Spin room experience after CNN-Tea Party debate a bit of a drag

The main reason was the lack of star power.


Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is still living down his reputation as an uninspired speaker when he was the designated Republican picked to respond to President Obama's State of the Union Address in
February of 2009. It was never completely fair, and in fact he did give a lively speech just last month in Tampa at the Republican National Committee's summer meeting.


And now he's become one of Rick Perry's leading cheerleaders, as he officially endorsed the Texas Governor on the eve of the debate (as Tim Pawlenty did for Mitt Romney). Nearly all the microphones and cameras flocked to him when he appeared in the Spin Room, sucking the oxygen and desire out of the hall for any of the other, not so well known surrogates.


To illustrated the lack of pizazz, Herman Cain eschewed any representatives and spoke for himself. Unlike with Jindal, CL might have had a chance to ask a question, since there weren't nearly that many reporters listening to the former Godfather's Pizza CEO.


CL also noticed some Florida Republicans walking around, looking for a chance to pontificate, such as Perry supporter Dean Cannon, the current Speaker of the House in Florida. We also noticed state Representative Jamie Grant, looking rather Buddha like with his new beard and long hair.


But some things don't change. One of our favorite encounters back in '07 was our exchange with Ben Ginsburg, a Romney supporter and heavyweight GOP attorney best known for his support for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, including a stint with the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth group.


With only another reporter standing between myself and Ginsberg, the action was less frenzied than the Jindal scrum to be sure. Before he would answer our question about his candidate's vulnerability on his health care plan in Massachusetts that requires an individual mandate, Ginsberg looked us over for a second before asking about about our affiliation. Once we complied he then responded to our question directly (though somewhat condescendingly) with a simple "no."


CL: "Are people going to buy it (Romney's insistence that his plan is different than President Obama's)?"


Ginsberg: "Yes."


CL: "You don't think he's vulnerable with the Tea Party folks on the individual mandate part? That seems to be something that Republican cannot stand when it's President Obama. But when it's Mitt Romney it's okay?"


Ginsberg: "You heard Rick Perry say that all states had the ability to create their solution. You heard Governor Romney point out that the number of people insured in Massachusetts is virtually everyone, about 99 percent. In Texas there are 25 percent of people who are uninsured. And the differences between ObamaCare and what Massachusetts were all pretty stark, so I sort of reject the premise of the question."


Ginsberg used that same "I reject the premise" line on the other reporter standing next to me before my query.


That same reporter then asked another question, giving me room to slip out and jam into the Jindal scrum.


Not only does the Louisiana Republican speak rapidly, but also extensively, frustrating those reporters who wanted to ask a question, but didn't really need or require such lengthy responses.


Think I'm exaggerating?


A female reporter asked him, "Would you be interested in a job in his (Rick Perry's) administration?


Jindal: "No. I've got the best job in the world. I get to be governor of the great state of Louisiana, I'm running for re-election. The reason I've endorsing Rick is I think he'll do a great job for our country. The reason I've endorsed Rick is I'm worried that under this president, our debt has now gone to $14 trillion. Under this president, all he's done is propose to raise our taxes, to spend more money, to borrow more money, to put our children further into debt. That is not sustainable. At 14 trillion dollars, that's almost $45,000 for every American. 42 cents of every dollar they spend in Washington D.C. is borrowed. He has grown the government now to almost 24 percent of the GDP.


Rick Perry understands to grow the economy, we're not going to tax, spend or borrow our way to prosperity. He has shown it in Texas. He has held the line as the first Governor in decades in texas to decrease general revenue spending. He has actually implemented aggressive tort reform-"


Female Reporter - "Not V.P. sir?'


Jindal- "No. I've got a great job in Louisiana. The reason I'm endorsing Rick. I don't want a job from Rick. What I want Rick to do is create millions of jobs in our country for my fellow Americans. I want to be the Governor of Louisiana, but I want Rick Perry to be our next President. I want President Obama to be a one term President.....".


He went on for (I kid you not) for another 88 seconds (I just checked my tape recorder).


If you're Governor Perry, however, you've gotta be thankful. That's who you want as a surrogate. After another quick question was taken up for another couple of minutes of Jindal-talk, I escaped and went looking for the next large grouping of reporters standing next to somebody who sounded or looked important.


Herman Cain in the Spin Room in Tampa
  • Herman Cain in the Spin Room in Tampa
That's when I encountered none other than Herman Cain standing on a short stage holding court with a few reporters.


The "Herminator" is talking jobs and competition. A man who says he hosts a Tea Party talk show asks Cain to tell him "the keys to righting the right: taking us right back to where the founding fathers were in the first place?"


Cain then discusses the Declaration of Independence, and how America has strayed away from that document. "The right to protect yourself, the right to protect your family."


I turned away and tried to see if there was anyone talking or saying anything of interest. I saw former Missouri Republican Senator Jim Talent sort of standing around. I ignored him, opened the curtain out, and walked through the media hall, as dozens of reporters refrained from the spin room to hurriedly tried to finish their stories by deadline.

  • Bobby Jindal regales reporters in the spin room in Tampa

When CL covered the CNN-You Tube Republican presidential debate back in late November of 2007 at St. Pete's Mahaffey Center, one of the thrills was to interview some Republican heavy hitters in the immediate aftermath of the event in what is known as the spin room, as surrogates for the individual candidates come to convince reporters hungry for a good quote why their guy or gal won the debate, or at least acquitted themselves with distinction.

So we looked forward to running around and doing the same after Monday night's CNN- Tea Party Express confab at the Florida State Fairgrounds. But the fact of the matter is that it was a relatively dud this time around.

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