The more closely you examine the gap between the Tories and Labour on the deficit, the smaller it seems to get. But the big message from today's Green Budget from the IFS is that the future performance of the economy is going to have a far greater impact on the public finances than the political affiliation of the party in power.
Consider the following key conclusions from the report: if the Treasury's forecasts for economic growth are right, then the IFS believes that borrowing will be slightly lower than forecast in the PBR over the next few years. But, say the IFS, the deficit would probably still remain too high, for too long, to command confidence in the financial markets.
That is why they recommend an additional £13bn in tax rises or spending cuts between 2011 and 2015 (they don't recommend any further tightening this year). That's on top of the £57bn already announced by the chancellor.
The Conservatives will be pleased to note that is very similar to the extra amount of tightening the IFS believes that a Tory government would need to implement over the period, to meet what the IFS deduces to be its target of eliminating the structural current deficit over the same period.
In other words, the IFS is saying that the Conservatives' plans, on the basis of current forecasts, would preserve market confidence in the UK.
However, the report notes that you can be a lot more gloomy about our economic future than the Treasury is. Specifically, the Barclays economists involved in the report think the permanent hit to GDP from the crisis is likely to be at least 7.5% of national income, not 5% as estimated by the Treasury. And they think our long-term potential growth rate after this will be 1.75% a year, not 2.75% as forecast in the PBR.
So much for the detail. What's the punchline?
The punchline is that, if the Barclays folk are right, the next government would need to find - not an extra £13bn, but an extra £66bn to fix the structural hole in the public accounts. The IFS doesn't think this would be feasible in one Parliament unless the markets had a gun to the chancellor's head so you would be talking more pain before and after 2015.
And remember, that's their "central" scenario. You don't even want to know about the pessimistic one.
More to say on this - but the IFS press conference is still going on and I don't want to miss any more gems.
I'm left with the following thought. Once you strip away the debate about timing and possible cuts in 2010-11 - which, as I have said many times, has always been about rhetoric more than a big difference of policy between the parties - once you strip away that debate, this election could end up being fought over a difference of around 1% of GDP in medium-term spending plans. That's more or less what the 2005 election was fought over as well.
As then, the winning party could find the economy has bigger things in store.