If the first TVNZ debate was a narrow-points victory to Phil Goff, last night's Press debate was not far short of a rout by John Key.
OPINION: Goff started well enough and had the Christchurch audience on his side as he called for faster action on insurance in the wake of the earthquakes.
But in the second hour, as the topic turned to the economy, Key the showman slowly took over. By the end he had the audience eating out of his hand as he constantly badgered Goff about his estimate of the hole in Labour's promises – $14 billion.
It became like a vaudeville routine, that the audience were starting to mutter in time with Key's mock exasperation. "Where's the $14b coming from?"
Goff did his best to press all the right policy buttons on asset sales, and there was no enthusiasm for National's asset sales plan among the 600-plus audience.
But it is increasingly looking as if Labour has made a major tactical blunder by holding off releasing its full fiscal costing, leaving Goff exposed.
Even so, he could have made a better fist of explaining his Budget plans.