There were several moments last night when David Cameron could have gone in for the kill on Gordon Brown. But he didn't. You could almost sense him wanting to pin the PM down an pummel him on the lack of equipment to the military. But he didn't. He wanted to eviscerate him on the deficit. But he didn't. Why?
It must have been a predetermined strategy based on the fact that people tend not to like it when Cameron becomes aggressive. The dial tests show it. So instead, he adopted a strategy of appearing Prime Ministerial and not sinking to the depths of debating point scoring. He left that the Brown, and a fat lot of good it did him. In that sense, the Conservative strategy could be said to have worked.
Except it didn't quite. Because Nick Clegg managed to attack the other two without veering into shrillness or too much petulence. And when he did, he quickly rowed back. Clegg attacked but seemed perfectly reasonable at the same time, and that's what Cameron has got to do in the next two debates. He let Brown get away with blue (or red) murder last night. He can't afford to let that happen again.
Cameron is more than capable of hitting Brown where it hurts while appearing to still smell of violets. He needs to let himself of the leash in the next two debates and play to his strengths. Fair heart never won fair lady.
UPDATE: There is a very funny summary of the debate written by The Guardian's John Crace HERE.