'Yes, we yawn!' one local newspaper mocked Monday's mild face-off between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The election will pit center-right incumbent Angela Merkel against her current foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, from the left-leaning Social Democrat party.
At stake is whether Germany will chart a course out of recession with tax cuts and other business-friendly measures (Merkel) or pursue more state-led strategies such as funds for emerging industries, higher minimum wages and tighter regulations on executive pay (Steinmeier).
But many Germans have been left cold by both candidates. Playing on US President Obama's campaign theme, the German newspaper Bild ran an analysis of the debate with the mocking headline, "Yes, we gahn!" (Yes, we yawn).
Deutsche Welle called the debate "uninspiring" in a roundup of the German press reaction; other descriptions included "shop talk between the chancellor and her deputy," with "no real verbal sparring."