In looking at reaction, this seems to be one of those debates where everyone can find something. Last night's Ipsos poll gave it too Harper, Layton strong, Dion not so much. One huge caveat with that sample, they only polled for the first half of the debate, and I would surely concede Dion was much better in the second half. That said, you can go here, and everytime Harper uttered a word the reaction went into the earth's mantle, all others receiving good reaction. The Globe and Mail gives it too Dion by a whisker, others liked Layton, etc, etc, etc.
I thought Stephane started slowly, slightly uncomfortable, struggling to find his words. Layton came out hard straight away, and objectively you could say he was strong all night. May was refreshing and candid, although I think she faded as the night wore on and the debate centered more on the principles. Harper did better than the French language debate, but he was hammered on the economy, the environment and arts, so overall he still lost in my estimation.
Dion really hit his stride in the middle of the debate, especially when challenged, he reacted with a sincerity that I think connected. The thing about Layton for me, and I thought this when I voted for the NDP too, he is passionate and forceful, but he's also slick and very much looks like a seasoned politican (that's not a compliment). Still, Layton did what he wanted, I'm sure his handlers are happy. I just think that Dion's genuine nature gave him the edge, his words weren't contrived or opportunistic.
May's a novelty, so she receives added attention. However, she did demonstrate a real depth on issues outside of the environment, which is important for the Greens, looking to show they aren't a one issue policy. I thought May did well on the economy.
What we will wait to see now, if the polls move over the next few days. By Monday, we should start to have a sense of where the race is, heading into the final week.