Andrew Barr and Alistair Coe wanted to send a clear message to Canberrans as they stood on the National Press Club podium for the first and only televised leaders debate of the ACT election campaign.
Mr Barr wanted those tuning in to Wednesday night's debate to see a calm and experienced leader, a safe pair of hands contrasted with an opponent he claims has been railing against experts during the COVID-19 health and economic emergency.
Mr Coe wanted viewers to know that a Liberal government would spare them another four years of Barr's high-taxing regime, all while delivering a level of services they've been denied because of Labor's incompetence.
While both leaders got ample airtime to make their pitch, they certainly didn't have it all on their own terms during the one-hour debate.
Here's how the leaders fared when they clashed on Wednesday night.
With his first answer of the night, Mr Coe was forced to confront the major question mark which has hung over his entire campaign: how would a Liberal government pay for its swag of expensive policy commitments without cutting services?
Rigidly following pre-prepared lines, Mr Coe again argued the Liberals would fund for its promises by growing the territory's revenue "pie". That would be achieved by making the ACT more affordable for Canberra families so they didn't have to flee to NSW borders towns, taking their stamp duty and tax dollars with them.
To back up his argument, the Liberal leader later in the debate referenced statistics which showed 3500 people had moved from Canberra to the Queanbeyan and Yass regions in the most recent census period. He even held up the number of ACT number plates outside the sales office at Googong as evidence of a mass exodus.
His argument remained unconvincing and was treated as such by Mr Barr.
"It doesn't add up. People know it doesn't add up and the fact that he so willfully avoids answering the question every time he is asked demonstrates that he doesn't have an answer," he said.
A clearly nervous Mr Barr was put on the back foot by questions on the poor performance of the ACT's public health system, a record which is impossible to avoid given Labor's near two decades in power. The Labor leader couldn't commit to a maximum wait time for patients, only promising extra spending on staff and infrastructure.
Mr Coe, in contrast, has promised the world - a halving of wait times at emergency departments and for elective surgeries.
Asked how this would be achieved, given it hadn't been done anywhere in the country, Coe declared a Liberal government would adopt a "system-wide approach", "empower GPs and pharmacists" and attract more specialists to the ACT.
It didn't amount to a sufficient answer to the question. But given Labor's record, it mightn't have mattered to viewers, nor to voters.
Planning and housing
Coe described the rental prices in the ACT as criminal, saying Labor had a "shameful record" when it came to housing affordability in the nation's capital.
The Liberal leader promised to release more land for detached housing in Gungahlin, Molonglo Valley and, in time, west of the Molonglo - the scene of the Barr government's infamous $43 million rural land buy up.
But on an issue he counts as a strength, Mr Coe again left himself open to attack by failing to clearly state the Liberals' position on residential development in Kowen Forest and the grasslands west of the Murrumbidgee River near Tuggeranong.
Surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic was the subject of just one question at Wednesday's debate - and it was asked by Barr himself.
Referencing Mr Coe's comment in May that the "pandemic had ended", and his statement last week that some restrictions had been absurd, Mr Barr asked the Liberal leader why he continued to "undermine public health officials" and their efforts to contain the virus' spread.
Mr Barr would have hoped the question might trip up his adversary, causing him to make another embarrassing gaffe.
It didn't work. Mr Coe didn't resile from his criticism of the restrictions imposed on Canberra businesses, and said he would continue to advocate for a "reasonable evidenced-based approach".
The Liberal leader said he was simply campaigning for Canberrans who were "doing it tough", recalling the emotional phone calls he'd had with business owners who'd been forced to lay off staff.
Mr Coe would have likely put off some voters/viewers when he suggested Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman didn't have all of the evidence in front of her before making decisions on restrictions.
On the strength of his performance leading the ACT through the pandemic, Barr comes out on top whenever talk turns to COVID-19.
Neither leader is a natural performer and both would have been pleased when the debate ended.
Mr Barr has projected an image of calm and confidence during the many hours of press conferences through during the summer bushfires and the pandemic.
But he was nervous on Wednesday night. You could see it in his face and hear it in his voice.
He did loosen up as the debate progressed, finding his groove as he picked apart Mr Coe's "grow the pie" economic theory.
The debate, televised and live-streamed in prime time, was perhaps more important for Mr Coe given he's largely an unknown quantity for many Canberrans. The Liberal leader has made a deliberate attempt throughout the campaign to appear more relaxed - he's done away with the tie and is trying to smile more.
Mr Coe is a genuinely empathetic person and that trait came across as he spoke about businesses hit hard by the pandemic and the tragic death of prisoner Steven Freeman.
But he has to be marked down for constantly falling back on his rehearsed lines ("there is a better way" and "the Canberra Liberals want to make the ACT the best place to live, work and raise a family"), often at the expense of answering a question.
Elections aren't won on debate night, but a leader's chances can be severely harmed if they perform spectacularly bad.
Neither Mr Barr nor Mr Coe embarrassed themselves or their party in what was a mostly tame affair.
Mr Barr and Labor were hoping the debate would expose Mr Coe to the public as inexperienced and incompetent, a student-grade politician incapable of steering the ACT through the greatest challenge in its history.
That's not what transpired. Mr Coe is far better than Labor make him out to be.
And yet while Labor has almost 20 years of baggage to contend with, the biggest question mark hangs over the head of Mr Coe - not Mr Barr.
Viewers would have been none the wiser as to how a Liberal government would pay for its many and expensive promises.
The number of ACT number plates outside the Googong sales office is not sound evidence for a major economic policy.
Winner: Barr (just)