Who won? Who won?! FOR GOD’S SAKE, WHO WON?!
That’s the question everyone wants an answer to, and the question they expect a political scientist to have the answer to. Not unreasonably, I suppose, but that’s not really the business I’m in, and it’s not what academics do.
For the record, no one really won, in my opinion. Everyone got some points in. Harper managed to avoid a complete drubbing on democratic reform, but wasn’t as strong as I would have expected on foreign affairs: I guess it’s a testament to a basic level of decency that none of the leaders would go on and on about the Parliament Hill attack. Trudeau’s final statement was really bad (although the media seemed inordinately impressed that he could walk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak), Mulcair’s was awkward, and Elizabeth May’s was really good.
It doesn’t really matter who won in any case. They don’t provide any serious discussion of policy, and they don’t really tell you much about what the parties will do in power (Kim Campbell once famously said that a campaign is no time to discuss issues). The debates are useful essentially for the media, and the pundits who decide who ‘won’. I’m not sure how many people really watch the debate, and how many decide who they’ll vote for based on that. I can’t imagine it’s a very high number. But for a lot of people, hearing the media discuss who won, and hearing how the debate is framed, helps put the debate into perspective. It fits into a broader narrative of how the election was run which eventually leads to a vote.
But with over two months left to go and no other debate yet planned (good fucking going on that one, media and political parties), this political event is ephemeral, and no one will remember any of it come October.