PM did enough to survive debate: analysts

Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:48pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's prime minister shook off tough blows in a key televised debate with opposition leaders and emerged unwounded and likely to win the May 2 election, analysts and media said on Wednesday.

Most opinion polls ahead of Tuesday night's debate between Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the three opposition leaders showed the Conservatives were set to retain power. But experts said the two-hour English-language debate might be a good chance for Michael Ignatieff, leader of the main opposition Liberal Party, to win over voters.

Most observers felt Ignatieff did well, but none thought he had delivered enough blows to damage Harper.

"At the end of the day not one Canadian changed their opinion of Stephen Harper and that's probably fine with him," said Allan Gregg of polling firm Harris Decima.

"(Ignatieff) was very articulate ... I thought he showed some passion. Will it make enough to make a difference? I don't think so," he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Ignatieff, a former academic and broadcaster, took over the Liberals after the 2008 election that handed the Conservatives their second minority government.

In a flash Internet poll by Ipsos-Reid, 42 percent felt Harper had won the debate while 23 percent gave the victory to Ignatieff. Jack Layton, leader of the small, left-leaning New Democrats, outscored Ignatieff with 25 percent.

Those numbers would come as a relief to the Conservatives, since an Ekos automated phone poll showed a sharp narrowing of their lead in the two days prior to the debate, to five percentage points from 8.5 points last week.   Continued...

<p>Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (L-R) take part in the English leaders' debate in Ottawa, April 12, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>