Long before the media was fretting over The Donald’s comments about women there was concern amongst Team Trump over how the billionaire would perform at the Presidential Debate tonight.
He was widely seen as ill prepared and weak on his first time out against Hillary Clinton, but his team believed he had a secret weapon from across the pond. That weapon is one of his biggest supporters, the Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage.
Mr Farage is a wealthy former city trader who gave up his job to fight for Britain to leave the European Union. He was widely mocked for years, but in June his life’s political work culminated in the UK voting to leave the EU.
He’s loved at CPAC, on Breitbart and with the Tea Party. The same groups that propelled Trump to the GOP nomination.
Shortly after the first debate Trump’s people announced Farage would be helping for tonight’s debate preparation. Farage was widely seen as having won a series of leaders debate in Britain.
The most notable with the European debate with the British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Farage’s win was doubly impressive because Clegg had only become DPM after he murdered all the other candidates for Prime Minister in 2010. Had Clegg been leader of a bigger party he would have won the election outright.
Therefore Farage is the guy, who beat the guy, who beat David Cameron and Gordon Brown in 2010.
I first met Nigel Farage in 1997 and know his mind better than most journalists, so I will now run through the things he will have told Trump to do tonight. If you watch, make sure you look out for them:
Don’t Be “Presidential”, Revel in Being An Outsider
The careful balance Farage struck was to be competent and popular without trying to look like other politicians. His drinking, smoking and traditional British tweeds all added to the sense that he was from an age before the ‘politically correct’ thought police had made everything so very dull.
After the first debate most pundits were saying Trump should cease to be his old bombastic self, and act more like a leader. In reality Trump has proved himself to be a leader by being authentic, like Farage, which is why the Brit will have told him not to do it…
Get Your Facts Straight
So far the major difference between Nigel Farage and Donald Trump has been that the former has been armed with facts, whilst the latter seems to spew out dubious assertions. Farage will have insisted Trump get some ‘killer facts’ to trot out.
In the leadership debates before the 2015 General Election Farage said: "There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people who are HIV positive, which is not a good place for any of them to be, but 60% are not British nationals.
“You can come to Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the retroviral drugs that cost up to £25,000 per year per patient."
The comments caused outrage, but his facts were bomb proof and so wasn’t chased by ‘fact checkers’ after. By knowing the facts he was able to shock the crowd in a way that did not lead to embarrassing back downs in the spin room afterwards.
Make Insults Funny
Perhaps the greatest sin of the Trump debating style so far is his insults haven’t been softened by a bit of humor. Farage’s more shocking personal attacks have a little bit of boyish cheekiness to them, which ensures he comes across as likable.
When debating the appointment of Herman Von Rompuy as President of the European Union in front of him Farage said:
"We were told that when we had a president, we'd see a giant global political figure, a man who would be the political leader for 500 million people, the man that would represent all of us all of us on the world stage.”
He continued: "Well, I'm afraid what we got was you... You have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk and the question I want to ask is: 'Who are you? I'd never heard of you. Nobody in Europe had ever heard of you.'"
Farage’s comments led to him being fined by the European Parliament and forced to apologize. He did apologize, to low grade bank clerks, for comparing them to the President. Compare this to Trump’s attacks and it is easy to see why Donald gets tagged with the ‘nasty’ label in a way Farage does not.
Do Not Accept False Premises
So many times in political debates politicians run with the crowd, whereas the aim of both Trump and Farage is to break the mold. Who can forget the classic moment Ronald Reagan said he would not bring age into the debate… by highlighting his opponents “youth and inexperience”.
Reagan refused to accept being older was a bad thing, despite the pundits thinking differently. When Farage was asked why he was unwilling to allow ‘genuine’ refugees from Syria into the country, he did not allow the interviewer to get away with the assertion they were genuine.
He said: "If you get back to the Geneva Convention definition, you will find very few people that came into Europe last year would actually qualify as genuine refugees."
Another example is Farage’s refusal to accept business caused the 2008 crash: "The banking collapse was caused, more than anything, by bad government policy and the total failure of bad regulation, rather than by greed."
On emails, Bengazi and even Bill Clinton’s alleged infidelity Farage will have told Trump to keep going even if the moderator and Hillary assert she’s done nothing wrong.
Keep Calm and Let Her Come To You
Before the last debate the direction of travel in the polls made it likely Trump would win the Presidency. The risk was that Trump would lose his cool and Hillary would help develop her ‘I’m fit to rule’ narrative.
In reality Farage takes an approach much more similar to the one we saw by Mike Pence, that is to invite his opponent to attack him. He then bats them off with the ‘killer facts’ mentioned above.
Mr Farage will be telling Trump to relax and let Hillary overstretch herself, then break her down with some good facts, comedy lines and a dose of venom about her record. Farage really believes Hillary is weak in a number of key areas and her only way out is to fluster her opponent.
Trump and Farage are as much of a social media phenomenon as One Direction. Both men have fans that ‘sell’ their message after the debate. If Trump follows Farage’s advice to be himself, know the facts, be funny and keep calm then millions of supporters will do the rest.
Over the weekend the Trump campaign ran into real trouble, but in truth Trump is in the easier position tonight. Some Farage tactics could win the debate and relaunch the campaign as a whole.
Details of the Second Presidential Debate
Start time: 9 p.m. Eastern
Duration: About 90 minutes
Moderators: Martha Raddatz of ABC, and Anderson Cooper of CNN
Airing on TV: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, Fox Business Network, Fox News, MSNBC and others.