The Ticket

In the debate spin room, Team Romney takes a victory lap

Holly Bailey, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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Top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens in the Denver spin room (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

DENVER—Even before Mitt Romney concluded his final statement at Wednesday's debate, his senior staff and top surrogates began streaming into the spin room with big smiles on their faces.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser who has worked for the Republican presidential nominee longer than almost anyone on his staff, could barely get his talking points out fast enough.

"If this debate had been a boxing match, it would have been called in the first hour," Fehrnstrom gleefully told reporters. "I would imagine the heels on the president's shoes are worn down after having leaned back on them for 90 minutes."

They were lines Fehrnstrom used again and again throughout the night, as reporters mobbed around him to get the campaign's review of a debate that, by all accounts, went extremely well for the former Massachusetts governor.

A CNN poll released after the debate found 67 percent of registered voters polled believed Romney was the night's winner, compared to just 25 percent who thought President Barack Obama won.

A CBS News poll also found positive numbers for Romney. One key finding: 63 percent of those surveyed said he cared about their needs—up from just 30 percent before the debate.

But Romney aides, as cheerful as they were about their candidate's performance in Wednesday night's debate, were quick to caution that this is just "the beginning of a conversation with voters," as Romney strategist Stuart Stevens put it.

"We came into this tied, and we have more debates to come," Stevens said.

Still, aides couldn't quite resist rejoicing. At least 15 surrogates—identified with giant red signs on which their last names were written—packed into the spin room within the first 15 minutes after the debate. By comparison, Obama aides were initially nowhere to be seen.

And Team Romney lingered among reporters longer than their opponents did, with Stevens spotted on the floor more than an hour after his candidate had left the building.

One favorite talking point of Romney's advisers: They repeatedly accused the president of speaking in "empty platitudes"—a criticism, perhaps not coincidentally, that was leveled at Romney last month by Team Obama, which has criticized the Republican candidate for not getting specific enough about what he would do as president.

"The president has a hard time when he has to answer for his record," Stevens said. "It's not just that he had a bad night. He's had a bad four years."

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