It was a western Sydney audience and the questions better suited Tony Abbott. He was confident, on message, punchy, tighter and had the best of the third debate against Kevin Rudd.
The Prime Minister is faltering under pressure. After his highly dubious naval re-location policy on Tuesday, last night he produced an on-the-run populist switch in foreign investment policy to be tougher than the Coalition, warning against "open slather" in land.
This creates a dangerous moment in the election and for foreign investment policy.
Rudd's problem is that he cannot win on Labor's record and he cannot escape that record. There is now a palpable sense of desperation in Rudd's approach.
Last night the Opposition Leader delivered his best performance of the three debates. This is despite Rudd's ongoing success in attacking his unjustified and extravagant paid parental leave scheme.
Abbott was more comfortable than Rudd with the western Sydney agenda. Above all, he got two things right: he kept selling his policies as an economic growth/job creation manifesto and he hammered the idea of Rudd over-promising and under-delivering.
Much of the questioning centred on jobs, the economy, trust and small business.
Abbott was effective in depicting Rudd as a scare merchant; he mocked the Prime Minister's emphasis on long-range policy that failed to deliver upfront; he sold himself in contrast to Rudd as a future prime minister who would "under promise and over deliver"; and he dismissed the Labor years, saying "the circus has got to stop".
There may be a different atmospheric between the impression in the room and the impression watching on television.
Abbott, aware he was the front-runner, avoided any major blunder.
Rudd, aware that he had to strike a lethal blow, pushed too hard and was unconvincing outside the PPL scheme where an audience member asked Abbott the killer question about millionaires.
The emphasis on "spending other people's money" was ideal for Abbott.
When Rudd said he wouldn't apologise for having "vision", Abbott seized the opportunity: he invoked a "nightmare" and referred to Labor's record of failures from Fuel Watch, Grocery Choice, and trade training centres.
On foreign investment the Prime Minister is playing for the Bob Katter vote.
Rudd went out of his way to distance himself from Abbott's "free market" outlook. He wanted a "more cautious" policy on foreign investment in land than the Coalition.
Suddenly, Abbott looked Mr Responsible on foreign investment. Rudd wants those Katter preferences. Watch for a backlash against Abbott from the populist right. This is now risky and unpredictable.
This was the best debate of the three. The questions were different and more geared to western Sydney economic priorities.
Abbott spoke less than Rudd and stayed more on message. He was calm, measured and controlled.
The enduring impression was Rudd as challenger to Abbott as front-runner.
Labor has bet the house for nearly four years that Abbott would commit political suicide. Unsurprisingly, he didn't comply, yet again.
If there is any big message for the Opposition Leader , it is the political problem arising from his PPL scheme.