OXFORD, Miss -- "The Bullet" looked downright angry with Sen. Barack Obama after Friday night's debate. Standing here in The Spin Room next to the debate auditorium, McCain strategist Steve Schmidt drew a larger clutch of reporters than other surrogates -- a vaunted list that included a former Secretary of State, several governors and even "America's mayor" -- and unloaded a double barreled attack on a "biased" press and a "shameless" Obama campaign.
"Shame on them," he thundered, striving for the higher ground against the campaign of Hope. "Shame on them!" he repeated, ticking off attacks by the Obama camp that he decried as "absolutely untrue," and blasting Obama as the gutless loser of the first debate. Obama agreed with McCain "eleven times," Schmidt said, which revealed a defensive posture.
Greg Craig, an Obama adviser who played the role of McCain during the campaign's debate prep, countered Schmidt from another corner of the room. He said that while Obama was confident enough to note where the candidates agreed, such as in assessing the Russian conflict, the "fundamental" disagreements on Middle East policy and the economy will settle the election. "I'd stack those [issues] up against 11 agreements," he added. Madeleine Albright picked up that theme, telling me that she had personal conversations with Henry Kissinger about engaging Iran at the highest diplomatic levels, which supported Obama's account during the debate.
The scene was all a bit surreal. The surrogates stood, flanked by operatives hoisting bright oversized campaign signs (Schmidt! Craig!) to draw in reporters, who then transmited the barbs back and forth. As this ritual played out inside, Obama jovially boarded his campaign bus and fist-bumped an aide, according to a pool report. A TV inside the bus was tuned to pundits parsing the debate on CNN, so Obama watched the scene unfolding back inside The Spin Room as he headed for Memphis.