4.28 pm. Brown's final message is one of fear. Cameron offers a "clean break" from the past thirteen years "of failure." Clegg insists "something really exciting is beginning to happen." "We don't need to repeat the mistakes of the past... Don't let people persuade you that things cannot be different. They can."
In this, Clegg grasps the change mantle, the Obama message, in a restive and anti-political country. In that sense, I think he won this. And I would not be surprised to see his party emerge - historically - as the leader in this race.
4.23 pm A quote for the night: "You can't deport 900,000 people when you don't know where they live." yes, Clegg again, and he pushes Cameron for a specific number for a cap on immigrants. Cameron has no answer. A bad moment for him. I have to say that Clegg is winning this debate, with all the possible consequences that might bring.
4.13 pm Clegg pounces on the banks, arguing for smaller banks and breaking up the big ones. Again, Clegg seems able to grasp hot-button issues and present himself as a fresh approach.
4.08 pm. They are now debating a hung parliament. Cameron says that he'd handle either a clear victory or a coalition. I cannot imagine any American politician ever conceding in advance that he might not win. Clegg reduces the debate to the following: "I don't think it's a bad thing for politicians to talk to each other." Hands down Clegg victory - against "short-term party political point-scoring." It's obviously largely bullshit, but it helps define Clegg as a fresher and more radical choice. I think he has done well in this debate, which means his momentum may well continue.
Brown calls Cameron a "risk to our economy." And calls Clegg "a risk to our national security." Brown is running on fear of change, in an electorate desperate for radical change. I think the result of the current debate is Clegg winning, Cameron coming a close second but overwhelmed by the anti-political mood, and Brown a dismal third.
4.01 pm The first real clash between Brown and Cameron - and Cameron wins. Clegg, however, deftly describes all this as a "political ping-pong." He opposes "cheap political point-scoring." Again, when Cameron or Brown wins a testy exchange, Clegg jumps in and plays the above-it-all card. That may well be effective.
3.59 pm. Now they are pandering to the elderly. Cameron does well: "It's disgusting to be frightening people in a general election... You should not be frightening people in an election campaign. It's just not right." He looks angry and resolute. He calls Labour leaflets warning the elderly about cuts under the Tories "lies." The only person offering any fiscal responsibility is Cameron, who proposes raising the male retirement age.
3.49 pm Cameron finally sounds like a Tory. "If you really want to change things, we all have our responsibilities too." Real solutions come when we all say "I have responsibilities too." He says that's the most honest answer for getting change. Clegg immediately pivots to say that "we have jobs for life for politicians." He wants an end to safe seats. Again, the anti-incumbent mood really seems to have been captured by Clegg.
I'm sorry to say that Cameron seems reasonable, positive, decent, smart ... and yet somehow has no ability to go for the jugular or to distinguish himself from established politics. Maybe part of his problem is that he's been party leader for five years. He seems part of the establishment. Clegg doesn't - fair or not.