08/05/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Spokespundits: From Campaign Insiders To Talking Heads

Minutes before he was to appear on "Hardball," Todd Harris was handed a wire report quoting John McCain as saying that eliminating America's dependence on foreign oil would spare the country from fighting another Middle East war.

It was early May and Harris, who had just finished a stint as the spokesman for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign, called the McCain team for guidance. "They hadn't released any statement yet," he says, "but they gave me the meat of what it was going to say."

When pressed by host Chris Matthews, Harris -- who worked for McCain eight years ago -- argued that the Republican candidate was merely suggesting that energy independence would boost national security at home. He was challenged by the other guest, Jennifer Palmieri, who had been an adviser to John Edwards's campaign.

They are among a growing band of operatives who have made the magical transformation from press aide to pundit in the blink of a news cycle. "You get very comfortable speaking on someone else's behalf and thinking like they do," says Harris, reached in a car the other day on the way to, yes, "Hardball." "It is fun deciding for yourself what you think."

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