Ahead of the final debate, who leads the leaders' race?

We look at Kenny, Martin, Adams and Burton, ahead of tonight's final TV debate

Tonight the four main party leaders return to their debating podiums for the final time in this campaign and as the final major battle this could prove crucial in what looks to be an election more finely poised than any in living memory.

How are the main party leaders faring as we enter their final face off?

Enda Kenny

Perhaps the best we can say about the Taoiseach’s performance in the two debates so far is he has avoided any devastating damage. But that could well be all he was required to do.

Mr Kenny’s performances have been as (un)inspiring as the campaign as a whole, but if there is one party that benefits from a dull campaign, then it’s the governing party. 

We could expect to see a change of approach from the Taoiseach tonight, however. Since the last debate we’ve seen the Fine Gael slogan of ‘Keep the recovery going’ take a large dose of unwanted scrutiny – so that particular refrain might be given a night off, or a night rephrased at least.

Playing it safe has worked so far for Kenny, and despite Fianna Fáil closing in, the Taoiseach’s ‘whingers’ calamity of the last weekend have probably sent risk aversion levels through the roof at Fine Gael HQ.

Micheal Martin

General consensus is that Fiana Fáil leader Micheal Martin has been the stand out performer from the four main parties during this campaign, particularly in the debates, and his party have reaped the rewards as their support has grown in recent weeks.

The coalition parties identified Fianna Fáil as their main threat early on – pushing Sinn Féin to the periphery - and they have been relentless in their attacks. But with Ireland’s political memories of 2011 fading fast, aiming for the past has proved a low profit enterprise for Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

Martin's has proved effective at dodging reminders of his own party’s past while also appearing the be more composed party leader, and it’s gone a long way in the polls so far.

His popularity – a Cabinet member in 2011 – is the personification of the redemptive powers of the Irish ballot box, at least for Fianna Fáil and he'll carry the confidence of a man pardoned into tonight's debate.

Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin leader or liability has been mulled over long before this campaign began but the party president's stumbles in the past fortnight have been both pronounced and painful. Stumbling over budget figures is not a disqualifier of a potential Taoiseach, but the impression it leaves feeds perfectly into the narrative the ‘establishment’ parties have long been following in regard to Sinn Féin’s dreams of power.

Whatever happens Sinn Féin can chalk the 2016 voting up as a hugely successful election, and Adams remains a canny and skilled politician – but he has seemed a step off the pace at times in this campaign.

Joan Burton

Joan Burton was long ago in a race to save her political career and her party’s future, but as the campaign has wound on that race has started to look like it might be run.

As minority party leader Burton has been the lightning rod for the disparate anger built up across Ireland towrds austerity – as the figurehead of the left-wing coalition partners, she has faced the full force of outrage - and looks set to pay heavily this weekend.

Labour’s future post-February 27th has long looked bleak and assured, but the Tánaiste’s performance in the past two debates has done little to help - she has coem across very poorly, both in her delivery and her arguments.

With her own seat far from assured Burton needs a change of approach and a reversal of fortunes tonight.

Live from @ElectionNT