auto industry bailout, they, well, they worked.
Who could ever have imagined that?
I channel-surfed off and got caught up in conversations.
But a half-hour later, there was ex-Reagan speechwriter-turned-Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Just the day before the election, she had written a column insisting that Romney's victory was inevitable.
"While everyone is looking at the polls and the storm," she had proclaimed, "Romney's slipping into the presidency. He's quietly rising, and he's been rising for a while."
My prediction, incidentally, five-and-a-half days before the election, was victory for Obama.
Noonan had been a big faith-based poll basher, too, writing of "the real distortion of the polls this year: They left us discounting the world around us."
Last night she finally blinked and glimpsed a different world than the one she had imagined.
"This cake may have been baked a while ago," she said, looking as though she had just eaten a slice and found it rancid. Noonan had extolled Romney's debating prowess (which in reality was far more in evidence in the first debate than in the next two) in heroic terms. But that was then. "The closing arguments when we look back at the history of this," she said, "may not have mattered much."
To borrow an old line from Robin Williams: "Reality. What a concept."
But reality still eluded one of the biggest names on Fox.
You may have heard about Karl Rove's antics last night.
At 8:13 p.m. Pacific, Fox News called Ohio, and with it the presidency, for Obama. Within a couple of minutes, Rove made a remarkable spectacle of himself.
Fox had him in studio as an on-air analyst. Which was weird enough, since Rove is not really an analyst at all but a very self-interested right-wing fundraiser and power broker running a network of super PACs pushing Romney and other conservative campaigns. Rove raises mega-bucks from the mega-rich for his very lucrative political schemes and is certainly not interested in having his plans look bad. It might make his patrons think they've been had, big time.
So he literally tried to talk Fox into withdrawing the Ohio projection, arguing that he had superior knowledge of Ohio.
Since Rove is supposedly one of the ultimate political gurus, this resulted in the bizarre sight of anchor Kelly dutifully walking down to the boiler room to talk to the numbers geeks to see if they would back their call against that of Saint Karl. All of this live on air.
They most certainly would back their call, and proceeded to do so with a certain vehemence, "with all due respect to Karl." They were right. Obama is up in Ohio by over 100,000 votes.
Yet Rove persisted. So the producers had Michael Barone, once the seemingly dispassionate publisher of The Almanac of American Politics who, in the age of Obama, has become a vociferous anti-Democrat, come on the set to convince Rove that the Ohio call was probably right.
Which had its own inherent comedy, since Barone was another right-wing pundit who had just predicted an easy Romney victory.
Rove's antics, of course, reminded me of what he said in 2008 when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. I saw Rove going on about what a great and inspired pick Palin was, how she had a great deal of experience, how she had been mayor of a major city in Alaska ... Say what?
Having actually been to Wasilla, Alaska, population 7800, I guffawed.
Rove simply didn't know what he was talking about.
It will be interesting to see if Fox keeps inviting Rove back to shill for his own big money ventures.
But not nearly as interesting as seeing political reality dawn on the mother set of the right-wing echo chamber.
We'll see how long reality's light shines on FNC now that the Republicans have to re-think their drink for 2016.
Will Fox keep telling its core audience what it dearly wants to hear? Or will it open things up to foster a modern Republican Party that is not against the Enlightenment?
To borrow another old line: "We report, you decide."
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.