Battleground states like North Carolina were the theme of the “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric” on Friday, and a battleground it seemed at times on the show's set overlooking uptown.
Couric anchored the newscast from the roof of the new four-story Charlotte School of Law, a prime vista for capturing the spires of the business district.
But the weather, seasonably gorgeous throughout the week, turned gloomy Friday and got progressively worse as the show's deadline approached.
By airtime, uptown was shrouded in curtains of mist, and remnants of rush-hour traffic hissed through wet streets nearby. What had been a light breeze began to assert itself, buffeting the 20-by-20, three-sided tent erected to cover Couric and the broadcast crew.
Her hair tossed by the elements, Couric was seated on a tall chair, her feet resting on an equipment case on the makeshift set, though viewers only saw her torso. On her lap, out of camera view, was an electric blanket. At show time, the temperature had dipped to 57.
As correspondents reported on the presidential campaigns in Florida and Virginia, Raleigh and Wilmington, the sound-track of the city revved up mischievously.
First came a train whistle shrieking from the gloom, then the steady rumble of freight cars. Next came a chorus of sirens on a nearby expressway.
“Great!” Couric called to her crew while the seconds counted down until she was to go back on camera.
“Now there's like a four-alarm fire – anything else? We got locusts?”
And then, 3-2-1, she was back on, chatting with Bob Schieffer in Washington.
Focus on Senate race
Couric interviewed Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan, combatants in North Carolina's fierce U.S. Senate race, at the Westin Hotel before the newscast.
Noting that North Carolina might tilt Democratic in the presidential race for the first time in decades, Couric observed, “Dole's biggest negative may be the R next to her name, which in this traditionally Republican state has almost become a scarlet letter.”
After letting both women exchange jabs – Hagan said Dole hadn't done much in her first term and Dole pointed to the jobs she'd help create – Couric focused on the negative tone of the Hagan campaign.
“But the Dole name and the Dole brand may neutralize the negative attacks,” she concluded, “and this steel magnolia is not about to become a shrinking violet.”
At this point, another train signaled its intention to pass and another siren howled. Then the newscast wound down.
“Thanks to the Charlotte School of Law for the beautiful if slightly foggy view of the Queen City,” said Couric, and signed off.
“Wasn't the best of circumstances,” Couric said, hurrying off the set to catch an 8 p.m. flight back to New York. “But it was a good show – all on the news.”
Next week, Couric will take the broadcast to St. Louis, looking at the battleground states of Missouri, Indiana and Ohio.
And a bit of good news is in store – the current St. Louis forecast for Monday is partly cloudy, highs in the 70s.