I’m not sure attempts to spin expectations around tonight’s leaders’ debate are credible.
Take the people saying ‘all David Cunliffe has to do is draw’. Unfortunately, last year David Cunliffe’s supporters in the leadership contest argued he should lead the party because of his superior debating skills.
Here’s Martyn Bradbury from the Daily Blog in the NZ Herald in June of this year:
“Cunliffe’s performance in the debates and on the campaign trail will be one of the most convincing components of a Labour-led win.”
David Cunliffe was widely praised for his skills as an effective debater and his presence on TV.
A Standard blogger talked him up as ‘Labour’s best performer’
“…. in the House and on television: just the tough, well-prepared and clear speaker that is needed to front against John Key in the next election.
More recently, when polls started to drop, the spin was, ‘Don’t worry, just wait for the debates. That’s when Labour will turn the polls around.’
Here’s Brian Edwards, a David Cunliffe supporter, in 2013:
“Cunliffe may or may not be nice, but he is hugely experienced, has an in-depth understanding of policy, conveys confidence and authority, handles the media superbly and can make mincemeat of anyone on the other side of the House.”
It’s inconsistent to then argue, as Martyn Bradbury attempts, that "All Cunliffe needs to do to win here is draw even."
“If he draws even, Cunliffe wins. Cunliffe comes in as the total under dog here and if he manages to show who he really is to NZ, their mainstream media perception of him will be challenged and they will start wondering, ‘why am I not voting for him again.”
You can read the same line on other blogs.
Having picked David Cunliffe to win the leadership debates, I don’t believe the naked attempt to shape expectations really works.
Stop spinning. Just let the debate run. We know John Key is a formidable debater - he performed strongly in 2008 and 2011. There will be two quality and skilled debaters on stage. The job is not to find a ‘winner.’ Its for voters to learn more about how they want their country governed.