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'War room' revs up with high-profile GOPers

The media so overcrowded the GOP "war room' for a news conference that party operatives scrambled and found a new venue for Wednesday's planned events.
The media so overcrowded the GOP "war room' for a news conference that party operatives scrambled and found a new venue for Wednesday's planned events.Associated Press
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Republican "war room" in Denver is not easy to find, tucked away off an alley a mile or so from the convention hall.

There's a satellite truck in the parking lot. Inside, posters with the GOP's convention tag line — "A Mile High, an Inch Deep" — plaster the walls. There's not a gray hair to be found among the more than two dozen party operatives. But there are pizza boxes, lots of water and the occasional can of beer.

The war room staff knows reporters in Denver are hungry, and they're eager to feed them.

From here comes a daily meal of GOP talking points, rapid reaction and attention-grabbing interview opportunities from big names like Mitt Romney.

Calling in the big guns
Republicans are offering a stream of GOP counter-punchers — former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is Wednesday's biggest name — in an effort to inject themselves into coverage of the Democratic convention.

Lesser-known Republicans such as Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., gave satellite interviews to Spanish-language stations. GOP officials back in their home states held a flurry of conference calls and press events. And the big names also did interviews with talk radio programs and network affiliates in swing states such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The media so overcrowded the GOP facility for a news conference featuring Romney and three GOP members of Congress that party operatives scrambled and found a new venue for Wednesday's session featuring Giuliani.

Surrogates like Giuliani, Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — like Romney, a potential running mate for John McCain — are so high-profile as to guarantee plenty of media coverage, even though it's the Democrats' show. The idea is that any time the media are focused on Republicans, it takes away from the Democrats' convention infomercial.

Rapid-response ready
Every day, the McCain campaign unveils a new ad, often getting free broadcasts on cable news networks and helping shape the early hours of the news cycle.

As the convention program rolls, a youthful squadron of GOP staff aides brainstorm and then churn out blast e-mails offering quick reaction from the McCain campaign. McCain campaign senior adviser Matt McDonald leads the effort, which is far more ambitious than that four years ago at the Democrats' gathering in Boston.

As they watched former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner give the keynote address, the GOP team was pleased to see that it was Giuliani's interview with Sean Hannity, not Warner's speech, featured on Fox News Channel.

Warner barely mentioned McCain, so the McCain camp response was modulated.

"The main theme of Warner was 'work together to solve problems,'" McDonald said. "McCain has a long record of doing that. Barack Obama doesn't."

While welcoming an observer earlier in Tuesday's program, the war room was closed off for Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech. That's a stickier problem, since McCain is grabbing for votes from disaffected Clinton voters.

And Tuesday night's program — featuring a plea for party unity by Clinton — ran counter to one of the GOP's themes: that the Democratic Party remains bitterly divided.

Romney stayed relentlessly on message. Obama's "a charming fellow. He's a celebrity worldwide," he told a Toledo, Ohio, interviewer. "But he's not ready to lead the United States of America."