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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Top Things I Learned In The Hofstra Debate Spin Room

Last night was my first-ever opportunity to cover a Presidential debate on-site from the  "media center" more commonly  known as the spin room.

When I settled into my assigned aisle seat in the spin room a full six hours before the debate I first saw a curtain on my left  forming a hallway which at first I believed was to hide luminaries from sight as they walked in and out of the Fox News staging area. I learned later in the night it was a staging area for the "spinners."

 To my right was a row of 32 other credentialed reporters and pundits sitting at the long dais-like table. There are twenty other rows just like mine.  In front of the desks was an open area, where the campaign spokespeople did their best to make the cases of their candidate. 

For a few seconds sitting at that desk, I had a flashback of forty-years-ago sitting in the Oceanside High School gym with hundreds of others, sitting in small desks lined up in rows taking our SAT exams.

This thankfully was a learning, rather than a testing experience and almost immediately the lessons began to sink in. Here are some of the lessons picked up last night, lessons you will not learn anywhere else.
  • The spin starts hours before the debate. By 5 pm the politicians were congregating in the spin area trash talking their opponents.  
  • Candy Crowley may be a stalker. When I returned to my MacBook after listening to the pregame spin, this is what I saw on my desktop.

It was a bit unsettling to find that the debate moderator was trying to share her MacBook with me, especially one who had a stripper-name like Candy Crowley.
  •  Even the Liberal media can be snarky about President Obama. Near the beginning of the debate, when Obama brought up "Big Bird" there was an audible groaning and giggles from the long rows of tables in the media center.  There was also laughter when Obama brought up his mother a few questions later.
  • Reporters ARE Vultures: In the back of the Media Center was a little hospitality area serving water, soda, fruit and brownies.  Every time they restocked the food and drink it disappeared faster than a cloaking devise erases a Klingon War Bird. 
  •  Alan Colmes is a Star! No really! He had to be a star because when he wasn't on TV he was wearing sunglasses in the very well lit media center.
  • I love a parade! During the final question of the debate, from out of the curtained-off area on my left and a similar area to the right marched each side's spinners.  Every spin-mester had a campaign assistant in front of them carrying a long sign with the name of the speaker on an appropriate covered background, Democrats-blue, Republicans-red.  Also appropriate was that the blue signs came out from the left-side curtains, the reds from the right.
The scene looked almost like a civil war reenactment. The members of each party and their flag-bearers marched out along their respective sides in perfect lock-step. When they got to the spin area they stopped faced each other and mixed it up. It was an impressive display.
  • Stephen Green The Vodka Pundit must have pressed that big blue button that blows up Pajamas Media.  As some of you know I was live-blogging the spin room reactions for PJM Tatler.  At one point, my posts were not going through and every time I went to the PJM posting page I got an error message. Angrily I kept running over to the Hofstra tech guys asking why their Wi-Fi wasn't working. The internet started working again after a half-hour.  It wasn't till after the debate I was told that PJM had crashed.  Obviously my buddy Stephen who was doing a great job drunk-blogging the debate on PJM site must have touched that button they warned us over and over again not to touch!
  • Its Not Just the TV-makeup: Guys Its true--Fox News' Megyn Kelly is just as hot in person as she is on TV.
  • Does anybody like George Pataki? The bigger the name, the bigger the crowd of reporters gravitating to them.  I looked toward former NY Governor Pataki and he was standing alone, no reporters, just George, his sign-bearer and his comb-over. Even Rick Lazio who hasn't been in office since he lost his Senate battle to Hillary Clinton 12 years ago, had a crowd.
  • Budweiser is EVERYWHERE! For those who think companies such as Apple Computer and Walmart control the world, they are wrong.  Not only did Anheuser Busch serve food, beer and other soft drinks to reporters, but there were Budweiser signs all over the press room (fittingly the biggest sign was right above the doors which led to the rest rooms).
There was much more learned in last night's debate as reflected in some of the articles to be posted here during the next few days featuring interviews with media personnel and spin-meisters. Stay tuned. 



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