BROOKLYN, New York – There was no debate here Thursday night, but there was a spin room.
On the night of the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election, the campaign of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton took the unusual step of inviting reporters to their campaign headquarters here as 40 campaign staffers eagerly pored over the debate in another room.
“Hillary Clinton wasn’t on the stage, but we think she was the clear winner,” said Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri after the debate, which was dominated by Donald Trump. “We think this was a really destructive night for the Republican Party.”
The former secretary of state herself was not on in the office. She was in Hollywood posing for selfies with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West and raising money from Tom Hanks and Usher at a fundraiser at the home of Justin Beiber’s producer.
Inside the 11th floor of a high rise in Brooklyn Heights that serves as her campaign headquarters, Clinton’s campaign team was abuzz with activity. Top staffers assembled a “war room,” with 20 members of Clinton’s communications, research, digital, and policy teams. Another 20 digital staffers worked to polish the content for the web.
Ahead of the debate, Campaign Manager Robby Mook gave a pep talk to his troops – and the press – saying that staffers could expect to see Republicans’ “out-of-date and out-of-touch policies.”
“They’re probably going to say some things about Hillary Clinton that are not true as well,” Mook added.
On the walls of the conference room serving as the press filing center, the campaign hung jumbo-sized posters on the walls with pictures of the GOP candidates and large quotes of them saying nice things about Hillary Clinton. “Hillary Clinton I think is a terrific woman,” says a smiling Donald Trump. “Women of every political party owe a debt of gratitude to Hillary Clinton,” says Carly Fiorina, who has emerged as Clinton’s fiercest critic and was seen as the winner of the undercard debate for candidates who didn’t make the cut for the main event.
Meanwhile, aides to Democratic challenger Martin O’Malley touted that they would not engage in “your typical rapid response.” The candidate wrote a GIF-heavy post of IJ Review, the conservative-leaning viral politics site, and instead of attacking Republicans, his team says they’ll showcase what O’Malley would do instead with the hashtag, #WWOMD (“What Would O’Malley Do”).
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders took a more “Spartan” approach, an aide said, watching the debate at a private home on Capitol Hill. “We’re splurging on pizza,” said spokesperson Michael Briggs. Sanders sat on a couch with a yellow legal pad and called out thoughts he wanted to tweet to staffers nearby.