Spinning in the Spin Room
Notwithstanding the drama of the ‘neck-and-neck’ race to the White House, the highlight of the 2012 presidential race, for me, was being one of the hundreds of journalists from around the world who were gathered in the “Spin Room’ during and after the third presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney in Boca Raton.
Admittedly, I was a bit miffed at first that I wasn’t to be among the higher echelon of journalists allowed into the Lynn University auditorium to actually observe the debate in person – ala Anderson Cooper or Brian Williams.
However, as it turned out, I had the best seat in the house as the ‘Spin Room’ was where all the action (and fun) took place.
I arrived about 5 p.m. to pick up my press credentials on the Lynn University campus and catch one of the several designated ‘shuttle’ buses to the site of the debate. Oh great, I thought … I have 4 long hours to kill before the debate begins – and then I have to watch it on a monitor!
Little did I know!
It began with a feast of food and drink – and I do mean drink! Since Anheuser-Busch was sponsoring the event, the complimentary beer never stopped flowing. Nor did the food. The fare included a delicious Caribbean soup (of undetermined ingredients) for starters. Next was a scrumptious Caribbean chicken salad, served inside half an edible pineapple, split length wise and packed with other goodies. That was followed by a delectable, individual round cheesecake – topped with Key Lime sauce and some sweet red stuff (?).
You could chow down outside in the Anheuser-Busch tent (where many journalists were seated watching the baseball game while they imbued, or you could bring your food into the Spin Room. I chose to do the latter.
However, there was no place to sit. At least 400, ‘early bird’ international journalists who had gotten there at 2 p.m., were seated at their laptops in a special section in the center of the school gymnasium that doubled as the Spin Room. But if you hadn’t forked over upwards of $450 to $1,000 or more for a reserved seat and hookup – you were out of luck. (That included me.)
But, ever resourceful, I attached myself to a spot in the corner of the ‘Obama Spin Stage,’ which wasn’t in use yet and empty of staff. And even though I had to shuffle around a bit when the Obama people starting setting up shop, I wasn’t disturbed all that much – and even stretched out, occasionally.
Meanwhile, all the major and local TV stations, C-SPAN and wire services had their own ‘cubicle’ and bordered the Spin Room like the ropes circling a boxing ring. As it happened, my perch on the Obama Stage was right next door to the FOX News cubicle, and during the long, long evening, I got pretty chummy with my neighbors.
In fact, I actually watched the debate from the FOX News monitor – right behind Megyn Kelly. Moreover, the next day, many of my friends and associates called to say they kept seeing me on FOX, hobnobbing with the on-camera talent, wearing my bright blue Jewish Journal cap. (Anyone for an autograph? I’m available!)
But it was until after the debate that the ‘Spin Room’ really started spinning. Out from behind a black curtain separating the FOX News cubicle from where I sat on the Obama stage (which never became active, except by people with sore feet, like me), came an army of people who filed out in single fashion carrying dozens of ‘Red’ or ‘Blue’ thick sticks with the names of VIPs on them – which were then hoisted high into the air to announce the whereabouts of a VIP and summon the press. On the heels of the pole-bearers, followed VIPS such as: John McCain; John Kerry; Robert Gibbs, Obama for America Deputy Campaign Manager; Marco Rubio (who stepped on my toe, by the way); David Axelrod; Charlie Crist, etc., etc., etc. Anybody who was anyone in the political arena had a pole, and marched behind it as the blue or red pole traveled around the ‘Spin Room,’ surrounded by a mob of journalists with TV cameras and boom microphones who shouted questions.
Even though the incredible scene unfolding before me was more exciting and entertaining viewed from my perch, I had no choice but to dive in (or push in, is more like it), as that’s why I was there in the first place.
By 12:30 a.m., I had about all the political banter and hobnobbing I could take and called it a night. To tell you the truth, even if Obama, himself, had walked into the room in the flesh (which neither he nor Romney ever did), I don’t think I could have summoned the energy to smile, or muster a ‘high-five.’
After nearly 8 hours of non-stop running around and excitement – I was pooped!
All and all, it was a night to remember. And I always will remember it – even if, in my old age, I forget who was running for president that year.
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