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Behind the Scenes at the GOP Debate

Most of the GOP presidential candidates furiously poured over briefing books and held mock debate sessions in the hours leading up to last night's debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif..

But not Mike Huckabee.

Instead of prepping, the former Arkansas governor went a picturesque, four-mile run. Which may explain why he looked so cool and calm during the debate and refrained from jumping into the "Who Wants To Kill Osama the Most?" game that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won. (While Mitt Romney pledged that Osama bin Laden is "gonna pay, and he's gonna die," McCain one-upped him by declaring, "I'll follow him to the gates of hell!")

Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who, shall we say, was among the more eccentric (but perhaps the most Reaganesque) of the 10 candidates on stage last night, was spotted taking a nice long tour of the library while his rivals prepped.

Rudy Giuliani, after prepping, was busy deciding which tie he'd wear. Or rather, his wife Judi was busy deciding which tie her hubby would wear.

One source involved in the debate said the Giulianis faced a tough choice, since the backdrop was a diffuse American flag, and no one really knew ahead of time which color of the flag would be behind him on camera. So Judi really wanted to play it safe by choosing just the right tie.

The real fun for debate host Chris Matthews -- it was his first ever presidential debate, by the way -- came afterward. He and his "Hardball" gang, including MSNBC Vice President Tammy Haddad and a few national political reporters, went to dinner at a restaurant called Tuscany in Westlake Village, Calif., where they bumped into the hunk of the '80s, actor Tom Selleck.

Selleck was on his way out, but he stopped and chatted with Matthews. After he left, Selleck called the restaurant and bought a nice bottle of Meritage for Matthews's table, which included Washington Post political correspondent Dan Balz, Politico columnist Roger Simon and Newsweek's Howard Fineman, among others.

The hunk of the debate, however, was James Denton, the actor who plays the sexy plumber/handyman on "Desperate Housewives." Denton was there as Haddad's guest. She invited him after hearing that he had told folks at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington a few weeks ago that "Hardball" was his favorite show.

And how did Politico, the start-up online news organization, score its coveted role in co-hosting the debate? Because Fred Ryan, the chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications Company, which owns Politico, also happens to be chairman of the board of the Reagan library.

Ryan told The Sleuth that Nancy Reagan wanted the library's first ever presidential debate to be a "citizen participation type" of production, in which citizens could ask questions online. And that's how the debate worked last night. "There were literally hundreds of thousands of people casting votes online," Ryan said.

After choosing his conglomerate's newest media gem to play host, Ryan went to Haddad to get Hardball's Matthews on board. He said the library wanted someone "they knew and trusted" and Matthews had "always been a reliable partner."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  May 4, 2007; 5:05 PM ET
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Excellent debate coverage:

Posted by: William | May 5, 2007 1:32 AM | Report abuse

It was a shame Matthews and his Politco cronies left their hardballs at home.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 5, 2007 5:06 AM | Report abuse

Nancy Reagan wanted citizen participation. According to Ryan hundreds of thousands voted for the questions to be asked. The Politico listed the questions in the order of votes. My four choices were in the top ten. They didn't get asked. Were they filtered out as "difficult" or "embarassing"? Despite the presence of Mr Mathews were only "softballs" allowed?
What is the story here?

Posted by: kyran o'dwyer | May 5, 2007 6:26 AM | Report abuse

Glad to see that the connection between Allbritton and Politico is reported here. A better explanation of the political partisanship of Politico is explained by Glenn Greenwld in Salon. Chris Matthews was an ass and did a real disservice to the candidates with his absurd questions and interruptions.

Posted by: Roseann | May 5, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Pitiful. Ties, wine and "Oh aren't we all just friends!" You folks really are the empty headed set. Do you care about anything more profound than making your social events more fun and comfortable? And that Politico/MSNBC/Reagan Library "synergy" is called a "circle jerk" out here in the hustings. Reporters used to be interested in that kind of stuff, but not this ironically named Sleuth.

Posted by: John Howard | May 5, 2007 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich ought to run together on an independent ticket and agree to flip a coin to determine which of them will be president and which of them vice-president. Their staffs should start meeting in secret to work out the differences in their political platforms which will seem minor when they realize that they are the only politicians talking about restoring Constitutional freedoms.

Posted by: anon | May 5, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I see Roseann already mention Glenn Greenwald's blog about THE SLEUTH on SALON. Check it out if you're interested in some real reporting. One fact I didn't know, Mary Ann is married to Mike Isikoff. I guess he can be considered a real journalist, in that he gets criticized by both the right and the left in equal measures. BTW Chris Matthews is an abomination. Why didn't he and the candidates invoke the name of George Bush as often as they did Reagan. The big winner of that debate was Mary Ann's boy, Fred Thompson. The big loser was women of America if one of those jackasses gets elected. What a disgrace, it makes me ashamed of being middle-aged white man. Clinton and Obama also came out of the GOP debate looking good by default.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | May 5, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

"Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who, shall we say, was among the more eccentric (but perhaps the most Reaganesque)"

Indeed, the only 'conservative' out there...

Posted by: Travis | May 5, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Ron Paul is the most Reaganesque and the most conservative. Guiliani is atrocious and its no surprise he lets his wife dress him. He also was laughing when Ron Paul talked about defending the people of America. How can anyone vote for this guy who cant go 3 minutes without mentioning the "global war on terror"..The republican party has been hijacked by globalists and we need to stand up to them by electing Ron Paul.

