TONIGHT's round two in the British televised debates could be an altogether bloodier affair, with Gordon Brown and David Cameron likely to go on the attack in a bid to rattle Nick Clegg.
The phrase "I agree with Nick" -- a common refrain in the first encounter -- may be out, with Mr Cameron urged to be more assertive with the Lib Dem leader and Mr Brown less cosy. As to Mr Clegg himself, his hand-in-pocket, relaxed manner is likely to remain.
Yesterday David Cameron took his election fightback into the Liberal Democrat heartland, but found himself battling egg as well as Nick Clegg after being pelted by a student.
With a fresh batch of opinion polls mostly confirming a sustained bounce for the third party, the Tory leader travelled to marginal seats in the South West to renew his warnings about a hung parliament.
Voters had to choose between a Tory win or "five more years of Gordon Brown (or) the uncertainty, the bickering, the haggling of a hung parliament", he told activists in Devon.
Mr Cameron is under serious pressure to reverse the surge enjoyed by the Lib Dems in the wake of a popular performance by Nick Clegg last week. Party strategists were encouraged by one new poll, which showed the opposition regaining a nine-point lead over both main rivals -- the biggest since March.
But others continued to show the Lib Dems in front or only slightly behind the Tories -- the most recent yesterday evening showing them level on 32pc, with Labour trailing on 28pc.
Mr Cameron has resisted direct attacks on Mr Clegg or his party -- warning instead that a vote for them risked returning Labour to power or political and economic "stagnation".
Shadow business secretary Ken Clarke went further -- warning that the IMF could be forced to step in to rescue the UK economy -- sparking angry claims that he was scaremongering.
Addressing supporters in Torquay -- in one of 15 seats the party hopes to snatch from the Lib Dems in the region -- Mr Cameron mocked calls from Labour for a "progressive alliance" to keep him out of Number 10.
Mr Cameron said it was a "great tribute" that a Lib Dem debate dossier reportedly left in a taxi showed Mr Clegg had been advised to copy his style, but added: "I think I will just be more like me."
There would be no question of the Tories backing changes to the Westminster voting system, he insisted -- an issue that would almost certainly be a key negotiating demand for the Lib Dems in a hung parliament.
Yesterday, Mr Clegg claimed that the Liberal Democrat surge in the opinion poll ratings had created a "people's election" which has captured the nation's imagination.
But Mr Clegg refused to rule out working with Gordon Brown in the event of a hung parliament, despite earlier condemning as "desperate" his attempt to portray Labour as a party committed to reform.
Speaking to reporters in Redruth, Cornwall, he said: "It's turned into a proper people's election and I think that's an exciting thing."
Asked whether he would rule out working with Mr Brown, forcing the Labour Party to select a candidate Mr Clegg would be prepared to deal with, the Lib Dem leader said: "I rule in working, in the national interest, in response to what people say on May 6.
"For any politician to start short circuiting now a choice which could be made by up to 45 million people is just wrong."
Responding to Tory claims a hung parliament could result in an economic crisis, Mr Clegg said: "David Cameron likes to frighten and tell people how they should vote, I want to give people the opportunity to make up their own minds."