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Yep, 1st Debate Freaked Them Out Too

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AP Photo

Messina looked back at the "white knuckle" moments of the 2012 campaign.

"I think [it was] after the August debt-limit crisis, and August 2011 where our numbers were, you know, historically low, and then of course after the first debate when everyone was very, very concerned," he said. "Even then I believed we would win, both times, but there were definitely some white knuckle moments."

I will tell you when I knew they were a bit freaked in the Obama campaign. A few days after the 1st debate, after that Pew poll had come out showing a serious erosion of President Obama's margin, I got a call from someone relatively high up in the campaign. And the pitch -- though it was pretty heated, maybe too heated to call it a pitch -- was essentially de-skewing the new numbers. I couldn't help but thinking, 'Oh Boy, that's not a good sign.'

I do believe that the top folks remained basically optimistic throughout. But that deskewing moment told me pretty clearly that they were deep into a white knuckle moment.