Trump Wants to Discredit the Election. This Nerd Could Stop Him.

A Slate headline final week put it bluntly: “The Fox News Decision Desk Controls the Fate of American Democracy.”

I spoke this previous week to Mr. Mishkin and different present and former Fox News staff about whether or not that nightmare state of affairs may play out. Somewhat to my shock, many mentioned that whereas they count on Mr. Mishkin to have to compete with Mr. Hannity and others who will echo Mr. Trump’s claims, Fox’s weird and chaotic inner politics will most likely defend him and the choice desk from any precise interference.

The downside for a meddling president is that this: If you need to communicate to Fox News — whom do you name?

Outsiders typically view Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire as a well-oiled machine, however it’s, in fact, a shambolic, shoot-from-the-hip group. These days, it appears extra like the creaky courtroom of an growing old monarch than a high-powered or environment friendly company.

It’s been unclear who’s in cost at Fox since the community’s founder, Roger Ailes, resigned in shame in 2016. Is it Mr. Murdoch, 89, who has been weathering the pandemic in his nation manor in Oxfordshire and who is commonly asleep by prime time in the United States? Or his son Lachlan, Fox Corporation’s chief govt? A greater wager could also be Mr. Dinh, the little-known however influential insider who runs Fox News’s mum or dad firm for the youthful Mr. Murdoch. Or maybe the community’s chief govt, Suzanne Scott, although Fox insiders say she has lengthy since given up on making an attempt to management her on-air expertise?

Mr. Mishkin, for his half, operates independently with an eight-man (they’re all males) group of statisticians, political scientists, pollsters and journalists. When I requested him whom he studies to, he fell silent after which tried to bear in mind who approves his bills.

“The weird thing is the decision desk doesn’t really report to anyone,” an individual aware of the operation instructed me, on the situation of anonymity in order not to be seen as undermining Fox’s makes an attempt to current itself as a traditional information group. Mr. Mishkin mentioned that executives in Fox’s management room can “kick the tires” when he makes a name. (Mr. Mishkin’s group not solely declares a winner of the presidential contest, it calls the leads to particular person states primarily based on stay vote tallies and knowledge evaluation.) Fox’s senior govt vice chairman of company communications, Irena Briganti, who participated in my name with Mr. Mishkin, mentioned the choice desk is a part of the information division.

Mr. Mishkin and Fox’s chief pollster, Dana Blanton, are a part of the wonky, reality-based group of election nerds who populate comparable choice desks and polling operations throughout the media. Mr. Mishkin and Ms. Blanton have additionally led the cost to create an alternate to conventional exit polls, the massive surveys of voters carried out earlier than and on Election Day referred to as VoteCast, in partnership with The Associated Press. The emergence of Twitter has made a lot of their work clear to anybody who desires to observe their abstruse if enthusiastic Election Day debates about historic voting patterns in key precincts in Waukesha County, Wis. And it’s clear that Fox’s operation is well-regarded by its friends.

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