WASHINGTON -- At the heart of a presidential campaign are two kinds of creatures. There is the campaign operative, whose job is to bolster his or her own candidate and bring down the opponent. And there is the reporter, who is tasked with covering the madness and making sense of it for the public.
The currency frequently shared by these two is what’s known as opposition research -- the dirt peddled by the operative to the reporter for purposes of taking down the opposition. Campaigns thrive on opposition research and devote a good chunk of change to it. That’s because reporters often eat it up. Opposition research can serve as the foundation for the stories that grace newspapers or websites, dominate cable news, and sway the campaign conversation.
But even though opposition research is extremely important in modern campaigns, public discussions about how it is peddled and who does the peddling are rare.
In the second installment of “Wait, Is This Thing On?” -- now also known as “Drinking and Talking” -- The Huffington Post sought to change that. We brought together two operatives deeply involved in the field -- Eddie Vale, vice president of the Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge, and Tim Miller, executive director of the GOP opposition research firm America Rising. We paired them with Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post and Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News.
After plying the operatives with booze, we discussed whether a presidential campaign can be turned by opposition research in the final weeks, the souls of opposition research peddlers, the skeletons that may remain in Hillary Clinton's closet (if any), and who, exactly, is forced to dress up as a mascot to badger an opponent on the stump.
The whole thing was an excuse to imbibe, as was our first installment. But in the process, an illustrative, fun, newsy conversation ensued. We hope you feel that way, too.
Watch the video above. Here's an index of key moments in the discussion:
00:00 - Meet The Roundtable
01:35 - At What Point Did You Realize You'd Lost Your Souls?
08:20 - Mitt Romney As A High School Bully
10:28 - Hillary Clinton Vs. Opposition Researchers
13:29 - What Do Reporters Want From Opposition Researchers
16:09 - The Hillary Squirrel
18:45 - October Surprises
21:18 - The Mitt Documentary
22:26 - Researching Your Own Candidate's Secrets
Also, listen to or download the audio below: