The Democrat spin doctors have made a giant leap forward in their efforts towards controlling the argument over who wins debates. If Republicans hope to prevent the same kind of spin that stole victory from McCain in the first presidential debate from occurring again after the Vice Presidential debate, they are going to have to embrace the same tactics and technologies the democrats have or they will continue to find their candidates coming up short in post debate analysis.
During the hours that followed Friday's debate the more keen observer may have taken notice of the same scenario playing out again and again across all the major television outlets. "It's like they have the place bugged," a McCain aide said at the time.
So what did happen? Truthfully, only insiders can know for sure, but here is what we surmised from observing the comments and responses from pundits on both sides on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC in the minutes and hours that followed Election 2008's first presidential debate.
Imagine if you will a smoke filled room. In the center of this room is a large conference table around which sits the most elite, behind-the-scenes, Democrat strategists. They sit quietly in observance as the debate unfolds on the countless TVs that line the walls of their makeshift debate war room.
As they watch, they take notes; recording points for and against their candidate, much as they have done in past debates. This time is different, however. Each participant has with them the latest in communication technologies: Internet connected laptops, cell phones, and Black Berries.
As the debate comes to a close they've already determined their first talking points, as have their Republican counter-parts. The emails and phone calls begin going out.
The same scene is now playing out on all the television sets around the world. The station anchors begin immediate analysis. It went pretty much the same regardless of the channel, "Both candidates seemed very flat in the beginning when they were discussing the economy. By the time the subject of foreign policy came up, McCain was hitting his stride." "The way McCain spoke about this foreign place and that and this foreign leader and that was very impressive. He really scored points there."
The strategists in the debate war room begin formulating their coordinated responses. In the past they would have had to wait for a break in the action to furiously make phone calls to their pundits on TV to relay the official talking points, but not this time. The strategists begin sending out emails, text messages, and even tweets to the pundits who can quitely view them, even while on live television.
Nearly every Democrat pundit on every station receives the news simultaneously. Their responses begin filling the air waves. "McCain needed a big win and he just didn't get it."
Of course, the truth is McCain didn't need a big win. The polls indicated the race was a virtual dead heat and since 2004 the American people have been hearing about what a great speaker Obama was, how he was the head of his class in Harvard, and the smartest man in the room. If anyone needed a clear victory it was Obama. But the truth rarely matters to the spin doctor.
The anchors move on to the other details of the debate. "The thing we noticed was Obama agreed with McCain 8 separate times and McCain said Obama was wrong 7 times." "Obama kept calling Sen. McCain 'John' while McCain called him Senator Obama. Was that a sign of disrespect by Obama?"
Again the strategists got to work and the message was out in record time. The identical responses came quickly all across the dial. "Absolutely not. If anything Obama calling him John just shows his willingness to work with the other side and cross party lines. While McCain's refusal to look at Obama shows he is incapable of crossing those lines."
Americans know that accusation is blatantly false. McCain's been labeled as the maverick of the senate for a reason, but again truth rarely matters. The message is going out quickly and effectively. The Republican strategists, still clinging to outdated methods, are losing the argument.
By two hours into the analysis, the very quick and organized responses from the Democrat strategists have changed a consensus victory for McCain into one for Obama. The anchors have gone from talking about how impressive McCain's knowledge of foreign policy was to how he supposedly wouldn't look at Obama. It didn't matter that McCain was addressing the American people who were watching the debate on TV.
As of now the latest polls have showed a significant move towards Obama. The new age of spin had been effectively employed by the Democrats far better than even they could have expected. They controlled every aspect of the after debate analysis. Their message flowed smoothly from war room to TV, from TV to the blogs, from the blogs to the world in a matter of seconds and minutes.
The Republicans, if they hope to counteract this flow in future elections, are going to have to get organized and get organized quickly. They are going to have to embrace the same web 2.0 technologies that have made social networking a wide spread phenomenon so that they too can get their message distributed to their spokesmen as quickly as the Democrats have displayed they can.