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Handicapping the Debates

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Fingers-crossed, here's how things might go in the French leaders' debate tonight and the English debate tomorrow night.

The plagiarizer arrives ready to play it cool, determined to close the deal with Canadians as the leader who can steer the economy through rough seas.

Jack Layton, who has made himself the heart and soul of the opposition to Harper, and who is running the best of his three campaigns, nails him on the economy. He's got to make the case that putting the country in the hands of extreme free-enterprisers whose highest loyalty is to Big Oil would be a perilous choice for Canadians. Layton now commands trust and he can use that to his advantage as the one leader who cares about what happens to working people in tough times.

Gilles Duceppe, often overlooked in English Canada, uses Harper's cuts to arts funding, his savage criminal justice proposals and his alliance with the gun lobby to make the case that the Bloc continues to have a role to play in Quebec as the essential defender of Quebecois values and identity. Tonight's his big night.

I have high hopes for Elizabeth May, who can think on her feet and who is much less of a poseur than the other leaders. If anyone can show that Harper is naked on the environment and that he is simply reciting a script--likely written in Achnacarry Castle near Loch Lochy in Scotland where everyone knows the neo-cons have their secret headquarters--it is her.

Stephane Dion could end up charging off in all directions, furiously lashing the NDP for its old fashioned socialism in which monopoly money is the coin of the realm, and then striking out at Harper for his secret right wing agenda. If he is wise, he'll make the strategic decision to limit his attack to Harper, and use his time to make three or four points that people can remember. Don't bet the farm on this.

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