Peter Costello and Wayne Swan were put to the worm today. On the face of it Costello wormed strongly, sending Nine’s nimble nematode into positive territory repeatedly during his opening remarks to the National Press Club debate with Labor’s treasury alternative.

Swan won the toss after a post-prandial coin fumble from NPC moderator Ken Randall. On his feet he wormed in constant positive territory, despite a dry-mouthed and nervous performance and glib assurances that he and Kevin Rudd had “a plan”.

He was far from disgraced, but rambled into the banal, was dry and conservative. Sorry, fiscally conservative.

Costello began with the worm in flatline, but it rose dramatically with the treasurer’s rising cadence. The worm it seems is both patriotic and a fan of robust rhetoric. With every mention from Costello of “Australia” it twisted north. Jobs, growth, Australia, boom, tax reform, climate change action … all drew the worm upright.

“World class training” a worm thriller for Swan.

“World class broadband’’ … off the scale.

But “Work Choices”? The worm wriggles underground.

Swan stumbles into self deprecation, the worm surges.

Costello talks on future Liberal leadership, the worm plunges.

Swan takes it to Costello on trade union representation on the ALP front bench, the worm approves.

Both men talked the prospects of the economy up, both men gave a performance that dwelt on a worm warming future of solid prospects and hope. The worm only dipped when Costello threw the switch to self satisfaction, smugness or sneer.

The worm’s lesson was clear.

Read Richard Farmer’s full wrap of the Treasurers’ debate on our website later this afternoon.