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Wisconsin Senate Vote takes Cable Nets by Surprise

Three weeks of political discord in Wisconsin came to a surprising head tonight.

“A FOX urgent now from Wisconsin where republicans apparently are trying to do an end run around democrats,” said Jon Scott on FNC 7:19pmET. By 7:30pm the vote had occurred. With democratic senators still out of the state, Wisconsin’s GOP-led senate passed restrictions on collective bargaining for public employees. FNC’s Scott, along with Mike Tobin from Madison, reported the news of the vote, while the revolt was beginning outside. “Listen closely, you can probably hear the demonstrators outside of the senate chambers,” said Tobin.

CNN’s John King reported the news at 7:41 and the coverage continued into the 8pm hour on “In the Arena.”

MSNBC was first to report the news at 6:45pm that a vote was going to occur. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reporting from Madison, telling Cenk Uygur that a “moderate republican told me that the governor had met with his republican conference in the senate this afternoon and all but locked in a compromise with the unions on the subject of collective bargaining but that the hard liners among senate republicans decided a short time ago to have a vote anyway.”

Chris Matthews broke in to his taped edition of “Hardball” at 7:48 after the vote had happened, and was joined by Ed Schultz: “Chris, we are on the verge of a legal battle in Wisconsin of epic proportion,” Schultz predicted. The coverage continued through the 8pm hour with Lawrence O’Donnell and into the 9pm hour with Rachel Maddow who called the vote “a desperation move.” Maddow spoke with filmmaker Michael Moore in studio who’d led a rally in Madison on Saturday.

By 10pm, Fox News anchor and Wisconsin native Greta Van Susteren reported, “guards have given up guarding the main entrance to the Wisconsin state capitol. Thousands are pouring into the capitol and those who can’t get in are taking to the streets.”

On his MSNBC show at 10pm, Schultz spoke with 10 of the so-called Wisconsin 14 democratic senators. They vowed to return to Wisconsin, “but not tomorrow.”

And while the story was front and center on Fox News and MSNBC for much of the night, CNN’s Anderson Cooper chose a different lead at 10pm: “We begin with direct evidence that Moammar Gadhafi is killing civilians,” said Cooper who spent 38 minutes on the situation in Libya, before reporting the news from Wisconsin.

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