Oct 15, 2008

Tracy Watkins: Key Steadies Ship With Warmth And Confidence

Tracy Watkins also gives last night's debate to John Key.

Helen Clark may not have put a foot wrong – but the first round in a head-to-head contest with John Key went to him all the same.
The disadvantage usually lies with the incumbent in the televised leaders' debates – but after his recent out-of-body experiences under pressure of a blinder of a week from Miss Clark, the weight of expectation sat squarely on Mr Key's shoulders.
Anything less than failing to hold his own against the vastly more experienced Miss Clark last night would have sparked a mad scramble of National's strategists into a series of crisis meetings today.
But Mr Key's performance last night has steadied the ship, just as some of his MPs might have been wondering whether, by letting the initiative slip from their fingers in the opening shots of the campaign, they had allowed victory to slip from their grasp as well.
Where Miss Clark was authoritive and passionate, Mr Key was confident and exuding warmth. And he got away the best line of the night with his assessment of what made someone rich – "You are rich if you are not fearful of the next bill."
Having been thrust on the back foot all week on policy, it was a reminder of why mum and dad voters have found him so appealing.