Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Debate Guru

 

A number of analysts have expressed surprise at Michele Bachmann’s impressive performance at the debate on Monday night, but Alex Spillius and Toby Harnden reveal in today’s Telegraph one of the behind-the-scenes reasons why.  According to Spillius and Harnden, Bachmann’s “sure-footed performance showed the beneficial effects of being coached by Brett O’Donnell.”  O’Donnell helped John McCain navigate the debate gauntlet in 2008 and before that helped out with debate prep on the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, which is where I first worked with him.  O’Donnell really knows his stuff.  In fact, as campaign consultant Mark McKinnon once noted, O’Donnell “knows more about presidential debates than anyone I’ve ever talked to.”  He is also very well-versed in conservative politics, having worked the Director of Debate at Liberty University for 18 years.  In his time there, Liberty – not usually considered an academic powerhouse – consistently challenged and bested the big boys in debate competition.  Expect Bachmann to continue to be a debating force with O’Donnell in her camp.  If she does not end up getting the nomination, as most pundits are predicting, the eventual winner would be wise to add O’Donnell to their team to prepare for the 2012 showdowns with President Obama.

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  1. Diego Sun Devil Inactive
    Tommy De Seno: It would seem then that Bachmann is better political clay than Bush or McCain, because I don’t recall either of them wow’ing us in the debates. I’m not saying your friend didn’t prepare them to the fullest – I’m sure he did. · Jun 15 at 12:43pm

    My memory of Bush was that he came of as genuine and quick witted, which was a stark contrast to Clinton/Gore/Kerry who were either car salesman fake, dull or both. I don’t know if that qualifies as ‘wow’, but people take what they want from debates.

    Bachmann has a similar quality to Bush in this regard, but I don’t know if that’s enough to help her win.On a side note, I saw Chris Christie on Piers Morgan’s show, and it’s a crying shame that he’s not in the race. He appears honest and charming and yet is not afraid to go on the attack.
    • #1
    • June 16, 2011, at 1:22 AM PDT
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  2. Tevi Troy Contributor
    Tevi Troy
    Tommy De Seno: It would seem then that Bachmann is better political clay than Bush or McCain, because I don’t recall either of them wow’ing us in the debates. I’m not saying your friend didn’t prepare them to the fullest – I’m sure he did. · Jun 15 at 12:43pm

    A fair point. O’Donnel advised from the outside in 04. McKinnon later said it would have been helpful to have had him in the room. In any event, Bush mostly held his own in ’04 against Kerry, who was a very good and experienced debater. McCain was actually quite good in the ’08 primary debates, but I agree he fizzled in the general election matchups vs. Obama.

    • #2
    • June 16, 2011, at 2:27 AM PDT
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  3. Franz Nisswandt Inactive

    I love the moment in one of the Bush/Gore debates where Gore pompously saunters across the stage to Bush — while Bush is giving an answer – and Bush, unflappable, merely nods ever so slightly to Gore and then finishes his answer.

    • #3
    • June 16, 2011, at 3:18 AM PDT
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  4. katievs Member
    katievsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Okay, let’s grant she had good help. But I’d still bet the main reason she surprised is because the media narrative about her had artificially driven down expectations. She was supposed to be dumb, when in truth, she’s not.

    • #4
    • June 16, 2011, at 3:23 AM PDT
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  5. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    The fact that Bachmann has hired this fellow suggests that she is savvy.

    • #5
    • June 16, 2011, at 3:24 AM PDT
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  6. Profile Photo Member

    I’ll go with low media expectations, natural talent and experience. I’ve been similarly impressed with every appearance of this lady so far. She’s rarely made a major misstep, and she has a Palinesque ability to bounce back when ruffled. In her case it is not cheerful folksiness but a friendly business-as-usual steeliness.

    The MC shortchanged her (and a couple of others) timewise, cutting her off rather rudely at one point before she completed her first sentence. What she lacked in airtime, however, she made up for in presence. Only about half the candidates on stage had that presidential je ne sais quois. Bachmann was in that half. I was disappointed that Cain was not — he has so many other good things going for him, but like Newt, he can’t seem to get over the idea that this is about him.

    Just looking over her long list of accomplishments both in politics and in private life, her two graduate degrees in law, and her (also Palinesque) lack from skeletons, I think she’s a shoe-in. Who is she likely to pick for a running mate? How about Allen West?

    • #6
    • June 16, 2011, at 10:27 AM PDT
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  7. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane OyenJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m the poison in the punch bowl here. I have followed Bachmann’s career for over a decade, and appreciated her beauty, grace, character, and commitment to small government. If I moved about 10 minutes away from my house, I’d be in her district and vote for her. Bachmann won her Minnesota state senate seat by defeating one of my oldest friends, a very nice lady who is also a dangerous enviro wacko lefty in her professional life and constantly trashes Bachmann on Facebook; I constantly defend Bachmann.

    However. I started to lose it when Bachmann pushed herself in front of every camera out there, starting with the TARP discussions. The simplistic certainty with which she screamed, during a time of crisis, about “Wall Street bailouts” being the sole reason that many serious and knowledgeable people- free market economists and politicians alike- supported TARP 1 turned me off.

    Since then virtually every issue she approaches is doctrinaire paleocon with no room for discussion. She does her homework- but within a very narrow and rigid scope.

    Anyone can dispense bumper stickers charmingly. Bachmann is not a policy thinker of substance. She talks fine in short bursts, then wears poorly.

    • #7
    • June 16, 2011, at 11:33 AM PDT
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  8. Tommy De Seno Contributor

    It would seem then that Bachmann is better political clay than Bush or McCain, because I don’t recall either of them wow’ing us in the debates. I’m not saying your friend didn’t prepare them to the fullest – I’m sure he did.

    • #8
    • June 16, 2011, at 12:43 PM PDT
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  9. Southern Pessimist Member

    Andy McCarthy mentioned at NRO that he met her several years ago and was very impressed with her intellect and listening skills. I don’t think Andy is easily impressed by politicians.

    • #9
    • June 17, 2011, at 1:25 AM PDT
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