Team Obama deploys in the spin room hours before debate

Holly Bailey

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.—Campaign surrogates usually don't make an appearance in the so-called spin room until after the candidates have left the debate stage.

But on Tuesday afternoon, Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's campaign manager, caused a stir among reporters covering the second presidential debate: He showed up four and a half hours early to the spin room at Hofstra University on Long Island.

Messina's goal: to rebut a series of recent polls in battleground states showing Obama losing ground to GOP rival Mitt Romney.

"When you're within the margin of error, you're losing, and that's exactly what [Romney is] doing in Ohio," Messina told a growing scrum of reporters, who squeezed and pushed against one another to get their tape recorders as close as possible to the senior Obama aide.

"We're leading in battleground states," Messina insisted, noting this included Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. And he said the Obama camp is feeling "very good" about Colorado, where the campaign is focusing intensely on drawing out female voters in the suburbs. He added that there are "more undecided voters" in that state than in other battlegrounds.

Messina soon wandered back to the Obama staff holding area, dozens of reporters trailing him along the way. He was soon replaced by another top Obama surrogate: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who has been standing in for the former Massachusetts governor during the president's debate prep.

Kerry lashed out at Romney's claims of bipartisanship in that state, mocking the GOP candidate for, among other things, having a "personal elevator" at the state house when he was governor.

"The record is not real," Kerry said of Romney's claims of working with Massachusetts Democrats. "This is one of the great charades of all time, in my judgment."