We now know what a spin room is. It's the place where spokesmen from each party gather with reporters and television cameras to tell why their candidate won and the other candidate lost. It is as American as apple pie.

I went into the spin room at Arizona State University, two days after the last presidential debate, and no one was in the room except one Bush man and one Kerry handler.

I first talked with the Bush man. I asked, "Now that the debates are over, what did you tell the president?"

"I told him not to be himself. It always gets him in trouble. He asked me who he should pretend to be. I told him George Washington, Abe Lincoln or Ronald Reagan -- whoever can bring in the most money. He said he wanted to play Reagan because he always wanted to be the Gipper.

"Then I told George, whenever someone asks him about the war, his answer should be, 'I believe no child should be left behind.' " I explained to the president that if our children could read and write he would not have had to invade Iraq.

"The president asked me what to say when someone asks him about the billion-dollar deficit. I told him to say he will cut the deficit in half under his No Child Left Behind program. The president is a fast learner, and if anyone asks him about anything he immediately says, 'No child should be left behind.'

"George complained to me that Kerry played dirty by saying in the debate that under George's administration the country was more divided than ever before. The prez asked me how he should have answered that one. I told him he should have replied, 'So what?' "

The Kerry man demanded a chance to spin. He said, "My boy won the debate because he came across as someone more presidential than the president."

I asked, "What did you tell the senator to do for the last two weeks of the campaign?"

"I told him to drop all the numbers. People hate numbers. I also told him to forget Vietnam. By this time, everyone knows he was there. After that, when he uses numbers about the jobless, it should only be in the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida."

"Did you advise him what to do about the shortage of flu vaccine?"

"Yes. The president said Wednesday night all healthy Americans should not get flu shots, and that he wasn't going to get one. To match that, I told our film crew to do a commercial showing Kerry helping a little old lady into a shopping mall to wait for a flu shot. He looks straight into the camera and says, 'When I am president, I will see that there is enough vaccine for everybody, even if we have to bring it in from Canada.' "

Both handlers were disappointed that all the reporters had left. They were grateful I was still there. The coffee was cold and the doughnuts were stale. As you can guess, my head was spinning in the spin room.

As I left I said, "Will the last spinner to leave turn out the lights?"

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services