Spinning in the Spin Room: My Moment with Chuck Norris
A friend who works for a big local communications company made that observation to me in the "spin room" at the CNN/YouTube debate Wednesday -- a piece of the Mahaffey Theater's lobby which was curtained off and filled with surrogate advocates for most the Republican candidates, allowing them to argue their candidates' case before the dozens of reporters covering the event once the debate ended.
And the observation was a good one: notables such as onetime presidential comer George Allen, political consultant and TV pundit Bay Buchanan, New York congressman Peter King and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez couldn't hold a candle to Norris, who walked from TV camera to TV camera, trailing a huge scrum of reporters throughout the room.
My moment came when I asked whether he was concerned voters might dismiss Mike Huckabee because he had drafted a Hollywood actor to stump for him. Norris flashed a blinding, white smile before noting "I'm not a Hollywood actor any more." Jab! (he also claimed to have knocked out Huckabee when the two were sparring; I couldn't tell if he was joking)
Allen thought the sniping between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney over immigration helped Thompson, citing an old campaign strategist's maxim: When a politician attacks another, they both go down. "Both (Romney and Giuliani) ended up looking bad," said Allen, whose use of the word "macaca" to describe a campaign worker for a rival candidate ended his political career last year. "Fred swooped in and came off looking like a good guy."
Buchanan insisted all the talk about illegal immigration added up to a win for Tom Tancredo, even though most of that talk didn't include him.
Gov. Charlie Crist insisted the people of Florida won the debate, even through he also had to acknowledge that there were few questions which dealt directly with issues the state finds most pressing. He also had no problem with CNN declining to air his You/Tube-submitted question, saying "I'd rather the people have the access to the candidates."
Huckabee also thought the fighting between Giuliani and Romney helped him, noting that "You never jump in the middle of two dogs fighting until they've worn themselves out." Huckabee, who gets points as the funniest GOP candidate, seemed fond of uncorking Arkansas-bred sayings to explain himself -- noting that he's comfortable joking around because "nobody wants their president to drink a bottle of vinegar and swallow a curtain rod before he goes to work." Um, yeah.
And Norris had one fun zinger left. When asked whether he would "open a can of whoop-ass" on anybody if President Huckabee asked him to, the karate master didn't miss a beat: "Absolutely," he replied.
Which made me inch away. Slowly.