Speaking Coach Previews GOP Debate

GOPDebateGraphicThe first GOP presidential debate tomorrow night is unpredictable. That’s why such a big audience is expected.

A New Hampshire focus group conducted by pollster Frank Luntz produced “an explosion of passion” that Luntz labeled “one of the best focus groups I’ve ever done.”

As a speaking coach and former elected GOP official, here’s what to watch for:

1- Can Donald Trump appear both brash and thoughtful? Trump’s lead in the polls can be attributed to his striking a nerve on illegal immigration and his anti-establishment persona. But knocking over the apple cart isn’t enough. Presidential candidates have to be capable of fixing what’s wrong. He must convince people he has the right temperament to handle the most sensitive, and dangerous, situations. Personally attacking people will harm him with voters in the middle, the ones he would need to be a viable general election candidate.

2- Jeb Bush is in the opposite position. He’s a thoughtful, serious man who can put people to sleep. He has to show passion and convince primary voters he’s got the fight to take on Hillary. He has to be more than Bush Three.

3- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has to show he’s up to the task on foreign policy. Iran, Moscow, North Korea — they are a long way from Madison, Wisconsin.

4 – Each of the remaining candidates needs to carve out some niche that resonates with primary voters. Clarity counts.

How well the three Fox News moderators handle the 10-candidate showdown is anyone’s guess. It won’t be easy, especially with The Donald.

Like I said — unpredictable.

Mark Grimm is a professional speaker, speaking coach and former GOP Town Board member who has made hundreds of media appearances as an analyst. More on his political consulting can be found here.

 

Passion Guides Romney’s Debate Win

With no gaffes or knockout punches, body language took center stage in the first presidential debate in Denver…and that contest wasn’t even close.  A CNN poll gave Romney a 67-25 advantage among viewers. No candidate has topped 60% since the question was first asked in 1984.

An energetic Mitt Romney seemed like he couldn’t wait to get started. As one of Romney’s harshest critics, liberal pundit Ed Schultz of MSNBC, put it, “Romney looked like the guy who really wanted the job.”

President Obama started slowly, nervously noting his wedding anniversary, and appeared defensive. His body language indicated the debate was, for him, a little like eating his vegetables.

Was there any doubt who was enjoying the debate more?

Romney endured 20 debates in the primary that toughened him up and allowed him to bring his “A” game. The president, who lives in a highly controlled environment, was rusty and not used to having someone directly confront him. His strategists certainly didn’t want him to jeopardize his high “likability” numbers by being too aggressive, but he may have been too passive.

Both men were smart, knowledgeable and civil. There was plenty of substance and there was a sharp contrast in the two competing visions. Romney appeared every bit the president’s equal on stage. This was critical because so much of the Obama campaign has been about making him an “unacceptable alternative.” As one Fox News focus group member put it, “Up until tonight, Obama has defined Romney. Tonight, Romney defined himself.”

There was no way to predict how the two men would appear when on the same stage together for the first time. The President’s laid back style proved to be a sharp contrast to Romney, a contrast that favored the challenger.

Bill Gates once said, “the thing I do best is share my enthusiasm.” Romney did that much better in debate one and it reversed the momentum in the campaign.

Expect round two to be much more confrontational.

The writer is a speaking coach, message strategist, and former elected official. More at markgrimm.com

What Mitt & Prez Need to Do in the Debate

Wednesday night’s debate offers Mitt Romney a chance to reverse the momentum in key battleground states. He has the most to gain, and to lose. Here’s what each candidate should do to capitalize on this unique opportunity.

Mitt Romney:

Romney’s biggest vulnerability is the prominent perception that he’s a rich guy who really doesn’t care about the average person. This has been carefully cultivated by the opposition and some media and enhanced by Romney’s own mistakes. This is why the infamous 47% tape was so damaging. His top priority must be to alter this perception. Otherwise, the race is over. Voters have no innate problem with rich candidates. FDR and JFK made that clear. The candidate doesn’t have to be like them, but the voters must feel the candidate is for them.

So Mitt, don’t offer any programmed language that shows you’re one of us. You’re not and that’ s OK. Give specific examples, in your background and policies, that show you’re human and you care.

Secondly, try to get under the President’s skin (in a nice way). The President’s “likability factor” is his biggest advantage over Romney. However, any President rarely faces a one-on-one confrontation where he is challenged in such direct terms. This is an adjustment and President Obama has shown a bit of a condescending streak (view Hillary is “likable enough” comment).

Barack Obama:

The President’s team decided long ago the path to re-election is to make Romney an unacceptable alternative. Many feel Obama’s economic record left them with no other choice politically. Indeed, the incumbent’s support remains below 50% in the polls. They have done a good job of creating a Romney caricature (Mitt’s personal negatives are sky high) and Obama must close the deal on that in the debate.

The president must keep his cool. He’s known for that. But it’s been four years since his last debate. He’s likely a little rusty. Romney had 20 raucous debates that nicked him up, but also toughened him up.

Romney must address the 47% issue head on and Obama must capitalize on it.

The real test for each candidate may well be what role he plays in any surprise, and debates often have them — Al Gore sighing, Nixon sweating profusely, Bush 41 checking his watch. The unanticipated moments are often the most revealing…and the ones that impact voters the most.

The writer is a speaking coach, political consultant, former TV anchor and former elected official. Tune in to this blog for a post-debate video analysis.