Monday, September 15, 2008

Signs of weakness

Stephane Dion's whining about a grand anti-Liberal conspiracy seems to have received surprisingly little comment today. Which is surprising, since it strikes me as the surest sign yet that the Libs' campaign is in a world of trouble.

That's so for two reasons. First, it indicates that Dion and his handlers haven't learned a thing about speaking to voters' interests rather than their own over the course of the last year and a half.

It may be true that Dion and his party perceive any slight against the Liberal Party as an outrage which demands a national call to arms. But anybody who agrees is almost certainly already in the Libs' camp - while few if any swing voters figure to value the greater glory of the Libs over everything else that's being discussed during the campaign.

Which means that Dion's message at best makes for an utter waste of breath and media attention, and at worst sounds like little more than a continuation of the culture of entitlement which turned voters away from the Libs last time Canadians went to the polls.

Second, Dion's attempt to shove others' views of his party into the spotlight reflects how far the Libs have fallen from their apparent upside at the start of the campaign. After all, it wasn't long ago that the conventional wisdom was that either the Libs or Cons would likely form government if they could successfully make the election into a referendum on the other.

But barely a week into a campaign which has focused largely on Harper, the Libs have been forced to reverse course and try to beg for attention. And that can only signal that Dion has recognized the likelihood that the New Democrats rather than the Libs are likely to be the beneficiaries of a campaign whose ballot question consists of the public passing judgment on the Cons.

Of course, Dion's problem is that by gaining attention for himself, he only figures to make his own shortcomings all the more glaring as the campaign progresses. And if the Libs are really as out of touch with voters as today's complaint makes them sound, then they may well have been better off being ignored.

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