Here's who really won Tuesday night's debate: Barack Obama's schedulers and advance teams.
Silently and seamlessly, those anonymous campaign staffers created the half-hour of compelling television that followed the debate itself.
Most memorable, of course, was the vision of Barack and Michelle shaking countless hands and posing for dozens of photos with (previously) undecided voters who clearly wanted a lasting memento of their encounter with the future President and First Lady.
That moment was partly created by the Obama's genuine graciousness. But I'm guessing it also was created by a campaign scheduler who pressed the candidate to stay and work the crowd -- and more importantly, work the cameras.
It's unlikely that Senator Obama was thrilled about the prospect of working a crowd of 100 for half an hour at the end of a grueling debate. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that it took several high-level and vociferous staffers to talk him into it. And I'd be equally willing to bet that some of McCain's staff tried to convince their guy to stick around, too.
But when McCain blew off his advisors and ducked out to enjoy a few moments of relative privacy, he left the field wide open for Barack. The result was an unobstructed national vision of a vigorous, accessible candidate with an apparently endless willingness to engage with the electorate.
As the post-debate coverage continued, the cameras moved to Spin Alley -- where masses of tirelessly enthusiastic supporters stood in the rain, shouting "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" as long as there was a microphone, and a national audience, left to hear.
Again, rapturous rallies in the rain don't just happen. Obama's advance team clearly did exceptional work on the ground to gather -- and then wrangle -- the rain-resistant crowds. Those shouting supporters represented thousands of phone calls and tens of thousands of e-mails, combined with a couple hundred political and personal favors called in when they were needed most.
And here's the best part of it all -- thanks to the well-orchestrated, perfectly timed efforts of dozens, maybe hundreds of campaign staffers and volunteers in the Chicago headquarters and on the ground in Nashville, it all looked natural and effortless.
Nice work, guys. Really nice.