The evening of Oct. 15 marked not only the final debate of the long presidential campaign, but also the last installment of the now time-honored tradition of the post-debate spin room.
Last night, as reporters bounced dutifully between the little clusters around the yellow square signs identifying backers of McCain and the blue rectangular banners above the heads of Obama supporters, they’d heard practically everything the two camps had said before. But some remarks were notable nonetheless, if only for their sheer spinniness.
Some highlights follow.
Here’s Obama campaign manager, David Plouffe, a talking campaign memo, on where the campaign goes from here:
“We want to hold down all of the Kerry states. The first thing we have to do is lock them down.”
He also said the campaign was considering redirecting resources to such long-shot traditionally Republican states as West Virginia and Kentucky. “We’re playing a lot of offense.”
Senator Chuck Schumer said John McCain’s strategy was out of touch.
“The days of an Ayers issue mattering are over.”
He said he was “amazed” that McCain stayed with that line of attack even though “the polls show it is a loser.”
And he mocked McCain’s “Joe the plumber” debate theme.
“The Ronald Reagan era is over,” he said, adding that McCain was “missing the boat. As admirable as Joe the plumber might be.”
Schumer also said that from the beginning, he thought McCain would make a lousy candidate.
“He is not an empathetic person and he does not have a personality people gravitate towards.”
Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota said he “respectfully disagreed with Senator Schumer.”
“It’s going to be remembered as the Joe the plumber debate,” he said, asserting that Barack Obama “wants to cap the Amerian dream and to keep Joe the plumber from his American dream.”
“The debate was a good debate,” he added. “McCain won.”
Obama adviser and former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle had an alternate take:
“Barack Obama was at his best and looked presidential. John McCain looked angry.”
McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, anxiously tapping a rolled-up document on his leg, called Obama slippery.
“The American people see through it. He wasn’t definitive on anything.”
When pressed by reporters as to why the candidates on the McCain ticket were bothering making appearances in traditionally Republican states like North Carolina, Davis finally relented and said, “There’s no question that we’re going to a battleground that they created in that state.”
Then he tried to refocus on the debate.
“We went right at Barack Obama,” he said, adding, “We pressed him, and every time he retreated, and that is a metaphor for this night.”
He refused to rule out continuing to make William Ayers a focal point in the race: “We’re going to talk about things that make the contrast.”
A few feet away, and surrounded by a much bigger circle of reporters, Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, responded to Davis’ assertion that it was a good idea for the McCain campaign to keep attacking Obama. “I have to agree with him,” he said.
Then he referred to a New York Times poll that showed about two-thirds of those surveyed found McCain’s attacks counterproductive. “His goal seemed to be tonight to persuade the other one third.”