Scoring tonight's leaders' debate, play by play

As always, the big thing to watch for in tonight’s leaders’ debate is a “knockout punch.” This is, of course, when one leader delivers a line so devastating that his rival can’t possibly recover. The key thing to remember is that this never occurs. Thus, the debate-watcher will also want to keep an eye peeled for these other possibilities:

1. Natural hat trick. This occurs when one leader scores on three successive points without the others getting a word in edgewise.  Paul Martin claimed to have accomplished this after the 2004 English-language debate, but the feat is disputed as nobody was listening closely or can bear to review the video.

2. Hitting for the cycle. In no particular order, a leader makes a decent point on social policy, a quite interesting one on the economy,  panders way out to the far corner of sentimental patriotism, and connects with an entirely unfair but entertaining blow against his main rival’s character.

3. Scoring a century. An astonishing 100 or more points made in a single debate. Few have even attempted it in the modern era, although during the 1968 debate, Créditiste leader Réal Caouette, apparently taking the cricket analogy literally, began running frantically back and forth between the podiums of Robert Stanfield and Pierre Trudeau, until Tommy Douglas realized what was happening and ran him out.

4. Bowling a 7-10 split. Let’s say you’re Harper and you’ve used most of your speaking time insinuating Ignatieff is a foreigner, but Layton and Duceppe are just standing there. You’ve got to quickly slip “out-of-control socialist spending” into your next line and then somehow spin way over to “separatist” without throwing your back out. Easier to do in two-toned shoes.

5. Chip and lie. Seeing that your opponent has protected himself against your attempt to control the House by putting up one or two solid policy positions, the trick is to, with a single rhetorical throw, knock one of those “guard” policies out of play and then lie. As with curling, lies can be multiple.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.