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TV News Shows Saw Romney Victory Coming, But Couldn't Quite Say It

An event like tonight's New Hampshire primary provides a nearly perfect opportunity to capture the dance of the seven veils.

That is, at 7 p.m. EST, on TV, there was a veil ever so slightly sheathing the results in New Hampshire.

The political press felt confident — dead certain, actually — that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would win the primary in the neighboring state by a comfortable margin. Most polls closed statewide by 7 p.m. — but as a smattering would not close until 8 p.m., no one reported the final verdicts, despite having a strong sense from exit polls.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow led coverage as she acknowledged that the overwhelming number of the votes had been cast, but directing traffic as though they had not. Her largely liberal panel dwelled heavily, at times almost hopefully, on the possibility that a Nevada billionaire who was spending $5 million on ads against Romney on Newt Gingrich's behalf could further bankroll the anti-Romney effort.

Over on Fox, Shepard Smith impishly got to the point a few minutes past 7 p.m., asking Carl Cameron: "Is Mitt Romney running away with this thing?"

Fox soon turned its eye over to Gingrich himself. As The New York Times' David Carr tweeted: "Fox News goes deep on Newt's personal life, the good, the bad, the marital do-overs." That of course, is former House Speaker (and formerly a paid Fox News analyst) Newt Gingrich.

As the minutes clicked down, TV anchors increasingly shed inhibitions.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer stood before giant digital screens as the seconds dwindled to the single digits — and Romney was declared the projected winner the moment the last polls closed.

CNN later showed footage of members of Jon Huntsman's family milling about his war room. The Republican candidate and former Utah governor smiled, seeing himself on TV — and Blitzer seized the opportunity to point out that he was tuned to CNN, in a case of classic symbiosis.

Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews underscored Romney's one-two punch in Iowa and New Hampshire: "Winning two — the first two — it's going to be very hard for people to come back from."

It was past 8 p.m. EST. The dance was over. The veil had fallen away.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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