Party Crashers: Inside the GOP's Denver "War Room"

August 26 2008, 4:46 PM

Hair slicked back Ronald Reagan style, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney slipped through a side door entering a makeshift Republican "war room" in Denver, emerging about 20 minutes later on a miniature stage of sorts. The former Massachusetts governor told a large sweaty group of reporters from major news organizations around the globe that he came to bring "the facts" and to "escape platitudes" of the Democratic National Convention. He was here to crash the party. It was the latest in a series of orchestrated performances that on Wednesday should see former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani deliver some political blows. Behind the scenes the war room--which Republicans call the "Not Ready 08 Rapid Response Center"--hummed along at its North Speer Boulevard location, not far from the Pepsi Center, where the Dems are gathering each day.

Equipped with five televisions and eight laptops around a curved wooden table, the tiny war room became operational on Saturday. It is staffed around the clock by Republican National Committee experts and McCain campaign staffers who scour websites and media reports, making recommendations to "hold Barack Obama rhetoric to account" as well as combat any perceived distortions of McCain's record, says Bill Riggs, an RNC spokesman. "It's a tight ship," he adds, "a very smooth operation." Upstairs, a map of Denver is covered in plastic action figures--Star Wars' R2D2, a soldier with a grenade, a rooster. Each represents a group of about 10 volunteers outfitted in McCain T-shirts, out representing McCain's campaign in the face of a Democratic throng. On Tuesday morning, war room personnel were closely following the movements of Senator Joe Biden, of Delaware, Obama's recently announced running mate. A sign outside the media room notes a statement Biden made regarding Obama during the primaries: "It can't be on-the-job training."

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