I thought before that it would be a mistake for Yuschenko to debate Yanukovych because he was like an incumbent with a large lead. By debating he risked letting Yanukovych look more competent and better able to be president. But I later decided that Yuschenko was looking more to appeal to the east and that in the east he was the underdog challenger. That would make any risks a debate might present more acceptable in the face of the potential for good things.
The real risk for Yanukovych was that he would not look like a strong candidate. And by strong I mean virile, tough, kind of party boss like as he has come across in the past. That is what his supporters are looking for. But if he did not come across that way the risk was that his base would be affected. If he didn't look tough he would look like a loser and his own supporters might just stay home, That would mean more efforts would be needed to fix the vote again in an atmosphere where there is a lot more scrutiny than last time. And there is less money to do it with and less of a willingness on the part of the officials to do it for someone who is not in power. This result was to be avoided.
I don't think he avoided it. I think he looked weak and sounded weak. He sounded like he was without any handlers, rambling and not able to make a solid point. At one stage of the debate, he even said that he was a KGB spy and that that had something to do with his being in prison. That can't be viewed as anything other than a howler. He filibustered like he did last time but he was more coherent last time. (His handlers no doubt.) He seemed to wander around a bit and to try and look personable but it didn't come across as anything that was coherent to me. He just looked weak.
I don't think his base is going to be happy with that showing last night. Not very good.
UPDATE: Anonymous in the comments section says that Yanukovych didn't claim to be a KGB agent but was speaking ironically. The relevant part:
[Yanukovych] You know what my life was like, how I grew up, and you know very well that I was convicted unlawfully. Today, by the way, your ally [Hryhoriy]
Omelchenko said that he knows why I was acquitted and why I had been tried unlawfully. It turns out I was a KGB agent, at Directorate 9.
And I thought Yanukovych was humorless.