Last night was the night of The Leaders' Debate. (Picky sidebar: did no one in Parliament House know where that apostrophe should go? Presumably not, since the wording on the screen behind Howard and Rudd read: THE LEADERS DEBATE.)
But I digress. It was the Leaders' Debate, and a couple of things seem starkly apparent to my novice eye.
First, it seems to me that the Worm got it right. It seemed to respond strongly to the body language of the leaders, with Mr Rudd seeming open, keen, almost jolly at times, and Mr Howard seeming petulant, cranky and frankly quite tired. Every time he opened his mouth, the Worm took a dive. When Mr Rudd spoke, it boldly charged into the stratosphere. So I can understand why Howard was keen not to have the Worm in attendance. I can also understand why the Government heavies lopped it off at the neck, if Ray Martin's accusations are true.
Second, we received a startling insight into the psyche of the Government front bench whenever we were treated to a shot of Peter Costello and Alexander Downer, sitting in the front row grinning like cocky private school letter jocks, with Costello even interjecting when Mr Rudd was speaking. Is this the future PM we want - someone so rude that he would call out over the top of a televised election debate?
Third, why is the press calling it a narrow win to Rudd? I can understand the various sides claiming victory - we expect that. But the way it was seen by the majority of regular people - the ubiquitous 'man in the street', if you will - Rudd kicked Howard's butt. He appeared fresher, more interested, more knowledgeable, and certainly less put out by the whole experience. I think we can see why Howard only agreed to one debate, and why it was held so early in the campaign. Without another big play up his sleeve, it's going to take him at least four of the next five weeks to recover from last night.