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Thursday, February 21, 2008

alberta election 2008: analyizing the charisma hour (aka leaders' debate 2008).

(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.

Check out more reactions from Calgary Grit, ES Nation, Election Notebook, Joel Kom, and AlbertaTory.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a liberal not a new democrat, but kevin taft looked like a goof during the debates, i think, though hard to decide, that brian mason won the debates.

Anonymous said...

I actually think Taft lost the debates, not because the others did any better, but because he had so many good opportunities that he let slip by.

I was playing lines like this in my head during the debate, "We're pleased to see that it's only taken 37 years for the PC's to come up with a 20 year infrastructure plan. It makes it easier to understand the length of time it takes for their environmental plan to kick in."

"It's unsurprising that Mr. Stelmach ignored the real question of where the figure of 300,000 jobs lost comes from, he's been ignoring the real issues in front of Albertans for a long time now."

"The Liberal plan is to train and retain daycare workers already in Alberta. The PC plan is to spend money trying to get more people to move to Alberta without thinking they might want an affordable home to move into."

"We not only think that we should slow down the boom, but that we should take the steps now to make sure our children can afford a post-secondary education, rather than waiting until the doctors tell us it's too late."

To be honest, I tend to think if there was any winner in this debate it was Hinman. If someone is the type that they can swallow his misogynistic, short-sighted 'free-market always provides' type policies, they will likely have found a candidate of choice.

Anonymous said...

Taft won the debate. He was passionate about his platform. Mr. Mason made it very clear that he wasn't running to form government just for "more ND members."

Scott said...

Paul Hinman was a wingnut, but an articulate, confident and occasionally funny wingnut. He had the best one-liners of the night. He's going to bleed off some disaffected Tory votes.

Stelmach definitely exceeded expectations, but that's damning with faint praise, considering how low those expectations were. He didn't fall apart or flounder, but he had zero emotion or personality. He stuck to his script, period.

Mason had his moments, but his relentless strategy of lumping the Liberals and PCs together as corporate stooges is getting awfully stale. His attempt to take all the credit for defeating Ralph's "Third Way" privatization of health care is also utterly disingenuous.

If Kevin Taft failed to make some of his possible slam-dunks, he did come across as warm, articulate and statesmanly -- a view being borne out in post-debate coverage. I think voters will be looking at him more closely in the next ten days -- and that can only be good news for the Alberta Liberals.

Richard P. said...

Stelmach came across as a father trying to explain the birds and the bees to his son, he looked shaky but confident. Taft came across as the Uncle who wanted to be taken seriously and wanted people to like him but just couldn't understand why nodoby ever gave him a chance. Mason was the weird cousin who had all sorts of crazy ideas but could never back them up when it came to how he could pay for them. And Hinman was the Grandpa Armchair quarterback who could get away with saying anything because he had no chance of getting elected.

The winner of the debate is Hinman in my opinion, because he was able to use the debate to ensure he's not going to lose his own seat, and before the debate, it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to lose to the PC's, now, i'd say 50-50.

catnip said...

Hey Dave,

Do you know if the debate video is up anywhere online?

Anonymous said...

Scott - I think Taft came across as creepy as opposed to warm. I'm not sure if I'd go as far as to say that his closing remarks "come taaaalk to me" reminded me of a pedophile, but I would say he looked the part of a used car salesman, a la Jack Layton.

Anonymous said...

CBC's Alberta Votes 2008 page has the leaders' debate on demand.
http://www.cbc.ca/albertavotes2008/

Anonymous said...

c'mon guys...do you really think that Kevin Taft could ever be seen by the majority of voters in this province as their leader????