An inside look at the insanity of the Spin Room at the first 2020 Democratic debate

  • There were intense scenes in the Spin Room at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • With 20 candidates participating in the debate, the Spin Room was an absolute madhouse.
  • Reporters really had to fight to gain access to the candidates when they came out to take questions.
  • If you weren’t careful, you could get elbowed in the face or find yourself trampled by a stampede of camera people running to catch up with candidates.
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MIAMI, Fla. – With 20 candidates debating over the course of two nights at the first Democratic debate in Miami, the Spin Room was an absolute madhouse.

If you weren’t careful, you could easily catch an elbow to the face as journalists and camera people jockeyed for the best positions to gain access to candidates and surrogates.

You were also liable to get caught in a stampede as candidates moved across the room and the media obediently followed like moths to a flame.

Here’s an inside look at the insanity of the Spin Room.


The Spin Room gets its name from the fact it’s where candidates and their surrogates go to “spin” perceptions of how they performed in a debate. It’s also where journalists sit and write during the debate. Most aren’t actually in the room where the debate occurs, but in a big space nearby.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERThe spin room at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Miami.

Before and early on in the debate, the spin room was fairly empty.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERThe spin room at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

But that didn’t last long. Roughly 10 to 15 minutes before the debate ended, the room was buzzing.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERThe spin room at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

When the debate ended, bodies swarmed the floor of the Spin Room.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERThe spin room at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

As the media waited for candidates and surrogates to make their way over from the debate hall to the Spin Room, campaign staff held up signs with the candidate’s names. In theory, these were supposed to be where the candidates would go to take questions. But it often took them a long time to get over to their designated spots.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERThe spin room at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate.

Most candidates stopped to do TV interviews with several different networks before they took questions from print journalists and others anxiously awaiting for them to walk out into the sea of people in the center of the room.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York before an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate.

All of the candidates entered the Spin Room through the same door, which was blocked off by both a physical barrier and a wall of camera people. If you wanted to get close, you had to try and squeeze in or box people out. Some people resorted to standing on chairs just to get a look.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERThe spin room at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

Unless you came to the debate working for one of the big networks running the debate, such as MSNBC, it’s unlikely you would get a comment from any of the candidates unless you fought your way through a scrum of fellow reporters and shouted your question at the exact right moment.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Michael Bennet of Colorado takes questions from reporters at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

On both nights of the debate, virtually every single candidate was surrounded by reporters sticking a colourful array of technology into a cluster of bodies, desperate to get a photo or quote.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Cory Booker speaks to reporters at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Miami.

Gaining access to candidates lower in the polls like Rep. Eric Swalwell was a lot easier than some of the top-tier candidates.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERRep. Eric Swalwell of California at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

But when Sen. Bernie Sanders came into the room, he was immediately surrounded. Sanders is one of the top-ranked candidates.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

Former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t come into the Spin Room. But given he’s the frontrunner, his surrogates drew a lot of attention when they came out.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSymone Sanders, an adviser to Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, speaks to reporters in the spin room at the first 2020 Democratic presidential debate.

Though Biden is the frontrunner, all eyes were on Sen. Kamala Harris when she entered the Spin Room. Harris had one of the strongest performances of the night and the room exploded with excitement when she entered.

John Haltiwanger/INSIDERSen. Kamala Harris of California is interviewed by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews after the first 2020 Democratic debate in Miami.

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