“.. While critics are split on the outcome of Thursday night’s TVNZ leaders’ debate – most seemed surprised at how polished David Cunliffe was.
This was no accident.
Labour viewed the importance of the first televised debate as second only to election day.
It had half a million viewers – most seeing Cunliffe on an equal footing with the prime minister for the first time.
Believing this could provide a circuit breaker for Cunliffe – Labour has prepared for months.
This included a series of mock debates – with political strategist Rob Salmond playing moderator.
Former Labour MP Pete Hodgson initially played Key –
– but was replaced by the acerbic Cullen –
– who was instructed to jab at Cunliffe at every opportunity..”
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