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Inside The Spin Room After The GOP Debate In Las Vegas


And the economy, for a change, was not discussed in last night's Republican debate in Las Vegas. As we've reported elsewhere in today's program, the subject was national security. And in the post-debate spin room last night, candidates and surrogates tried to influence the media narrative coming out of the debate. NPR's Sam Sanders was there and says there was some spin on the grand old party itself.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: In many ways, the spin room last night sounded a lot like the spin rooms at the four previous GOP debates - journalists clamoring to get at Donald Trump.



SANDERS: Sen. Lindsey Graham complaining about his placement.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, I think I should be on the main stage. I don't think I'm an undercard candidate. I think the others should drop out.

SANDERS: And Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus saying it was all good.


REINCE PRIEBUS: We're pretty happy tonight, and we're looking forward to more debates after the holidays.

SANDERS: But if you listen hard enough, you could hear something else.

MARK MCKINNON: You know, I've been doing politics 30 years. I've never seen an election like this. This is entirely unpredictable.

SANDERS: That's Mark McKinnon. He was a media advisor to George W. Bush. Last night, McKinnon said there might not be a clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination for a while.

MCKINNON: So we've got 10-plus candidates. The field hasn't winnowed out yet. You can see a scenario where somebody wins Iowa, somebody else win New Hampshire. Somebody else could win South Carolina. And even somebody else could win Florida.

SANDERS: McKinnon says it could all lead to a brokered Republican convention this summer - no one candidate with enough delegate support to win the nomination on the first ballot, which means multiple votes and possibly chaos.

MCKINNON: Let me put it this way - there's a better chance of a brokered convention than any time in our lifetime.

SANDERS: The Washington Post reported that Republican Party leadership had a secret meeting recently to discuss just what they should do if Donald Trump continues to surge or if there's a brokered convention. But in the spin room, the RNC tried to spin that.

SEAN SPICER: I don't think it accurately depicted what really happened. It wasn't a meeting. It was a dinner where, at the end of a two-hour dinner, a question was asked about the process.

SANDERS: That's Sean Spicer. He's the communications director for the RNC. He said that elections are always volatile. And he suggested that the party would try to leave things to the voters.

SPICER: No matter how the process plays out, number one, we'll be ready. Number two, we'll continue to treat every candidate with the fairness that we have so far.

SANDERS: Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele was in the spin room as well. And he said the RNC could actually cause some trouble if they try to influence a convention.

MICHAEL STEELE: If you see a manipulation as we saw in the 2012 campaign where they changed the rules to block a certain candidate, Ron Paul, from even having a presence on the floor of the convention, then all hell will break loose. It's that simple.

SANDERS: So in the spin room last night, party veterans like Michael Steele and Mark McKinnon spelled out disaster scenarios for the RNC. But current RNC leadership said everything was fine. Maybe there's a reason for the discrepancy. You've got to leave the league to be a sports commentator. It's hard to really critique the game while you're still in it. Sam Sanders, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.