Last election was Tim Hudak’s to lose, and thanks largely to a poor showing in the leaders debate he did. Going into this campaign how he’d respond to that pressure was a real question mark for me; “He could still blow it in the debate” I’d often say of Hudak. I was expecting a strong performance from him, and my expectations were met. He stayed on message using anecdotes from his own life, and learned on the campaign to come across as relatable and likeable. His body language was good, turning to both opponents while addressing them and to the camera in equal measure.
He kept his tone calm, his speech measured for most of the debate even when attacked on his own policy math. The powerful thing about him throughout this whole campaign has been that he’s led with the negative. When you first hear the words “I’m going to cut 100,000 jobs” you don’t think retirement, and attrition over four years. You think immediately of your own job or your parents’ jobs. And instead of shying away because it’s unpopular, and an easy mark for his opposition he explains it; he owns it as he did last night. And the brilliant thing about it is that’s what people focus on. There is a comeback to the alleged “math mistake; Are you more concerned over having a job today, or in 8 years?
Andrea Horwath came a close second. She was polished, and scrappy. It seemed as if she and Hudak were operating on a dual strategy at times. He gave her an easy time on the policy side, while she helped him go after Wynne over the Gas Plants. Her greatest moment came on the gas plant question at the start when she asked Wynne why she didn’t say No. Horwath didn’t do enough to distinguish herself from the Liberals in terms of policy, however she came across well enough to persuade a few voters. She was good-natured getting in a few lines at Tim Hudak’s expense as well: “Your tough medicine is certainly not Buckley’s, it tastes awful, but it’s not going to work.” Humour makes people seem more human, and could win her a few more votes.
Kathleen Wynne came a distant last. It was hard to believe this was the same friendly, genuine, warm woman I met a few weeks ago. She seemed flustered, defensive for most of the debate. She should’ve been prepared for the gas plants’ question, and the other questions on the record. The most uncomfortable part was when she repeated her apology. When she did it once I thought; ‘just leave it there, relate it back to policy. Talk about all you’ve done to create accountability’ Repeating it made her sound desperate. And the body language; she was stiff, and unnatural. The hand gestures were pretty distracting; a symptom of nerves I think. I know staring at the camera was supposed to make her seem as if she was talking to voters, but it was awkward and disrespectful to the people in the room with her. It’s the most natural thing to make eye contact with someone you’re speaking with. She had a bad first section of the debate, and never recovered.
With 9 days to go, Hudak’s win in the debate has made it his election to lose.