In a nondescript fifth-floor office a stone's throw from FleetCenter, Tim Griffin allows himself a smile.
The Republican National Committee's research chief, one of 30 GOP operatives here to rain on the Democratic parade, has on his computer screen a photo of a John F. Kerry press pass from Detroit. The pass happens to feature a gleaming Rolls-Royce -- hardly the preferred vehicle of the working masses Kerry hopes to attract -- and Griffin, having spotted it in the Washington Times, is posting the image online.
When 40 reporters showed up for a Republican news conference Monday morning, they were handed laminated Kerry passes emblazoned with the luxury car, a big red X and the words "Democrat Cosmetic Convention."
Here in the heavily Democratic capital of one of America's bluest states, President Bush's campaign and the RNC have set up shop, determined not to abandon their megaphone even though Kerry and his party will drown them out all week.
"We understand we're going to be on the jump page," said Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie, who also appeared Monday on CNN, Fox and CNBC. But, he said, "it's not just important to show the flag. In this information age, you can't just let a news cycle go by without responding and getting into the mix."
Besides, he said, "it's kind of fun to be behind enemy lines."
This is no ordinary storefront operation. In the "war room," filled with computers and television sets, Republican staffers are monitoring everything that Kerry and his party stalwarts say, looking for anything they can paint as wrong, exaggerated or, to use their favorite term, a flip-flop.
Rich Galen, a former Newt Gingrich aide who is here as a GOP spinner, said he first took Gingrich and a few others to the Democrats' San Francisco convention in 1984 because "by the second day everyone has covered everything there is to cover and they're down to the guy selling the Nixon bobble-head dolls on the street."
Not that Republicans have a patent on the idea. The Democratic National Committee will be doing the same thing during Bush's convention in New York. "It's to keep them honest -- simple as that," said DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera. "It's rare that the other side breaks through. That will not stop us."
Nor has it stopped the Republican invaders. In one office, regional press secretaries deal with local journalists. Behind another door with a "Viva Bush" bumper sticker, other staffers focus on black and Hispanic outlets.
In the radio room, Scott Hoganson, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, has 115 interviews booked for Tuesday with the likes of Gillespie and GOP activists Galen and Mary Matalin. According to a wall chart, Gillespie will hit the air in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 7:35 a.m., Cleveland (8:10), Seattle (9:06), Laura Ingraham's syndicated show (9:30), Los Angeles (10:35), Fargo, N.D. (12:10 p.m.), Cincinnati (2:05), Philadelphia (6:05) and Phoenix (8:10), on a program hosted by G. Gordon Liddy's son, Tom.
And if all else fails, "I'm the guest of last resort," Hoganson said, "because I'm better than dead air."
Bush aides say without blushing that they are just setting the record straight. "We're probably the only people in Boston who want to focus on Kerry's record in the United States Senate," said Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt.
Rapid reaction is the key. Griffin drafted a news release Sunday after ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) whether Kerry is a liberal and the senator argued that "labels don't really have much meaning today." One of Griffin's 10 opposition researchers dug up golden-oldie quotes of Kennedy slamming Republicans with such terms as "Neanderthals" and "right-wing ideologues." "He seems to have changed his opinion of labels," said Griffin, who listed the quotes under a headline: "Hey Ted, What About These?"
Monday began with a 9:30 conference call with GOP governors, members of Congress and party leaders across the country, who are given their talking points. They, in turn, carry the message in interviews with their local media outlets.
At 10 a.m., Gillespie took the podium in front of a telegenic background (DemsExtremeMakeover, the name of the RNC's Web site du jour) while reporters across the country dialed in to hear the remarks. A satellite on the roof beamed the pictures to any TV station that wanted them.
Gillespie, joined by Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Texas Rep. Henry Bonilla, called the Democrats "a very angry, bitter, harsh party." Bonilla said Kerry was playing to "an extreme, angry, hard left constituency."
As reporters left the building, they were met by Kerry spokesman Phil Singer, who had tried to get inside. He was accompanied by a man in a red cape and black mask, hired by the DNC, called Enron Ed. "This is the first time there's been any oppo to the oppo," Singer declared.