Romney's former debate coach strategizes

How can the GOP candidate win?


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," October 02, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Impact Segment" tonight, President Obama in Nevada, Mitt Romney in Colorado. Both prepping for the big debate tomorrow night. You may remember that when Newt Gingrich clocked the Governor in the South Carolina debate last spring, Romney came back strong in Florida.

The man who helped prepare the Governor for those debates, Brett O'Donnell joins us now from Washington. Ok, so you really know this turf because you worked for John McCain when he ran against Barack Obama in 2008 and now in the primary season, you worked for Mitt Romney.

Let's assess the Governor's strengths and weaknesses as a debater first. Strengths?

BRETT O'DONNELL, FORMER ROMNEY DEBATE COACH: Well, I think the Governor is a very good messenger. He's a good orator, he can deliver a speech. He's very good when he's on message and on offense. As you saw in the debates in Florida against Newt Gingrich when he got on offense, the Governor was very effective. When he leans into a debate, he can be pretty effective.

O'REILLY: All right. Weakness?

O'DONNELL: Weaknesses, when -- when he gets -- like most every politician, when he gets defensive, that's when he makes mistakes. The $10,000 bet came when Governor Romney was being defensive about his health care policy. And there have been other instances where other debaters have been able to get him on the defense and when that happens, he tends to look bad.

O'REILLY: All right. Well you know that President Obama is going to try to do that. He's going to question his health care criticism, his flip flops on various issues. He's going to press him from very specifics on your tax program and what you're going to phase out as far as deductions are concerned, all of that.

Is the Governor going to be able to parry? Can he parry? Can he think fast enough on his feet all right, to block inevitably what's going to come his way?

O'DONNELL: Well he absolutely can. If you remember the debates with Newt Gingrich -- you know Speaker Gingrich was challenging him on -- on his immigration policy. He was really going after him about deporting grandmothers and, you know, he thought on his feet and came back with a great response. We can't deport 11 million grandmothers. That's -- there aren't 11 million grandmothers that we're deporting.


O'DONNELL: And so -- and so he can. He can retort. And what the Governor has got to do, it's not about parrying, it's about going on offense. It's about starting the debate on offense and finishing the debate on offense.

O'REILLY: But remember, though, because I've debated Barack Obama twice -- I mean he's not Jimmy Carter.


O'REILLY: You know Reagan was the template who destroyed Carter. But Obama is much quicker than Jimmy Carter was.

Now, I don't think Mitt Romney is a confrontational man, am I correct on that assessment?

O'DONNELL: Well I think that --


O'REILLY: He's not me. He's not looking for the fight. He doesn't relish the debate.

O'DONNELL: And that's what happened the first, you know, probably 15 primary debates. He stayed out of the fray and just sort of gave his message.

O'REILLY: Floated.

O'DONNELL: That's right. That's right and let everybody else beat each other up.

O'REILLY: But this time he has to prove himself to the American people which President Obama doesn't have to prove himself. He's a known quantity. You like him, you don't -- whatever. It's the people in the middle, those few persuadable you're after.

But Mitt Romney still has to prove himself. So the burden in the debate is on the Governor or am I wrong?

O'DONNELL: No, I think you're absolutely right. While -- while the challenger gets elevated by being on the stage with the President, clearly the President, has -- you know he's on the mountain top. He's the victor he won the last set of debates. He is the President. And so there's got to be a compelling reason for change, so Governor Romney has the burden of proof in these debates.


O'REILLY: He has to bring that compelling reason.

O'DONNELL: That's right.

O'REILLY: Now why aren't you in Colorado with Romney? You did a good job it seems to me in Florida when he turned it around there. Why aren't you out there with him?

O'DONNELL: Well I think the Governor has got a great team and you know we'll just leave it at that.


O'REILLY: All right, so it's his preference not to have you out there. That's interesting.

Secondly, you prepped John McCain for his debate with Barack Obama and McCain held his own, but didn't bring the debate to the President, then senator. McCain never brought it to him. He was almost exasperated by look, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. He's talking in generalities, but that just didn't get through to the electorate who liked Barack Obama and I think still does like Barack Obama.

O'DONNELL: I think that's true. I think that's one of the reasons why Governor Romney's got to go on offense. What the Governor has to do is he has to make the public start blaming Barack Obama for the bad economic conditions that America has suffered.


O'REILLY: And how do you do that? How do you -- how do you swing the public over to blaming the President? How?

O'DONNELL: Well, that's -- that's the thing that they haven't done effectively -- as effectively as they need to. They've -- they've convinced the American people that the economy is bad. What they haven't convinced the American people is that it is the President's policies that have caused the economy to be bad.

O'REILLY: But would you do that by facts? By saying --

O'DONNELL: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: Ok. So you just keep --


O'DONNELL: He's got to go policy by policy, policy by policy, and say, your stimulus bill created these economic conditions which has hurt unemployment and caused it to be above eight percent for 40 months. And go through each of the policies that he's -- that he has done that have caused the economy to go down.

O'REILLY: Final question, does Mitt Romney have to say, because you know the President is going to come after him -- look, here is what I'm going to phase out. Some charitable stuff, some real estate stuff, does he have to do that or can he stay in the general area where he feels more comfortable?

O'DONNELL: No. What he has to do is cast a vision that's a better alternative than the path we're on right now.

O'REILLY: But does that include specificity in those areas where the President is going to keep banging him and banging him and banging him -- tell me, tell me, tell me?

O'DONNELL: Yes, yes I don't think by and large it has to. There has to be a few specifics, but what he has to do is show that he offers a better way forward than the President does right now.

O'REILLY: All right. Mr. O'Donnell, thanks very much. We hope you'll come back, by the way.

O'DONNELL: I would love to.

O'REILLY: You know in a few days and assess what happened out there. All right?

O'DONNELL: I would love to.

O'REILLY: Great.

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