07/24/2007 08:18 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Prepping for Tonight's's all Hush Hush

It's a day before the next debate, so how are the candidates getting prepped?

Who is hanging out at various undisclosed locations telling Governor Bill Richardson not to scowl or grilling former Senator John Edwards on the best way to answer questions about his wife's criticism that he is a better advocate for women than Senator Hillary Clinton?

It's often a mystery who preps the candidates prior to a debate. Bill Burton, the national press spokesperson for Senator Barack Obama's campaign said, "Unfortunately, we don't really participate in debate prep stories with color about preparation, etc."

However, what the prep team does isn't hush-hush.

OffTheBus contributor Kerri Glover has done debate prep for gubernatorial campaigns and also conducted research for presidential debates during the Clinton Administration. She says, "There's usually a friendly questioner and a hostile questioner, and lots of research in advance on the issues they expect to come up."

The research includes questions the candidates fear as much as those that play to their strengths.

Because this debate is a national first, taking video questions submitted by 'average' Americans, the prep and research teams have searched high and low on the Internet,, read blogs, and checked their own websites and blogs in their hunt for questions that might throw their candidate's off-center.

Shoring up their candidate's weaknesses and assisting them to play up their strengths is a prepster's most important job.

For the most part, tonight's debate has been a guessing game for experienced research and prep teams. Most campaigns blasted emails and phone calls to their supporters encouraging them to submit video or text questions. However, the prepsters were also loaded with lots of questions that probably won't be asked, too.

A former political candidate, Gayle Collins said, "Learning how to deal with questions during a debate isn't easy. Most of us aren't debate experts. I kept using non-words like ah-ah. Finally, my prep team started throwing beanbags at me every time I fell into the non-word old habit. Guess what? It worked. Prep is essential to every candidate, especially someone running for the White House."

I wonder if the prep teams are throwing beanbags at their candidates?

Prepping candidates on debate style, question responses, body language, clothes and the color of their tie or jewelry, are all issues covered during prep sessions for tonight's candidates.

OffTheBus blogger and debate educator from Wake Forest University, Ross Smith talked to Governor Richardson's debate advisor, Jeff Parcher.

Parcher didn't go into specifics about his prep strategy, but I did notice tonight that Richardson answered the question first, rather than opening with his typical, "In my state of New Mexico, we do/did... blah-blah-blah."

Richardson's performance was decidedly better in this debate. Parcher is getting the job done.

I asked Smith if the prepsters review their candidates' performance post-debate.

"Oh, I don't think so. The candidates usually know when they've blown it and when they've done well. Their job is to give them confidence and later, suggestions for a better performance. Practice helps."

Trying out for the most powerful job in the world with an expert research and prep team is just standard operating procedure. They're all doing it. Most campaigns just don't talk about it.