Political Editor Audrey Young
Before the first leader's debate Helen Clark said election campaigns bring out the best and worst in people. She was right.
The debate brought out the best in John Key. He looked human, he talked about real people, real redundancies and up against the policy supremo, he more than held his own. She was awful to begin with, talking mainly in theories and statistics. Berating him over the Springbok tour was a mistake.
She was more convincing when talking up her leadership record. She had by far the best campaign launch on Sunday but he wiped the floor on the debate.
Politcal correspondent John Armstrong
While there was little to separate the pair in a pretty even contest, John Key has to be declared the winner of tonight's debate.
It was the known quantity versus the still largely unknown quantity. He had much more to prove than Helen Clark.
He had to come across as a prime minister-in-waiting. He not only met those expectations. He exceeded them. His was an impressive, confident performance, notable for its passion and expression.
In a tight battle, he even scored points at Clark's expense. She was as rock solid as always, but predictable.
Key will have consolidated support for his party. National's wobbly election campaign is back on track.
Politcal correspondent Fran O'Sullivan
Helen Clark and John Key versus You Tube: Five Nil.
What a travesty: At a time when people are worried about whether they will have a job next year, let alone afford to pay their bills or their mortgage payments, TVNZ opts for stuntsville over a serious head-to-head debate with host Mark Sainsbury and the trio of political journalists like bit players instead of fearless interlocutors.
Gripes aside: Clark scored best on the issue du jour - the international credit crisis. She has a post-election plan. Key doesn't.
Key was initially ineffectual letting Clark walk over him (shades of Don Brash). He recovered and successfully challenged Clark's rhetoric on climate change and crime.
But to win, he needs to come up with fresh material at the next debate to convince us he can deal with the crisis. Not just talk slogans.