We are moving into debate week. Fairly or not, there is an expectation that there is much on the line for all candidates. I want to look at two of them - the Prime Minister and the want-to-be Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton. First, though, a word about Mr. Dion.
Mr. Dion has much experience debating. There were many during the Liberal leadership race in 2006. Mr. Dion has said in other places he'll win both the English and French debates. Ms. May will probably help him try and do that. Mr. Dion's skills are not to be underestimated, though he has set the bar high.
Mr. Layton seems to have more ants in his pants than normal. He appears to be buoyed by polls that either show him tied with the Liberals or close behind them. He is going to use the debates as a platform to try to get the vote on the left galvanized behind him. While he has done well in this campaign, he sometimes comes across as a mix between the video professor on the Shopping Channel and a used car salesman. Canadians are going to want see less of that mixed persona and more of a refined style befitting someone who would be Prime Minister.
For Mr. Harper, success in the debate comes from holding your own and eking out a draw. When you are the incumbent everyone attacks you. You are subjected - or least will be in this debate - to a 4-on-1 assault. The PM might end up feeling like Stephane Dion at a Liberal caucus meeting. However, unlike Mr. Dion, the PM is a proven and competent leader. He is strong and capable, no matter how fierce the fire, and on Wednesday and Thursday those attributes will shine through.