Political Editor Audrey Young
Save me from the lists in leaders' debates. Political leaders are so conscious of being interrupted after their one-sentence sound-bite that they cram the party manifesto into their answers. John Key and Helen Clark are both equally afflicted.
Key's policy list however reads exactly as it would if there were no economic crisis (RMA, curb bureaucracy, tax cuts) and Clark's policy lists leaves you wondering what she would have had had there been no crisis (emergency mini-budget; infrastructure projects brought forward, job search allowance, retraining allowance).
Key showed that the first debate was not beginner's luck. He won again, but it wasn't quite Queensbury rules. Stung by criticism of the first debate, Clark pulled her punches. Key took advantage and continually interrupted. John Campbell did not give Clark a fair go to respond. He did have the best line though - pointing out that the two leaders were each trying to claim credit for one of the most hated pieces of law, the anti-smacking bill.
Political correspondent John Armstrong
This at times frustrating, stop-start but always robust affair told you more about who is winning this election than it revealed by way of anything new, fresh or exciting.
Helen Clark was more passionate, demonstrative and aggressive than in the TVNZ debate three weeks ago. She had to be. The pressure was on her to land some telling hits on John Key. She failed to do so. That is one reason why, if there has to be a winner, it was Key. He was even more self-assured and thus more relaxed than three weeks ago.
The other reason why Key took the honours was his decision to talk positive, while Clark, forced on the attack, correspondingly sounded more negative and abrasive. That gave the impression Key was talking about the future, while Clark was locked into arguing about what National had done wrong in the past.
However, this was only a narrow points victory for Key. Most of the time the pair fought each other to a standstill - and stalemate.
Political correspondent Fran O'Sullivan
Just five days out from an election you would expect either Helen Clark or John Key to seize the chance to convince us they have the chutzpah, daring and passion to lead us through one of the most difficult economic times in New Zealand's history.
Clark had a plan. Unfortunately it was geared to looking after "our people", unskilled workers who can be plugged into state-funded work schemes. Anybody else? Forget it.
With Key it was merely the back to basics pre-crisis agenda with nothing of consequence suggesting he is ready deal with the immediate post-election realities.
John Campbell didn't help. I kept thinking of that Diana moment: that point when the former princess recalled that there were three of us in this marriage (debate) so it was a bit crowded.
Unfortunately, like Diana neither Clark nor Key slapped the interloper down and really took it to each other.
It had to be a draw. Pity.