In the Miami spin room after the second night of debates in the 2020 Democratic primary season, everyone was a winner. At least, that’s what the candidates and surrogates on the ground would really love if you believed.
In the hours following a presidential debate, that is exactly what reporters get: some form of spin. Everyone managed to say exactly what they set out to, even if they didn’t get enough time to speak. Of course that searing criticism in front of millions of viewers wasn’t a personal attack — that type of thing.
The events are a somewhat claustrophobic affair. Reporters crush onto a stage, and follow around whichever candidate has managed to win the day (or happens to be nearby). Bernie Sanders could barely move on Thursday night. Joe Biden didn’t dare brave the crowds. The night before, Beto O’Rourke was followed closely by a swarm of reporters eager to parse the attacks he had just endured from New York mayor Bill de Blasio and former Obama-era official Julian Castro. Elizabeth Warren, the front-runner of the first night, waited until much later to make an appearnace, before attracting her own swarm of eager reporters.
Eric Swalwell was among those who attracted a moderate amount of interest in the spin room on Thursday night, where he fielded questions about Mr Biden — whom he had repeatedly said should “pass the torch” of leadership to a younger generation during the debates — and coyly declined to say the former vice president should drop out.
“No, it’s early, and I have great respect for Joe Biden, I just happen to think that what he said in 1978 is still true today,” Mr Swalwell said, referencing Mr Biden’s previous comments as a much younger man calling for passing the generational torch of leadership.
Mr Swalwell also got to clarify an aspect of his signature position, gun control.
“I’ve been on an end gun violence tour. I was recently in Chicago and Baltimore and Houston, and the issue of gun violence there is more structural, so I want to invest block by block in communities that don’t need a crime bill, they need a hope bill,” he told The Independent when asked about the differing approaches to reducing handgun crime vs assault rifle crime.
He said that investment in those communities is more necessary than taking away handguns. And then, he moved on to the next shouted question.
Amid the swirling throng of the national political press, The Independent also ran into Mariane Williamson, a self-help guru who was the most-searched for candidate via Google during the debate. Ms Williamson was standing alone for a moment, so we asked her how she would beat Donald Trump. Beating him, she said, would be take counteracting the hatred he brings to the campaign trail. “Love”, she said, is how you beat the man in the White House. No word on if love can buy campaign adverts in Iowa and New Hampshire.
While those two candidates handled the press, others got some help from some loyal surrogates.
While Beto O’Rourke was swarmed with reporters on Wednesday, his wife, Amy Hoover Sanders, stood by and watched the show.
“I’m not supposed to be doing interviews, but I’ll answer it!” Ms Sanders said when asked about her husband’s climate change policy, and whether it was rooted in a sense of responsibility to keeping the earth around for their three children.
“So, yes… Our daughter Molly, who just turned 11, is fiercely passionate about the environment, and for her that is through animals,” she continued. “And so, her life dream is to have an animal sanctuary where she is caring for rescue animals and, so, yes, that is for them, a top priority.”
Meanwhile, Washington governor Jay Inslee, who himself has attempted to brand himself as the climate change candidate, tried to explain why he had said on the debate stage that Donald Trump is the biggest threat to the US instead of global warming (Mr O’Rourke, moments later, said that Mr Inslee’s signature issue was the “existential threat” he’s most worried about).
“Because he’s the reason that climate change is such a difficulty, because he’s lying to the American people, that’s why. He is the climate change problem,” Mr Inslee said when asked to explain his choice.
And for some, the spin room was an opportunity to play down any conflicts.
“I think people saw me scrappin' trying to get into the debate, talking about the people who I’ve met with and the problems around the country, from LA to — coast to coast, north to south. So, we’ll find out,” Tim Ryan, an Ohio congressman who has struggled in the polls, told The Independent.
Do the American people want to see scrapping? “Yeah, I think so. I wasn’t mean to anybody. I was polite,” he added.
Joaquin Castro, the congressman from Texas and twin brother of candidate Julian Castro, also attempted to tamper down potential criticism that his brother had tried to pick a personal fight with Mr O’Rourke when he said the former Texas congressman-turned-presidential candidate had not done his “homework” on a US-border issue.
“This was not a personal beef with any candidate,” Mr Castro said, attempting to deflect.
The good, the bad and the ugly, anything could be explained away in the spin room.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies