As a former political advisor who was also a debate coach, I am often asked to comment on potential outcomes of political debates. The planned Michigan gubernatorial debate between Democrat Virg Bernero and Republican Rick Snyder on October 10th, in my mind, appears to be one of the most one-sided debates since Kennedy/Nixon. During my time as a political advisor, I became familiar with both of these candidates and can offer insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
Virg Bernero’s Debate Strengths
Virg Bernero was invited onto multiple news programs when the auto industry was asking Congress for their portion of the bailout run. I was able to catch many of his interviews, and found that he was energetic, confident, charismatic, and was able to respond quickly, and efficiently to questions. Qualities like this are what will drive him during the Michigan gubernatorial debate.
Virg Bernero’s Debate Weaknesses
Virg Bernero is going to have to be careful during the Michigan gubernatorial debate to make sure that his confidence does not overtake him. He is also sometime prone to making sarcastic remarks. Many Michigan voters might take offence to comments that they feel are attacks on the other candidate.
Rick Snyder’s Debate Strengths
While I cannot comment directly on who will be mentoring Rick Snyder in preparation of the Michigan gubernatorial debate, I can tell you that he should be well prepared. It would not surprise me if he was ready for more left-field questions than Bernero. Also, with haven worked certain jobs in his past (such as with Gateway), Snyder will be better prepared to deal with questions that might make the average candidate uncomfortable.
Rick Snyder’s Debate Weaknesses
Before the Michigan gubernatorial debate, Rick Snyder is going to have to gain more confidence in his ability to communicate. His under-confidence (as compared to Bernero) comes in the form of sweating, and hemming and hawing whenever he speaks publicly. To me, Snyder does not appear energetic and charismatic when he speaks. This will come across to voters that he is not as confident as he should be.
Who Will Win the Michigan Gubernatorial Debate?
Judging by confidence, energy, and overall charisma, I really believe that Virg Bernero has this debate in the bag. It should be pointed out that Rick Snyder and Virg Bernero could not agree on the type of debate, or if there would be a debate at all. Last week, Snyder’s camp announced that there would not be a debate at all. It took a sneak attack by Virg Bernero at one of Rick Snyder’s town hall meetings to get him to agree to the debate.
Kennedy/Nixon Debate Similarity
To me, this shows that same kind of lack of confidence that was displayed when the Kennedy/Nixon debates happened. Nixon lost the debates well before they started because his nerves took over when thinking about debating the charismatic Kennedy.
What Will Voters Think?
Both candidates will be entering the Michigan gubernatorial debate with a strong camp of supporters behind them. This base will not be wavered by the results, unless one candidate makes a major mistake. The issue will come to those that are either on the fence, or only leaning towards one side or the other. Virg Bernero’s confidence (as long as he can keep it in check) is most likely going to sway many of these voters onto his side.