Winners and Losers in Debates

Welcome back to my new blog format and post-debate(s) analysis.
It's the most...wonderful time...of the Year!!! Debate central!
First ....Canada.
The French language debate took place last night. Stephen Harper was under a 4-way barrage and emerged unscathed, if somewhat too muted. Clearly his goal was to stay cool, knowing he would be attacked vociferously...and that indeed came to pass. How did he do?
Click here from my CFRA radio interview this morning (October 2nd):
"Madely in the Morning - 7:40am --- Steve Madely is joined by Barry McLoughlin of McLoughlin Media to discuss what he believes the leaders need to do in tonight's debate."

The English language debate tonight was a different experience. All of the leaders brought more of their 'A' game to the debate. Stephen Harper brought some passion with his cool demeanor this time out. He took opportunities to push back against Stephen Harper and did particularly well against Jack Layton by saying that he - alone among leaders - only went to publicly operated health clinics. Jack Layton had to admit that he went to the Shouldice Clinic - privately operated but publicly paid. Hhmmmm. The NDP are strongly opposed to private delivery of public health.

Elizabeth May of the Green Party was much better in the English debate. She was strong and succinct while connecting through the camera. Stephen Harper treated her courteously and gave her as much oxygen as possible (in order to take it away from Dion and Layton).

Jack Layton was much more effective also - except for that awkward moment noted above). He wasn't over-smiling and exhibiting tense and aggressive body language. He demonstrated just about the right blend of strength and personal warmth (except towards Harper).

Gilles Duceppe was quite effective as usual - and no doubt once again English voters will be pleasantly surprised at how reasonable he sounds, and his effectiveness. It won't help him directly in Quebec, but the anticipated media coverage will give him some resonance in Quebec among his francophone base.

So who won?
Not a clear winner, but some interesting outcomes, based on a report card scoring:

Stephen Harper, by not losing, speaking to his target voters, while still staying cool under fire.
Elizabeth May - really paid off on her English debate debut. Too much on the defence, but much of that is inevitable.

Jack Layton was able to find his voice and was able to shine in key moments - especially in the debate over the arts - a sensitive topic for the Harper campaign, which may well have hurt them, especially in Quebec.

Stephane Dion built on his better-than-expected debate performance from the night before and it may well help reverse the tide that had gone out in the first two weeks of the campaign.

Elizabeth May had the most obvious benefit out of the evening. She showed she belonged, she gave confidence to her supporters, and made a dent in the 'undecided' voters who may be thinking of strategic voting.

The real winner, hands down, was Steve Paiken of TVO. He showed a strong hand without spoiling the fireworks.

Vice Presidential Debate
Most viewers tuned in to watch a train wreck. They were pretty confident that Sarah Palin would add yet another Tina Fey opportunity. While she was shaky at times - especially on the role of the Vice President, and some awkward moments, she didn't make a fool of herself. She didn't lose votes, but probably didn't gain any either.

Biden Does Well....but Not Outstanding
Joe Biden avoided any verbal gaffes. He came in with high expectations and largely delivered on the promise. He won on substance; he did well on tone and manner. He was also able to avoid sounding condescending towards her - which was vital. Biden treated her as an equal. Clearly he is a tough guy to beat.

Palin Exceeds Expectations
Although she was occasionally evasive on the questions, and too reliant on her notes, Gov. Palin was surprisingly good on foreign policy and clearly comfortable on energy issues. Palin pretty well held her own and the sighs of relief can be heard in every Republican home in America...especially John McCain's. Her way of speakin' is an acquired taste - if ever- and her bashing of 'mainstream media' somewhat strained at this time.

Her tendency to exaggerate - the 'Obama/Biden raising the white flag of surrender' stuff is definitely going too far. When she does the hockey mom routine, it speaks to those whose top-of-mind question is, 'does this person understand me and our family?' She looked into the camera - as did Biden - and made connections with their target voters.

So Now it's up to McCain
The second Presidential debate on October 7th will be more critical than ever, if John McCain is going to turn this around.

Until then...hang onto your hats!

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