TORONTO — Here are five keys to success in Thursday's leaders' debate for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper:
1. Stay cool under pressure.
As the incumbent, Harper's opponents will be gunning for him. He will have to maintain his composure and convey confidence while under attack. He needs to persuade Canadians he has the experience and the goods to lead the country for another term.
2. Defend the party's record.
Harper's Conservatives have held power for nearly a decade, so NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green party Leader Elizabeth May will try to pick apart many of the decisions he's made while in office. He will have to fend off his rivals while persuading viewers that the Tories have made Canada better, particularly when it comes to the economy.
3. Go on the offensive.
Harper cannot sit back and play defence. He will have to attack proposals made by his opponents. Since the election campaign began, we've heard him warn how the NDP and Liberals would put Canada on a path of higher taxes and deficits. Harper will be looking to plant seeds of doubt among viewers about the pledges made by the other parties.
4. Respect Tom Mulcair's prosecutorial style.
The NDP leader has proven chops as a strong debater in the House of Commons, where he has repeatedly challenged Harper during question period. Mulcair has worked as a lawyer and has years of experience as a politician dating back to his time in Quebec's national assembly. However, this will be his first time in a televised leaders' debate.
5. Pace himself.
With so many debates on the schedule, Harper should be looking to play the long game. Unlike past campaigns, this one is expected to have five debates — three in English and two in French. Like the other leaders, he won't be looking to develop a one-debate strategy.
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