Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese shouted over each other in the debate

And his concession to Albanese that he should not have said the effort to vaccinate Australians against COVID-19 was “not a race” and acknowledgment of the “hurt and the feelings that people have had” in Australia over the last three years was a clear nod to voter anger and the fall in his personal standing among voters.

For the opposition leader to win, he must make the poll a referendum on Morrison’s character and judgment, to grab hold of and highlight the underlying unpopularity of the prime minister with voters.

His closing line that “the cost of everything is going up but your wages aren’t … you do have a choice to change the country for the better, right now” will resonate with some voters.

But Albanese did not have the debate all his own way – far from it.

Morrison looked more nimble, although some viewers may have found him too confrontational.

His attack on Albanese’s housing policy and his history of changing policy positions, including on negative gearing and boat turn-backs, had his opponent on the backfoot.

Morrison is a more powerful and more experienced performer in this arena than Albanese, who has been knocked off message and made errors during his daily press conferences on the campaign trail.

Conversely, that means expectations for Albanese are probably lower than for Morrison.

Neither man had a completely convincing answer on how they would tackle the rising cost of living because, in truth, there isn’t a lot governments can do about global factors and inflation.

The final verdict of the debate was close, and it flipped and changed in a matter of minutes: Not long after the debate, 52 per cent of respondents gave it to Morrison and 48 per cent to Albanese. Then, it flipped to 51 per cent for Albanese and 49 per cent for Morrison.

It’s a fair verdict, and one that points to what many already suspect – polling day could be a cliffhanger.

Cut through the noise of the federal election campaign with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Sign up to our Australia Votes 2022 newsletter here.

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