The Liberals are on an uptick heading into the second leaders debate of election 2015 but the three parties remain in an unprecedented virtual tie among decided voters.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's campaign was sagging going into the first debate. He he confounded his critics and has kept his party, and his leadership from political armageddon. However, even a minority government appears out of reach unless Ontario goes decisively red.
Tonight it is Stephen Harper and the Conservatives that are trailing a few points behind the New Democrats and the Liberals. Despite scandals and a campaign that looked like it had been derailed, Harper is still holding onto his core Conservative vote which could still produce the most seats on election night.
The various national polls and seat predictors are showing a national deadlock but the regional break downs show the reality of the first past the post system. The current numbers give the NDP and the Conservatives a much larger share of the seats with the Liberals out of contention to form a government. The Liberals just do not have the support across the country to win the required seats.
The aim of the game tonight is to emerge as a credible economic alternative to Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. A momentum boost for either of the three parties could result in a game changer. I expect Trudeau to be punchier, confident and looking to deliver a knock-out punch to his main obstacle to the PMO - Thomas Mulcair.
Mulcair has the experience and skill to stave off the earnest Trudeau but his team faces the ghost of socialism. The large undecided vote is still hedging their bets. If Trudeau can cost his promises, promote his star economic team and play up his party's past experience as the safest pick to reignite the economy and create jobs while tearing apart the New Democrat's economic plan - he could emerge with the momentum needed to break the current stalemate as the champion of the center.
A lot of ifs, but a few hours in the coliseum of a leaders debate can sink the best campaign and fill the sails of a fledgling campaign. The crowd pleaser wins, this is where real leadership counts the most.
In the gamble to emerge as the clear alternative to Harper the opposition leaders could leave themselves open to a skilled counter-offensive from the Prime Minister who comes armed with a surplus and promises stability and security.
This could be one of the most significant and exciting leadership debates in recent times, at least since the 1984 campaign when Brian Mulroney wiped the floor with John Turner.
Join The Globe and Mail tonight as it hosts Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau live from Calgary as the three leaders are grilled on their economic platforms.
The debate will be live-streamed on globeandmail.com and CPAC will broadcast the debate simultaneously in French and English.
Pizza and beer party anyone?