Romney's New Debate Coach Worked at Liberty University - WSET.com - ABC13

Romney's New Debate Coach Worked at Liberty University

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Reporter: Melinda Zosh

Lynchburg, VA -Newt Gingrich's momentum has been fading in Florida, and Mitt Romney is pulling out all the stops to make sure it stays that way.

Armed with sharper words and helped by a new debate coach, Romney was able to blunt Gingrich's attacks in the last debate before Tuesday's Florida primary.

Romney is also getting help from the most recent Republican presidential nominee. Sen. John McCain blasted Gingrich's proposal to put an American base on the moon.

"I think we ought to send Newt Gingrich to the moon and Mitt Romney to the White House . What do you think about that," said McCain.

The efforts of Romney and his surrogates appear to be working because earlier this week, Gingrich and Romney were in a dead heat. But some polls now have Romney opening up a lead, and many say the reason for that lead is Romney's new debate coach.

Brett O'Donnell is a former Liberty University debate coach and joined Romney's campaign less than a week ago. Now he's in Jacksonville, Florida working closely with the campaign.

Romney's newest addition to his team is no stranger to politics. O'Donnell has coached four presidential candidates, including Romney.

"Governor Romney's a very good candidate so it was just a matter of talking through strategy," said O'Donnell.

Romney's campaign team called O'Donnell last Saturday night.

"Hopped on a plane on Sunday down to Tampa and got to work Monday morning," said O'Donnell.

And after Thursday night's debate, the pundits have been talking about the big change they saw in Romney's performance.

"Candidates tend to underestimate the amount of preparation necessary to actually execute a debate," said O'Donnell.

Liberty University won its first national championship under O'Donnell's leadership. In his 18 years at LU, O'Donnell's teams won 18 national titles, and the debate center was named in his honor in 2008.

"The reason for that is because of the impact he had in making debate available," said Michael Hall , director of LU debate.

"My work at Liberty absolutely prepared me for what I'm doing right now," said O'Donnell. "Even though the debating styles are different, the methods of preparation are very, very similar."

Romney made a strong turn this week to go after Gingrich and point out the difference between their records.

O'Donnell says he believes Romney is the only candidate who can beat President Obama. He also says Virginia is going to be a key state for Romney in the general election.

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