(This post was cross-posted with more comment at CBC YouCast, so check it out!)
Overall, I don’t believe that there was clear winner of tonight’s debate. To varying degrees all of the leaders looked pretty uncomfortable in this debate, though do I believe that each of them can walk away with something to be proud of:
Tory leader Ed Stelmach survived the debate. Walking into this debate, the expectations for Stelmach were so low that even if he did moderately well, it would be seen as a win for him. For the most part, Stelmach remained calm and did better than I had expected. Though he could have broken out of his cardboard form and smiled more (or shown any sign of emotion for that matter), I think surviving this debate can be counted as a personal win for the Tory leader (though not a win or the PC Party). With the debate over, Stelmach probably feels like the world has been lifted from his shoulders (until tomorrow morning when campaigning resumes, that is).
Alberta Liberal Kevin Taft tried to portray a positive image. He was calm and composed for most of the debate, though there were times where it seems like he came close to going off message. Throughout the debate it was clear that Taft was picking his fights carefully, but he should have been more aggressive in challenging Stelmach. He did his best to appear Premier-like, but I’m not sure if he was able to ignite the spark that Albertans were looking for in this debate. To his credit, Taft didn’t let Brian Mason get under his skin and only snapped back at Mason once, which was a feat considering how aggressive Mason was attacking him.
New Democrat leader Brian Mason played his role well as the relentless attack dog of the debate. Though he did spend time attacking Stelmach, it seemed like Mason spent most of the debate attacking Taft, which isn’t surprising considering that the NDP will need to take support away from the Liberals if they are going to gain any seats. I don’t think that Mason accomplished his implied goal of knocking Kevin Taft out of the debate, but I do think he succeeded in staying on target.
I’ve never realized until tonight how similar Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman looks like Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Going into this debate, I didn’t really have any expectations for Hinman, but I believe he performed well and may just have succeeded in drawing a chunk of right-wing voters away from the Tories to his Wildrose Alliance.
Not invited to the debate was Alberta Green Leader George Read. Read will be releasing his response to the debate via YouTube, so I encourage everyone to check it out.
Has this debate helped undecided voters make their decision? Has this debate helped voters change their minds on who to vote for? I’d bet no, but I’m not taking any bets in this election.