Ok so this is it.
Last two debates beginning tonight. The first two were like exhibition games, but these are for all the marbles – or at least that’s what the media, eager to hype up these contests, would like us to believe.
What can we expect from the leaders?
Well, the polls show Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper is ahead, meaning a lot of Canadians will be sizing him up tonight to see if he’s really Prime Minister material. So Harper will likely approach this debate like a job interview or an audition. He’s got to show people he can play the part. And, of course, he’s got to avoid making any major errors.
As for Prime Minister Paul Martin, well he’s got to do what he does best: ramp up the compassionate rhetoric and hit people’s emotional buttons. There’s a lot of undecided voters out there and Martin can still win this thing if he can convince them Harper is a scary guy. Remember that’s what he did last time. And Martin’s big advantage is that the media is looking for a reason to spin him as the winner.
Jack Layton just has to remind people that he is still in the race. He’s almost been invisible during this election, a non-factor. His big aim will be to somehow convince the soft-NDP vote to abandon the Liberals and come back home.
Gilles Duceppe has the easiest job of all. He just has to keep reminding Quebeckers about Liberal corruption.
So who will win?
We won’t know the answer to that until January 23.
I'm scheduled to be part of a panel discussion on CFRB radio at 4:15 PM EST to discuss tonight's debate. Also scheduled to appear are Warren Kinsella and Judy Rebick.