Posted by: kyle | May 5, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Did Ron Paul put a stick in the spokes of the agenda or what?

Posted by: Charlie Peters | May 5, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see that you and your husband Mike Isikoff both suffer from Cranial-Rectal Adhesion Syndrome. The family that keeps its heads in the same location is bound to be close, eh?

Please do us a favor and become guest of honor at a single-car fatality, you otherwise-unemplyable bimbo.

Posted by: TCinLA | May 5, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Ron Paul is the clear winner. Look at the MSNBC poll. So why are all the media networks not giving him any repsect?
Let the people decide, not the media elite!!

Posted by: Chewie | May 5, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

So Ryan wanted Matthews, eh? He was considered one they 'knew and trusted'--trusted to do what, exactly? Schill for the GOP? Lob only softballs right across the plate time and again? Bring up Bill Clinton in an inane question? Ignore most real issues or treat them lightly? Yep, Ryan knew his man, all right.

Posted by: donald169 | May 5, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

10 old nostalgic white guys who don't believe in evolution? That's leadership into the 21st century?

Posted by: thebob.bob | May 5, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

It's an open secret that Politico is part of the Albritton empire and tainted with its connection to Pinochet and various scandals. But I didn't realize the connection to the Reagan White House. I know Akers is in the gossip business, but a more clear connect the dots--Reaganite owns Politico and picks moderator, would have been useful. Mathews has a "Hardball" rep, although he, like Russert, has been absolutely craven with the Administration and clearly is a favorite of the Right Wing.

Posted by: thebuckguy | May 5, 2007 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Remember they ignored Dr. Dean until they couldn't anymore. Unless all this netroots support starts putting their money where their mouth is, Dr. Paul will continue to be ignored. Unless a Joe Trippi type starts building a machine to tap into that support, they'll continue to foist the false hype of Rudy, McCain & Romney.

Paul has been in Congress shouldering the lonely burden of the Constitution for many years. He's not running commercials on MSNBC like Romney, Matthews can't burb his name every other syllable like Rudy. In the newsroom their either dismissing it as false hope amongst the unwashed or tempering the effect with pious indifference.

Perhaps only a Iowa or New Hampshire can raise the bar on democratic return if their not pushed by peacock colored glasses. But the people have to make it happen, not Tucker, Matthews or Hillary Rosen.

Posted by: Eric Sundwall | May 5, 2007 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Question. Does anyone read Politico? If so, why?

Posted by: johnuw93 | May 5, 2007 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Ah, Dan Balz, Roger Simon, Howard Fineman, and Chris Matthews eating at Tuscany and drinking a nice bottle of Meritage.

So that's how these "regular joes" stay in touch with (and self-righteously lay claim to speak for) the common man.

Posted by: shingles | May 6, 2007 2:11 AM | Report abuse

The usual warmongering Washington Post shallow 'what did they wear and eat' garbage in and regurgitated into the toilet and then eaten again. Good effing grief. Next: the Ron Paul 'Scream'. If they have to kick him in the shins, they will get their scream moment. On the other hand, Paul has a very thick skin...heh. I hope right wingers choose him. Better an honorable struggle for the presidency rather than the media corporate coranations.

Posted by: Elaine Meinel Supkis | May 6, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

You "report" on the debate as if it was a social occasion. WTF cares if Chris Matthews had "fun" or not? I certainly had no fun watching him, especially when he asked if the country would be better off with Clinton in the White House. He should ask the families of the thousands of soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq the same question.

As for Politico...I thought it seemed partisan the first time I read it (which was the last time). Now - thanks to Glenn Greenwald, not you - that I know who is behind it, I know it doesn't just SEEM partisan, it IS partisan.

Posted by: ccatmoon | May 6, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a (God, forbid) republican anymore but I lived in Ron Paul's district and I really liked him. He does indeed have moral integrity --- something that the current administration and their flocks of Christians, devoted to their Antichrist lack. He believes we are a nation of laws and I suspect that he is more than a little chagrined by their casual displays of subterfuge and malevolence. --- Not to mention their manipulative attempts to use god as proof for their dis --- I mean honesty in the same breath that they'll follow bin Laden to the "gates of hell." Why indeed stop there? --- That's where these hate mongers are going to end up...

Posted by: LDP | May 7, 2007 1:51 AM | Report abuse

What debate? Ten bad news conferences is what we got. BTW: TCinLA, stop being such a nasty rectal unit.

Posted by: LetTheBigHossRoll | May 7, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

SOB, agree totally with your comments. And thanks for passing on the news that Mary Ann is spoken for. Looks like I was wrong about having a better shot at a date with her than you -- we're equally shut out.

Posted by: Harry Bosch | May 7, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

SOB is hereby disowned

Posted by: sob'sfather | May 7, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I used to read Politico, until Bush mentioned it. Then I knew it was full of lies.

Posted by: Terry Green | May 7, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm a regular viewer of Hardball but... I was totally disappointed in the ?s. What on earth would I learn from what they thought about Bill Clinton going back to the WH. So many issues that this country is divided on and this is what we get. Shame on Chris Matthews.

Posted by: militaryfamily | May 9, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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