Well who's the clear winner? Likely Duceppe, but there was no one who stamped their supremacy on the debate; however, I do think Harper clearly lost.
He tried to go for the stay above the fray/I'm not going to engage in this madness kind of approach, but it didn't work for 2 reasons. First, the moderator actually did a superb job of controlling the debate and keeping order, so it wasn't quite the madness that we are used to. Second reason -- well Harper didn't say much of significance. He was actually a bit too disengaged and he seemed out matched intellectually. Now I'm not suggesting harper isn't smart because that's not true, but in terms of policy and actually presenting clear, well thought out positions he was way outmatched.
In terms of Dion, he ended up doing really well. For the first 5 minutes or so I wasn't sure about this, but he settled in and was very good at explaining his policies and staying on message. He didn't attack or get angry too much, and he seemed sincere. He also constantly hammered out the point that he was the only one aside from Harper who could be PM and that was a good thing from his POV to remind people of.
In terms of Layton, well let me give a disclaimer - I can't stand the guy. He did pretty well, but I don't think he is going to change many minds. His positions are the same as he had explained as is the same for all the leaders, but I don't think he let go enough of that car salesman persona enough. Overall though, I think he performed better than average, but not as well as Dion or Duceppe.
Well Duceppe - he's the king of debates. I didn't watch the french debates last election, but I watched the english one and I was very impressed. I think he scored points on the issues he needed to in terms of he nationalist agenda and bringing up things such as Harper's position on youth crime, culture etc. Duceppe was the top performer for sure.
May - she was a bit of a hit and miss. She got the attention she wanted, but I'm not sure if it was all good. Her french wasn't very good, so I'm not sure how that will play out, and she was very aggressive. She did have a big effect however. She did a lot to keep Harper quiet because she attacked him most frequently, and he dared not return those attacks because it would play into the image that he's desperately trying to get rid of (via the blue sweater). She also helped Dion in that she could attack Harper and he didn't have to do it. That allowed him to focus on giving his own position. I think May might have turned a lot of people into supporters, but she might have abandoned just as many.
Overall, I really liked the roundtable format. There wasn't too much yelling that couldn't be understood and the moderator was in control. Oh one more thing about May that none of the media outlets have mentioned. In the segment when they were giving the qualities they liked about other leaders.. if I remember correctly, she spoke after Harper who said the customary thing about Layton that there are some issues that they worked hard on together or something like that, and then May said well I can certainly think of one issue they really worked hard on together (or something like that), and of course she meant trying to keep her out of the debate. She'll be interesting in her natural language. I just hope too many Canadians aren't preoccupied with Palin to notice.
Similar to the first comment.. reaction on Lapresse.ca has Dion Winning
http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/elections-2008/200810/01/01-25532-debat-des-chefs-lanalyse-de-marc-cassivi.php ..he was underestimated, but he played his cards well and came out as Harper's true rival.