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October 23rd, 2012
10:34 AM ET

Debate preppster O’Donnell: Romney effectively passed the commander-in-chief test

President Obama and Mitt Romney faced each other for a final time last night in debate capacity, battling over foreign policy issues. Pundits agree that both candidates gave strong performances, but that the incumbent president had the upper hand. Debate Coach Brett O’Donnell prepared Mitt Romney for his primary debates and has also worked with President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain. He comes to “Early Start” to score the candidates on last night’s debate.

In a CNN/ORC poll taken after the debate, 48% of debate watchers said Obama won the debate to 40% for Romney. O’Donnell agrees with the assessment. He thinks Obama was more aggressive than Romney in Boca Raton. "The aggressor tends to be viewed as the winner and so, given the fact that he was on the attack more than Governor Romney was, people are gonna perceive him as doing better in the debate,” O'Donnell says.

Romney spent much of last night’s debate agreeing with President Obama’s foreign policy actions and refrained from arguing over Libya and Osama bin Laden. “I think it’s a strategy,” O’Donnell says. “I think last night you saw him basically hug the president to death. The problem was it frustrated the president. Really, in an election that’s centered on the economy, this was a strategy that the governor could prosecute and get away with really.” O’Donnell doesn't see a risk in this.

O’Donnell believes Romney needed only to establish himself as a capable leader. “All Governor Romney had to do was pass the commander-in-chief test, which he did effectively. He was able to demonstrate that he’d be a calm hand as commander-in-chief and if he gets over that bar, the big issue is the economy, which if you go back and look at the debate, I thought he did a pretty good job at.”

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