Contact CU Independent staff writer Paola Fernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org
The third Republican debate, “Your Money, Your Vote,” held Wednesday at the University of Colorado, came and went in a flurry of excitement and emotions. There were rallies, protests and watch parties all over the CU campus, focusing on a range of issues from immigration to not providing enough debate tickets for the student body. The tickets that were handed out were scarce and given away by professors who chose whoever they wanted.
For 16 journalism students, myself included, the opportunity to be inside the action came in the form of volunteering to work the spin room after the main debate. When I heard we would be able to witness the madness that is the media room live, I was humbled and delighted to be given the opportunity to witness the things that the main cameras didn’t show.
My first opportunity was the chance to sit in for the undercard debate. I was given a floor seat a couple of rows down from the stage.
CU student Meagan Mahlberg sang the national anthem before Chancellor Phil DiStefano gave opening remarks. Though he is probably used to addressing large crowds, his hands were visibly shaky holding the document in them. No one could blame him, given that cameras and 1,000 pairs of eyes were directed toward him.
With the moderators in place, the four candidates — Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Rick Santorum, Gov. Bobby Jindal and former governor George Pataki — came out and the debate began. I felt as if my own TV had swallowed me up and put me inside the screen.
The candidates were asked questions ranging from cyber attacks to tax cuts, managing to not stray too far from the script. The same can’t be said for the main debate.
Tensions heated up as Republican candidates lashed out at CNBC moderators Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood for posing pointed and biased questions. Sen. Ted Cruz likely won the hearts of millions of republicans when he proposed that based on these questions, it was clear that the moderators wouldn’t vote for a Republican at the elections.
While the debate was finishing, the volunteers were given signs with the names of one of the 10 candidates. We held these up inside the spin room so reporters could know where the candidates would be standing. Our instructions were: keep a poker face, don’t answer any questions, and wait outside in the hallway when youʼre done.
As we stood there in anticipation, Carly Fiorina was escorted next to the elevator where I was standing. She kept her eyes forward and vanished from sight. Next came Ben Carson, who veered his always half-shut eyes at me, smiled and kept moving. Christie, Paul and Huckabee followed.
We were ushered upstairs to wait for the rest of our candidates. All of a sudden, Trump emerged from an out-of-sight door, giving us a wave and a hello. He noticed our signs and said that all his competitors are great people. Soon after, we were all brought into the spin room.
It was hectic in there. There was almost no space to move; reporters swarmed around each candidate or their candidateʼs campaign manager, pushing left and right to hear what they were saying. Cameramen tried to maneuver to get better angles. Questions fired left and right, with only a few of them answered. Broadcast networks were live and running their programs right behind me.
After about 15 minutes, Jeb Bushʼs campaign manager announced his departure. I lowered my sign and did a quick walk-around to get one last look at the grandeur of it all. I was the first one done, so I waited right outside.
Not two minutes later, Ivanka Trump and her two sisters-in-law waited in the hallway as Trump wrapped up his interviews. It was the three of them, their bodyguards and me. They talked about hopping straight on their private plane after he was finished.
Soon after, our supervisors walked us downstairs and set us free. Just like that, it was over.
It was fast-paced and energetic. I loved seeing the journalists in their niche, focused and doing their job. It put into perspective that I’m working toward joining them someday, and that all the things Iʼm doing at CU are stepping stones to get me there.