If elections are all about momentum – I am betting that Tuesday’s Ontario leaders debate effectively put a brake on Mr. Mc Guinty’s growth in the polls.

In a debate that closely resembled federal narrative – McGuinty looked excited and worried with his hands flapping and fingers jabbing. His oral messages were clear, but, as with Michael Ignatieff, his lecturing won’t go down well with voters. McGuinty’s goal was to erode NDP support.  His strategy was to do this by raising doubt and fear about his principle competitor PC leader Tim Hudak.

Both opposition leaders came across as strong performers that would look comfortable as Premier. Hudak’s demeanor was calm and reassuring and his messages were “toned down” and “less glib” – than they sometimes can be. His nonverbal communication was inclusive and warm. Viewers got a better sense of the man than during his careful scripted ‘newsers’.

Meanwhile, Horwath more than held her own on policy and came across as the most likable of the bunch. If today the Liberals are spinning that their strategy was to target the female voters – I have to believe it was Horwath that closed that deal.

Ironically – as in the federal debate – a strong Horwath performance should translate into a Hudak win. If the NDP can retain or even grow its current support, PCs will win more seats by coming up the middle in a large number of ridings.

With respect to format, I don’t understand how party negotiators let the networks get away with a 6.30pm time slot. It suggests that each party thought the TV debate was more of a risk than a reward.

For the Liberals in particular, a debate at this late date in the campaign may prove a major impediment to momentum. With the week to go a minority seems certain but after last night, it’s now looking like the conservatives will have the edge.