The Slatest

I Figured Out Why Steve Kornacki Is Great

Steve Kornacki points to numbers on a screen during MSNBC's election coverage.
Steve Kornacki in the zone. Screengrab from MSNBC

At 5 a.m. on the East Coast, having not yet gone to sleep out of some cursed combination of despair and hopefulness, I winced at the sight of a shift change on MSNBC: Katy Tur and Ayman Mohyeldin were out, the Morning Joe crew was in. I’d never seen Morning Joe, and I felt good about that. I did not want to see Morning Joe, now or ever. But the TV was still on, as it had been all night, and I could not muster the strength to turn it off. I felt despondent … until I noticed that my good friend Steve Kornacki (we do not know each other) was still with me. And then I felt better.

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Steve Kornacki, indefatigable MSNBC numbers guy, was on my TV screen early Tuesday night, finger-tapping his way through the GOP-heavy vote in Florida. Steve Kornacki, sleeves on his white button-down rolled up to just below his elbows, was cruising along just before 1 a.m. Eastern, giving me the mathematical goods on the outstanding ballots in Georgia. And you better believe that Steve Kornacki was awake, still wearing a shirt, and remarkably coherent after 4 a.m., waiting up with me for the Wisconsin vote.

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CNN’s John King, he of the alleged “magic wall,” had long since packed up his touch screen and gone home. Steve Kornacki would never. There were ballots to be counted, numbers to compare, electoral vote counts to telestrate, a nation to soothe.

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In a medium that prizes empty rhetoric, Kornacki is unfailingly clear about what he knows, what’s possible for anyone to know, and what’s a total guess. He’s careful and wise, the kind of guy you’d want assessing what’s wrong with your fan belt, your nuclear reactor, or your representative democracy.

Kornacki isn’t just competing with his fellow cable news numbers gurus. As I watched those sleeves dance across a blue-and-red flat-screen, I was also scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on Twitter. Kornacki was, at times, a bit behind the news on my feed. But on a night in which the results laid out before us too often misrepresented the facts on the ground, Kornacki never led me astray. That’s because he tends to underplay his knowledge, while the internet’s elections gurus too often overplay theirs. Actually, let me run that analysis through my proprietary internet election guru assessment model. What I meant to say is that there’s a 90 percent chance that the internet’s elections gurus overplay their knowledge. But only an idiot would forget that there’s a 9 percent chance that they actually underplay their knowledge, plus a 1 percent chance that they overplay and underplay their knowledge by the exact same amount. Obviously.

If, like me, you’re hoping like hell for Donald Trump’s demise, the results Kornacki shared on MSNBC were occasionally dispiriting. But they never felt grasping or faux-precise. Kornacki was standing by his screen all night, telling me what he thought he knew and what he thought I needed to hear. And when I woke up, after napping for a few fitful hours, he was somehow still there, the exact same guy in the exact same outfit with the exact same steady approach.

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