Short analysis: I'm sticking with my original forecast of a Tory minority. I think Harper's momentum isn't quite as vulnerable to the sort of savage deflation we saw the last time around. If last night's debate is an indication of how the party leaders are performing for their constituents, then I think we will see a very close race. The Tories are likely to make significant gains, and I think the NDP might well reclaim some seats they've been in the habit of losing to "soft" voters intent on defeating Tory gains.
I'm not sure how to read Gilles Duceppe's performance, or the overall mood of la belle provence. He isn't cagey or evasive, which I would think has to play well. On the other hand, he isn't cagey or evasive about his ultimate goal - separation from the rest of Canada - which won't play well with ambivalent voters.
Overall performances: Harper stuck to his "Let's all take a deep breath and just calm down a bit" approach. His everpresent smile got to be a bit creepy, but I think he communicated his central message ("I'm not as scary as they make me out to be"). Someone needs to tell NDP leader Jack Layton that he doesn't need to open every leading statement with "You know, it's interesting..." Despite these annoying verbal and physical tics (keep those tiny hands off camera, Jack), he managed to nail down the party line: for the last half-year, the other two parties practised a singular politic of convenience over principle.
PM Paul Martin was the surprise revelation. This is a guy with his back to the wall, but rather than looking desperate, he looked invigorated. The man clearly loves a good scrap, and as much as I've loathed his governance and corruption, I've got to say he's a treat to watch.
And finally kudos to host Steve Paikin, who I think is the best interviewer in public television today (contracted exclusively to TVO, to the loss of the rest of Canada).