And the Winner Is … ?

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News networks came to different conclusions on which presidential candidate won Ohio -- the state that will likely decide the winner of the election.

Fox News Channel called Ohio for President Bush at 12:41 a.m. (EST) Wednesday, the first network to call the crucial state for Bush. NBC News called Ohio for Bush 18 minutes later. At 1:52 a.m., Cable News Network anchor Wolf Blitzer said the network had decided that Ohio was too close to call.

By 8 a.m. Wednesday, Fox News and NBC remained the only national broadcasters to call Ohio for Bush, with anchors at both networks telling viewers Bush is assured a victory in the election.

Some of the early exit-poll data gathered by the networks, which showed Kerry on his way to a victory, appeared to be inaccurate. While the networks wouldn’t officially call a winner in a state until local polls closed, some of the data were leaked to Web sites, and some anchors managed to discuss the early exit-poll numbers before local polls closed.

At 6:07 p.m., Fox News reporter Carl Cameron told viewers he ran into Kerry’s daughter, Vanessa, on an elevator. “Somebody in the elevator suggested that some of the exit-poll data was leaning toward Kerry. She clearly didn’t want to hear that,” Cameron said, noting that she ran from the elevator.

MSNBC used a similar trick at 6:22 p.m. Tuesday, as reporter Norah O’Donnell told viewers the Bush and Kerry campaigns were responding to reports on the Internet about exit-poll results.