Less than ten minutes into Fox News Channel’s coverage of the New Hampshire primary Chris Wallace reported on the controversial Dean exit poll question. According to Fox, 58% responded yes, Howard Dean does indeed “have the termperament to serve effectively as president,” while 36% responded no. Wallace elaborated that not a single person who answered in the negative had marked their ballot for Howard Dean in the voting booth.

From this exit poll data, Wallace concluded that Dean’s “I have a scream speech did real damage for him [in New Hampshire].”

Really?

Apparently, Wallace has not been reading Campiagn Desk. There was little in the exit poll data that Wallace presented to corroborate that statement. Isn’t it at all possible that some voters were turned off by Dean before Iowa?

Fortunately, this initial analysis pales in comparison to the more sound judgment Wallace presented to the viewers later in the telecast. Upon further review of the exit polling, Wallace concluded that Kerry won big in New Hampshire because he scored high marks across the board in most of the categories measured by the exit polling.

Simply, Kerry outperformed Dean because he appealed to a more diverse group of voters, not because the voters disapproved of Dean’s temperament. This second analysis is actually supported by actual exit polling data.

Had Wallace waited for the facts, he wouldn’t have had to speculate, incorrectly, about the after-effects of Dean’s post-Iowa Caucus speech.

—Thomas Lang

Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.