German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is on track win a fourth term in office after polls confirmed she won the first and only televised debate with her main election opponent, Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Union Party (SDP).

A survey for the public broadcaster ARD showed that 55% of viewers thought Merkel was the “more convincing” candidate during the debate, which took place on September 3; only 35% said Schulz came out ahead.

Many observers agreed that Schulz failed to leverage the debate to revive his flagging campaign, while others noted that Schulz’s positions on many issues are virtually indistinguishable from those held by Merkel.

Rainald Becker, an ARD commentator, described the debate as, “More a duet than a duel.”

“Merkel came out as sure, Schulz was hardly able to land a punch,” wrote Heribert Prantl, a commentator at Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The candidate is an honorable man. But being honorable alone will not make him chancellor.”

Christian Lindner, leader of the classical liberal Free Democrats, compared the debate to “scenes from a long marriage, where there is the occasional quarrel, but both sides know that they have to stick together in the future, too.”

Television presenter Günther Jauch, writing in Bild, said he had hoped to “at least understand what differentiates Merkel and Schulz in political terms. Instead, it was just a conversation between two political professionals who you suspect could both work pretty seamlessly in the same government.”

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