There were no gaffes and no king-hits in tonight's leader's debate, says an academic.
Dr Bryce Edwards from the University of Otago said both Prime Minister Helen Clark and National Party leader John Key were aiming for the middle ground with the same old messages.
"Overall, I thought the debate was a yawn and I think both leaders would have sent a fair number of viewers to sleep," Dr Edwards said.
He said much of what was said by both Helen Clark and Mr Key was rehashed from previous speeches and debates.
Dr Edwards said the leaders were generally in agreement on tax cuts, climate change and a harder approach to law and order.
"I think if you had someone from overseas watching the programme, they wouldn't immediately be able to work out which person came from the red party and which came from the blue party," he said.
Dr Edwards said both leaders did "quite well" and will be pleased with their performances but neither could claim victory.
"Helen Clark seems to have her mojo back and perhaps she has been buoyed by some of the recent opinion polls showing Labour is still in the game but it's not like she won the debate," he said.
The YouTube TVNZ debate used questions filed by viewers online but only put some "different faces up on the screen", Dr Edwards said.
But he said despite the new format, the same questions were asked that would have otherwise been asked by the host.
He said the senior political journalists were not needed with Sainsbury and the YouTube questions.
Helen Clark and John Key took each other on with strident determination tonight.
The 90-minute TV One head to head was marked by feisty exchanges as they interrupted each other and refused to give ground.
"You're not going to shout me down, John," Miss Clark at one stage told National's fired up leader.
Mr Key gave as good as he got, and at times Helen Clark talked over him as she challenged the points he was making about the economy, incomes, housing and the environment.
She managed to get ahead when she used Labour's record to trash the previous National government's policies - housing in particular - but Mr Key came back with facts and figures in today's terms.
Both were well prepared, self-assured and determined not to let the other get away with anything.
The leaders focussed on pocket book issues while foreign policy was off the agenda.
University of Auckland associate professor in politics Stephen Hoadley specialises in foreign policy and said the leaders were sensible to stick to crime, education and health.
He said 98 per cent of elections are fought and won on the "pocket book issues" not foreign policy.
Dr Hoadley said the financial crisis got a brief mention. He said both leaders did well, focussing on the positives.
"But neither was specific on how to deal with the financial crisis," Dr Hoadley said.
He said the "little moment" when John Key was caught out on the Springbok tour was interesting for people of his generation.
John Key told TV One viewers that he was was "mildly pro-tour".
"Helen was obviously right on the front line but John Key could have answered that a little more positively or side-stepped the issue as he eventually did by saying it was 27 years ago and I'm looking forward."
Overall Mr Key was strong on the economy and the need to increase prosperity.
And he was right up to date. "The Carter Holt redundancies happened because our economy is inefficient," he said, referring to announcements made just a few hours before the debate started.
Miss Clark didn't agree, and she let him know it.
They were well matched in the important campaign event, they both knew their business and there was no way either was going to be beaten.
- with NZPA