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In Praise of MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki

The man, nay, the machine, that is Steve Kornacki. Photo: MSNBC

It’s the day after the most important midterm election of our lifetimes and I don’t know what to make of our democracy, but I know this much: MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki is the GOAT of election night coverage.

Kornacki is the network’s wonky, bright-eyed, wildly eager analyst who uses the world’s biggest iPad to break down election results across America on a incredibly granular level. If you asked me to find Iowa on a map on national television in a high-stress situation, there’s a strong chance I would not be able to do it. Kornacki not only can electronically parachute right into the Hawkeye State, but zoom straight to the Fourth District to show us the margin by which a racist anti-Semite like Republican representative Steve King is somehow still winning his House race. The information makes me weep for what certain pockets of this country are willing to endorse, but the fact is that Kornacki is able to deliver it readily and knowledgeably.

Look, I tried to watch other board guys do their thing, by which I mean I watched a bit of John King, who does the Kornacki swipe-and-dissect routine for CNN. (I never got around to switching over to Fox News on Tuesday night because: self-care.) King is solid: He’s confident, he knows his stuff, and he clearly has a flair for what people in the election-results game call “banging the glass.” (Note: Nobody calls it that.) But he’s not Kornacki, who, even at his most chill, looks like he’s ready to volunteer to take the AP Government exam for everyone in his class just, you know, to raise their grades and help ’em out a little.

He is always either half-smiling or totally beaming while flicking his way through a series of “too close to calls” or explaining why Loudoun County, Virginia, is electorally important, and his teeth are never less than Crest White Strips perfect. The sleeves of his button-down shirt are, without fail, rolled up to the elbow. He’s an affable graduate school professor on the outside, and full Hermione Granger on the inside. The dude knows how to find the answer to every election night question and, if pressed, could probably find a couple of Horcruxes, too. (Their location is surely embedded that map somewhere.)

Throughout the evening on Tuesday, Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow would often just toss out races at him —“Pull up the Georgia governor’s race! Now check on Oregon!” — as if they were testing him to see how fast his fingers could fly from one side of the country to the other. A couple of times his board failed him, and while he kept his cool, you could tell that internally, he was going full Lewis Black on his technology. But nine-and-a-half times out of ten, he dug right into the requested data and provided helpful political context about every single random county in every conceivable state in this maddeningly polarized nation. Most Americans can barely remember who their senators are; Kornacki can tell you off the top of his head how right- or left-leaning some random pocket of Pennsylvania is. I firmly believe that on some future election night, he will zoom that map all the way in to your household and explain how you and everyone in your family voted, as well as how that lines up with the number of votes they cast for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He may not even need to zoom into the map to explain it. Steve Kornacki probably already knows.

Before Tuesday’s marathon of coverage even began, Jezebel had declared Kornacki “the only good thing about election night,” praising him for explaining America’s electoral dysfunction in “easy to chew, bite-sized pieces with a touch of absolute fucking chaos.” But last night, MSNBC took things to another level. They had a camera devoted solely to his section of the MSNBC set, and they dubbed it the Kornacki Cam. Williams referred to him deferentially as both “Coach K” and “the hardest-working man in show business.” The dude had at least four battery packs hooked into the back of his belt. One of them was probably for his mic. What were the other ones for? Damned if I know. Probably whatever energy source gives him life?

Williams also joked at one point that they were going to use a commercial break to change Kornacki’s SIM card, implying that the man is an actual machine, and honestly, I buy that. If Steve Kornacki is a robot, please HBO: Make a show about that version of Westworld.

When I woke up this morning, I turned on MSNBC and was disappointed that Kornacki wasn’t still standing there in his khaki pants, in front of that board, explaining results that often defy all sense and reason. (Again, I say to you, Iowa: How did you reelect Steve King?!) Alas, apparently he has to sleep. Or at least that’s what MSNBC wants us to believe.

I don’t have full confidence in where this country is headed or what might happen in the 2020 election. But I do believe 100 percent in Steve Kornacki, the Prince of Election Night Swiping and King of Lickety-Split Political Party Data Analysis.

In Praise of MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki