The clear winner: Ignatieff

Ignatieff-1Contrarian is baffled by the reaction of Ottawa-based press pundits to tonight’s debate. Most said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff failed to score against Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who, they averred, held his own. I think this is a major misreading, and the polls will quickly show it to be off base.

Try the old silent test: watch any portion of the debate with the sound turned down. Harper looked miserable, especially when forced to listen to anyone direct criticism at him. I am not comfortable commenting on politicians’ physical traits, but Harper’s expression did not serve him well, and likely reinforced voter concerns that he is cold, autocratic, mean-spirited.

Layton looked ever the happy warrior, as he always does, and many will think he won the debate. I doubt this will translate into votes, however, but if it does, it’s wonderful news for the Harper camp.

The angry looking Gilles Duceppe was occasionally effective, but is, in any case, irrelevant in English Canada.

harper-2Ignatieff looked poised, serious, concerned, and easy to imagine as prime minister—nothing like the caricature painted of him in attack ads or pack news analysis. He was effective against Harper, especially in the first half. This is the first long look most Canadians have had of him, and many will be surprised and impressed. He will benefit from low expectations.

Layton-3The press gallery are so caught up in their own memes of the invincible Harper juggernaut, and Ignatieff as flop, they missed the important event that unfolded before their eyes tonight. Too much guzzling of each others’ bathwater, boys and girls.

I look forward to their stories a month from now acknowledging April 12 as the turning point when a majority slipped from Harper’s grasp, and a minority Liberal Government became a real possibility.