As the Ernie Eves-Dalton McGuinty main event fizzled Tuesday night, the Howard Hampton sideshow blared its way unfettered on to Ontario television screens.
All three party leaders raised their voices at times in the election debate, but it was Mr. Hampton, the NDP leader, whose persistence and vocal projection most often won him the camera's attention.
"He was desperately trying to get himself heard," said Anne Sowden, a Toronto-based image consultant who thought the other two were quite charitable in allowing him to interrupt.
Several of Mr. Hampton's interjections, on such topics as auto insurance and same-sex marriage, were made over the meek protestations of Mary Lou Finlay, the moderator and CBC radio host.
In the early stages of the debate, Ms. Finlay stepped in frequently to restore order when shouting matches arose. Once the two front-runners had made their key points, however, and the debate passed the half-hour mark, both Mr. Eves and Mr. McGuinty seemed remarkably comfortable being lectured by the NDP leader, who cast them as two tax-cutting, deficit-raising peas in a pod.