Joe Biden's campaign spent $5,300 to hire the services of a well-known public speaking coach just one day after his appearance in the first 2020 Democratic debate, which the former vice president was widely viewed to have lost to California senator Kamala Harris.
FEC records show the campaign paid the fees to Sheehan Associates and earmarked the money for "strategic consulting." According to the Washington Examiner, which first reported the expense, head of firm Michael Sheehan "has coached both Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as numerous vice presidents, first ladies, members of Congress, and governors."
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Harris stung Biden in the most memorable moment of the debate with a personal story about her own experience of being bused to school in the 1970s, and related the anecdote to Biden's own stance on the issue at the time.
"Mr. Biden's performance on Thursday night, which many Democrats described as surprisingly rusty and uneven for an early front-runner, highlighted the unsettled nature of a race featuring an unwieldy field of two dozen candidates," the New York Times wrote, summarizing perception of the debate. "And it fueled skepticism about the central premise of Mr. Biden's campaign: that he is his party's best hope of defeating President Trump."
The Sheehan Associates Inc. website offers services under an array of media and communication-related topics, such as message development, media training, public speaking, and crisis communications.
"But the underlying goal of all our training is the same—to build confidence and control," the website says under its "media training" page (emphasis original).
"We have prepared people to speak on the most complex issues against the toughest adversaries in the biggest arenas. No firm can offer the quality of our on-camera coaching, interview strategy and media techniques."
Polling in the wake of the debate showed Harris gaining ground at the expense of Biden.