Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats got a boost from the candidates' televised debates, but Thursday on election day his standing was diminished compared to promising figures released after the first debate.
Such an occurrence was anything but surprising. Followers of the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign saw a comparable phenomenon with Independent Party candidate Ross Perot. He received the post-debate spike rather than President George H.W. Bush or his Democratic Party challenger, then Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
It was explained that the debate was "Perot's convention bounce." There was more involved as well. With citizens disenchanted with the way the current two party structure was functioning, Perot's critical analysis of the status quo was welcomed as a breath of fresh air.
An identical situation occurred in the British televised debates. Articulate and telegenic Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, at 43 the same age as Senator Jack Kennedy was when he faced Vice President Richard Nixon in the historic 1960 U.S. presidential campaign debates, decried the current system in which leadership has moved back and forth between the Conservatives and Labour.
As election day drew nearer Clegg suffered the same fate as Perot in 1992. Amid fervent and frequent advertising messages and speeches from Conservative and Labour candidates and spokespersons, voters were warned not to "waste their votes" on a Clegg candidacy that did not possess sufficient strength to summon a parliamentary majority for the Liberal Democrats.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown suffered greatly in the joint television appearances against two 43-year-olds who conveyed the image of brisk and youthful efficiency. When he went on the attack to defend his stewardship he was perceived based on poll results as combative and negative.
The election night dramatics were incredible in that the BBC team covering the event never wilted despite being on camera in a grueling marathon that extended into morning. To make matters interesting they pursued devil's advocate manners in questioning the candidates and party chiefs who appeared on camera.
While Labour spokespersons were asked if they should abandon coalition efforts since they received a discernibly lower total vote than the Conservatives, Tory guests would be asked why the party could not summon, despite a troubled economy, to achieve a majority. Liberal Democrats would be asked why Nick Clegg had fallen from the lofty pedestal he occupied following the first debate.
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