Martin Plissner, one of the pioneers of modern day campaign and election coverage, died Thursday at the age of 87. A generous and kind man known as simply “Marty,” Plissner was the driving force behind revolutionary changes in television network coverage of the political process.
As the longtime executive political director for CBS News, he coined the term “too close to call” and helped create the election night experience that generations of Americans know today. In the process, he spawned an entirely new way for television to cover politics, one fusing intimate connections with campaigns and pure metrics from public opinion polling and exit poll data.
Plissner was also quick to go against the conventional wisdom and speak clearly. In the wake of the contested 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, he criticized the Electoral College system, simply saying, “it’s clearly wrong” that the candidate who got the most votes didn’t win. “When something like that happens, people react, they feel strongly about it.”
His most enduring legacy, though, may be the hundreds of young people he influenced throughout his career who continue to carry out the lessons he taught about political reporting: Fairness, perseverance and, most importantly, adherence to the facts.
Saddened by his passing, I am also thankful to have been one of those many young men and women who were fortunate to call Marty a friend and mentor.
You can read more about Marty here. And watch Chuck Todd’s remembrance below.