Since I twitted it live (@danielduquenal) I have no desire to go overboard on comment. A quick item by item to let you know why I think Leopoldo Lopez won tonight.
Venevision. The big loser tonight. They set it up as if it were some game show, all bright and shinny and bad judges all from the home field. Pathetic. But at least it will not displease their chavista masters too much because I bet a lot of people got turned off. The previous debate was more rustic but more heartfelt and thus way better. But all is not lost, at the very least the chavista hoi polloi now knows what is missing from their side: questioning! And that can only but help the Unidad. I have the feeling that Venevision is not going to try that stunt again....
Pablo Medina. Earnest but all over the board, inconsistent. He did not even lose the debate, he was not there.
Maria Corina Machado. She had a strong start but she seemed to fade as the debate went on. On points she might be the winner but somehow they did not add up.
Diego Arria. He was perceived as the winner last time but this time he was not as provocative, played more the statesman. I suppose that since Venevision is a national broadcast he felt more inhibited? He was good enough but after last time people expected more of the same and as such that perception played against him this time. Unfair but that is what show business is all about and Venevision setup was a show.
Pablo Perez. He lost tonight. If sticking to the script may work for Capriles it is still too early for him to play that card. Last time he was probably the one who benefited the more from the debate by proving that he was more than just a provincial governor. Tonight he proved that he was not much more than that, and boring. He should have taken his chances to score against Capriles, his main rival in the electoral pie, but he may have lost his chance. Hopefully for him tomorrow being a working day many may not have stayed until the end.
Henrique Capriles. In a strange turning of the tables he may have won tonight by assuming the expectation of Perez last time. Capriles strategy is not to take a chance but prove that on occasion a little bit of blood runs into his veins. The risk tonight was to appear too dull but he avoided it and as such of the six he may be the one that did the most good to his position as the one benefiting the most from an anticipated Perez drop in polls. But playing the safe front runner strategy of not taking chances does not always work until the end, somebody should tell him.
Leopoldo Lopez. Last time he was expected to win and he, well, sort of lost. This time around he was expected to be more strident, more aggressive, but he resisted and came out the better, winning this debate but not by much. Actually he was the only one trying to turn this fake debate system into a real debate of sorts by asking Capriles to be his education minister which maybe the high point of the evening besides MCM description of Chavez. As far as I saw it tonight, there are only two guys who are presidential material and tonight it showed with Arria and Lopez. The other ones for all of their qualities did not look presidential tonight and on this respect Lopez helped his cause a lot tonight, at least with the more intellectual lot which is unfortunately the smaller segment of the electorate.
Effect? Little and a lot. On the surface all were good enough and none apparently hurt his or her chances (except the already dismal odds for Medina which were made worse). But the electoral trends may be setting soon and will do so under tonight's impression as Xmas comes around.
1) Perez is not up to Capriles and thus this last one will benefit and can start hunting on Perez grounds
2) I have the strange feeling that for all the good things MCM said tonight it was her swan song. But she should not complain, Medina had his first and swan song tonight...
3) Those who do not want Capriles will have now to chose between Lopez and Arria and Lopez will grow by being the non-dull-Capriles because Arria is still perceived as having little chance to prevail.
Thus December will be crucial for Capriles and Lopez, the first one in conveying the inevitability of his candidature and Lopez in making sure people see him as the only other choice, making January a contest between them for the top tier.
Then again the fickleness of Venezuelan politics........ I am still reluctant to rule anyone out already except perhaps Medina.