There is an unmistakable whiff of panic in the Tory camp as the polls show a Lib-Dim surge, claimed by some to be a response to Clegg's debate performance. It has narrowed yet again the Tory lead, down to three of four percent, depending on the poll.
More astonishingly, the BPIX poll for The Mail on Sunday shows that support for the Lib-Dims has soared to 32 percent, one point ahead of the Conservatives on 31, with Labour trailing third at 28.
This is the first time ever that an opinion poll has ever shown the Lib-Dims in the lead in a general election campaign. The last time the precursor party, the Liberals, actually had the most popular support was in 1906, before opinion polls or television existed.
More to the point, Cameron's strategy of trawling for Lib-Dim votes is in tatters. The chances of the Tories pulling enough votes from that quarter were always slight but now, he is more likely to lose votes to the Lib-Dims than gain them.
That, however, was Cameron's main strategy and so confident was he in its success that he was prepared to alienate his core vote in order to go chasing after his self-declared target constituency. With less than three weeks to go, it is far too late now to change strategies, and the ground is irrecoverable.
In effect, Cameron does not have a Plan B. And a 3-4 percent lead at this stage in an election campaign is seriously bad news, even if the Lib-Dim surge is a temporary blip. We may be on the cusp of seeing Dave's not-the-conservative-party crash and burn.
GENERAL ELECTION THREAD