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The Spokespundits

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"I don't think I'm Miss Congeniality with the campaign, but it's an awful campaign," Murphy says. "I'm not afraid to say it on television, because it's the truth. I was critical of the campaign before they decided I was poison."

Is the part-time Hollywood scriptwriter through with campaigns? "It's kind of like being a hired killer; I guess I can go back to it," he says.

Murphy, who will appear largely on "Today" and "Meet the Press," spent three hours last week on Scarborough's MSNBC program. "I love McCain," he said on the morning show. "But we're trying to play it straight. I'm an analyst now." He paused for effect: "I'm here for the money."

Several newly minted pundits face the loyalty question in commenting on politicians who previously employed them. "I feel a real obligation to do right by John McCain because I have a huge level of respect and admiration for him," Harris says. "But that doesn't mean I can't speak honestly about the ups and downs of his campaign."

The dilemma is very different for Howard Wolfson, the former Hillary Clinton spokesman, who spent 18 months battling Barack Obama before joining Fox News as a commentator. "It is difficult -- I'm not going to pretend otherwise," he says. "The outcome was disappointing and remains disappointing. It's odd, at least initially, speaking positively about Senator Obama. But I'm comfortable doing it."

The usually intense Wolfson feels he can finally lighten up. "When you represent Hillary Clinton, you know every word is going to be parsed to the nth degree," he says. "Now I don't have to be quite as careful."

None of them have given up their day jobs at public affairs firms with corporate clients. Murphy and Harris work for D.C. Navigators, Madden and Wolfson for Glover Park Group. Palmieri is at the Center for American Progress, which has a full-time TV booker to raise the group's profile.

Palmieri got little television time while working for Edwards, who was overshadowed by Obama and Clinton in the Democratic primary, but now finds herself in demand. "There are parts of it that are liberating -- being one of the people who sits on their butt in Washington and says what everyone's doing wrong," Palmieri says.

But she, too, worries about hurting the home team: "You're cognizant about not saying anything that's unhelpful to candidates on the left. You're certainly free to say whatever you like, but there are still consequences."

For some, the TV gig may just be a pit stop. What happens, for instance, if McCain taps Romney as his running mate and Madden is asked to return as a spokesman?

"That is a hypothetical I will not answer until the McCain campaign answers it," Madden says stiffly. He realizes he has reverted to robo-spokesman mode.

"I go right back into it very easily," he admits.

Where the Elite Meet

In a survey of Washington movers and shakers, nearly half of Republicans and more than a third of Democrats say they don't watch the Sunday talk shows that are based here. A quarter of Democrats and a fifth of Republicans tune in every week.

The poll of 400 "opinion elites," for the PR firm Edelman, found newspapers the most important information source, read by more than seven in 10 respondents. Eighty-one percent of the Democrats and 68 percent of the Republicans say they take home delivery of The Washington Post. The disparity is proportionally wider for the New York Times (19 percent of Democrats, 8 percent of Republicans) and reversed for the Washington Times (21 percent of Republicans, 5 percent of Democrats).

The most popular radio station for Democrats: WAMU, the National Public Radio outlet. The top Republican choice is WMAL, home of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.


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