Both Cameron and Brown put in much improved performances on the night but it's not just the performance on the night that counts. Up and down the country Labour candidates have been frightening pensioners with false allegations about Tory plans on the winter fuel allowance and other benefits. Cameron forced Brown into a corner on his smears. The Prime Minister said that he hadn't authorised the scare stories but they are all over the Labour website. This story of dishonest campaigning will deservedly hurt Brown in the next 24 hours and possibly beyond.
Overall Cameron steadied the Tory ship with a confident but not spectacular performance. His answers on Europe, immigration and national insurance will consolidate the Conservative vote but he has not yet done enough to derail the Clegg Express. The Liberal Democrat leader promises a new politics but he won't answer the big question of who he would support in the event of hung parliament. Cameron needs to use the third debate to put Clegg on the spot. Every Tory MP elected will ensure Brown and Labour leave office. Will Liberal Democrats end Labour rule or will they keep the party of debt, waste and taxes in power? Clegg can't give a straight answer to that question because at least half of his MPs prefer five more years of Gordon Brown to a change of government.
Tim Montgomerie is the editor of the website ConservativeHomeReuse content