Some pros and cons for each:
PC Leader ED STELMACH
Pros: Wasn't knocked off message by opposition attacks. Stayed out of the way when Brian Mason and Kevin Taft went at each other. Was sound thoroughly competent by quoting a myriad of facts and figures.
Cons: Didn't come across as a lively or dynamic speaker. Failed to answer the question about specific figures surrounding job losses resulting from Liberal and NDP platform promises on the environment. Waved around a copy of the 20 year Capital Plan... Stock taught us that lesson already.
Liberal Leader KEVIN TAFT
Pros: Retained his composure almost through the entire debate. Stayed on message and avoided getting too specific, instead choosing to focus on broad generalities. Delivers an excellent answer on the question about charisma.
Cons: Looked awkward at times using wild hand gestures, deliberately slow speech, and the goofy grin... seemed like he was trying to overcompensate for the aforementioned lack of charisma. Caught sucked into debating Brian Mason toe-to-toe.
NDP Leader BRIAN MASON
Pros: Delivered the standard NDP soundbytes like FedEx on Christmas Eve. Remained aggressive, but never over the top. Managed to lure Kevin Taft into debating him.
Cons: Used notes a bit too often. Refers to oilsands as "tarsands". Took too long to attack P3s.
Wildrose Alliance Leader PAUL HINMAN
Pros: Understood that this was a chance to introduce himself to Albertans and treated it as such. Clearly placed his party to the right of the PCs in an attempt to woo conservative voters. Repeated the main message of lower taxes and less government.
Cons: Was the least confident public speaker of the 4 on stage. Referred to notes too often, failing to look up at the camera. Went on a couple of off-topic, ideological tangents.
Its hard to pick winners and losers, but there are some key elements that the 4 leaders can be measured against.
ED STELMACH needed to show that he has a clear plan moving forward, distance himself from Ralph Klein's style of leadership, and, if not charismatic, at least not come across as socially awkward. He SUCCEEDED on all fronts.
KEVIN TAFT needed to present Albertans with less rhetoric and more detail of his plan for the province, particularily after calls for a costing of his platform. He also needed to show himself to be more confident than Stelmach and avoid being dragged down into one-on-one debate with Brian Mason. Although not noticeably worse than Stelmach, he clearly FAILED on the other two fronts.
BRIAN MASON needed to elevate the NDP to the same level as the Liberals as an option for voters by getting Kevin Taft to debate him one-on-one. He also needed to talk about some specifics of the NDP plan and keep the pressure up on Stelmach. He managed to SUCCEED on all fronts.
PAUL HINMAN needed to give Albertans a good first impression of this new party by outlining the basic guiding principles of his party. He also needed to present himself in a very competent manner to put potential WRA voters at ease. On the first front, he SUCCEEDED. On the second front, though, he still has some work to do and, thus, FAILED.
Overall, I think Premier Stelmach and Brian Mason should be happy with their performance tonight. Paul Hinman, although rough around the edges, probably did as good as someone who leads a 1-month old party can be expected to do. Kevin Taft, however, missed the big chance he had to score a victory with Alberta voters.