A peek inside the spin room’s chaos and characters


Members of the media swarm Ben Carson, lower right, in the spin room after the debate at the Reagan Library.

(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

The spin room is notorious. It is the place at presidential debates where reporters, candidates, their supporters and the celebrities among them collide — sometimes literally.

The show in Simi Valley was especially manic thanks to the swollen lineup of candidates and the worldwide media attention front-runner Donald Trump brings with him.

We spent some time in the spin room Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum and Library in Simi Valley. Here are some observations from behind the scenes.

1) Team Trump:

The Donald seemed to relish the chaos that surrounded him as he popped into the spin room, causing a crush of cameras to swarm around him as he slinked through the hallways.

His supporters loved the scene more than anyone.

Andy Dean, the fast-talking former star of "The Apprentice," had a mischievous smile as he sped through the room wearing the Trump campaign's trademark "Make America great again" cap — complete with a signature from "the boss."

"Get on TV, trust me," he told a reporter and his fellow Trump supporters as he circled the cameras. "Hang out in the background, tell your family and they will be really proud of you. Pretend we are having a conversation."

Tina Mosbey, 60, of Westlake Village, approached Dean looking to buy the hat. She scoffed at the $25,000 price tag and instead borrowed it for 30 seconds.

"Go on TV," he said, pointing to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was being interviewed nearby by CNN.

Mosbey didn't hesitate — she lunged at Huckabee, managing to throw her arms on his shoulders before security shoved her off.

Dean scolded her not to "hit them when they are live."

2) An awkward hello

Chris Matthews, broadcasting "Hardball" all night from the spin room, had an interesting observation while in the bathroom. At the urinal, Matthews observed to a reporter chatting with him at the next stall that the Reagan Library had some of the cleaner facilities he'd seen at debates.

"Republicans have better aim," he said.

3) Celebrity politics

It wouldn't be an event in California without a celebrity. "American Idol" runner-up and onetime congressional candidate Clay Aiken was there covering the event for the Insider. When he wasn't interviewing an astrologist for her take on the debate, he was dishing out his wisdom on what ails modern politics.

"Money," he said.

Aiken said he balked when his campaign staff told him he needed to spend 40 hours a week calling donors as he attempted to unseat GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in North Carolina in 2014.

"I thought we'd focus on the issues," he said.

4) The satirist among them

Russia Today sent famed Internet satirist and self-proclaimed gonzo journalist Nimrod Kamer into the fray to needle the candidates and the media alike on video.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele walked away when Kamer posited that a Trump White House could end up resembling a casino, complete with prostitutes.

Steele's response? "Dude, what are you talking about?"

Kamer lobbed questions at candidates Scott Walker and Ben Carson and others.

"When you are under pressure and all the journalists are pushing you and you're just almost kissing the candidates ... you want to ask them something which is not, 'How well do you think you did?' — so boring," he said.

He calls his shtick "Spin and Loathing on the Campaign Trail."

"I'm more like a flaccid, awkward Hunter S. Thompson," he said.

Not all made it out of the media crush unharmed: Carson senior strategist Ed Brookover said the candidate banged his head at one point.

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