Three weeks before elections, Angela Merkel seems to be heading four a fourth win as chancellor of Germany, with former European Parliament president Martin Schulz failing to halt her advance in a crucial televised debate, media report.
Judging by polls taken after their sole one-on-one debate of the campaign, Schulz's blows largely bounced off Merkel, with viewers judging her to have been more credible and more likable, though Schulz's man-of-the-people appeal won him some points. "There are moments in the life of a chancellor where you have to make a decision", she said.
Merkel herself said in her closing statement she was dissatisfied with the issues covered, and listed the challenges facing the country before adding with a reassuring smile: "I believe we can manage it together".More news: Ruud van Nistelrooy hails Manchester United and Romelu Lukaku
In a sharp escalation of an already intensifying diplomatic crisis between two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies with longstanding historical links, Merkel said: "It is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the European Union". In another poll for ARD television, Merkel emerged as the clear victor - 55 percent of respondents said she was the more convincing, while only 35 percent held that view about Schulz.
"I do not intend to break off diplomatic relations with Turkey just because we're in an election campaign and want to show each other who is tougher", she said.
There was no immediate reaction from Turkey which is in the midst of a national religious holiday. Schulz said Merkel should have worked with European allies.More news: Virat Kohli hits 30th ODI century, joint second highest in cricket history
Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Merkel's main challenger, said she made a "serious mistake" when she opened Germany's boarders to around a million asylum seekers.
In her pitch to voters, Merkel touted her 12 years of experience as the leader of Europe's biggest economy, citing Germany's low unemployment rate and pledging not to raise the pension age to 70. But she admitted that "not everybody can come to us. we learnt this in the last few years".
Ms Merkel's Democratic Social Union and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union lead the SPD by 38 per cent to 24 per cent, according to the latest opinion polls by the Emnid agency.More news: Thousands of People Evacuate Homes in Frankfurt, Germany Before WWII Bomb Defused
The chancellor has deliberately taken a low-key approach, reminding voters of Germany's economic success and her role as a stable anchor in an unstable worldwide environment.