LABOR doubtless believes Kevin Rudd won the election debate.
Liberals probably believe John Howard won.
Either way, it could not be called a trouncing.
Which means that Rudd the rookie probably came away happier.
And that by November 24 it will probably all be forgotten.
To the punters watching TV in their lounge rooms - those that weren't glued to Australian Idol - the debate was unlikely to prove a vote-changer.
Neither Mr Howard nor Mr Rudd made a disastrous blunder.
Nor did they land a lethal body blow on their opponent.
Mr Howard probably has most cause to regret that, given that he has consistently trailed Mr Rudd in the polls - even the latest ones indicate his government will be merely walloped rather than annihilated.
The Prime Minister appeared more animated, as well he might, considering he is an old stager at these set-pieces.
But Mr Rudd grew in stature as the 90 minutes progressed.
He stood his ground well, especially during one of the few feisty moments when Mr Howard wagged a finger at him and accused him of misleading the public with a remark about an OECD report.
Mr Rudd kept his cool.
He also negated one of the government's key charges against him - that a Labor ministry would be 70 percent made up of former union officials.
He returned fire by saying 70 percent of government ministers were either lawyers or former Liberal Party staffers.
And he used that figure to remark mischievously that 70 percent of cabinet ministers canvassed during the recent APEC meeting seemed to want Mr Howard to go.
Which raised one of Mr Howard's greatest vulnerabilities - his pledge to hand over to another man (he again anointed Peter Costello) if re-elected.
Mr Howard made a decent fist of handling that poser, stressing the important thing was that there would be continuity of policy.
But Mr Costello did not emerge from it well.
He appeared on TV screens only once, for a brief second or two.
But the cameras caught him smirking that smirk again with fellow cabinet minister Alexander Downer as Mr Rudd talked up his economic credentials.
It was not a good look.
If Mr Rudd feels like a winner, however, he would do well to temper any elation.
Because Mark Latham won the 2004 debate, and look what happened to him.
Mr Latham was on a “high”, too, according to his diaries, until he discovered the next day that far more people had been watching Australian Idol.
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