Monday, April 25, 2011

On last gasps

I'll give the Libs this much: at the very least their latest attempt to counter the NDP's national surge might make a bit more sense than their previous one. But that's only true if one assumes that they see their numbers diving and the NDP's soaring as the campaign reaches its conclusion.

After all, as John Ibbitson notes, the latest ad doesn't make a lick of sense in trying to tie the NDP and Cons together in terms of policy. But that leaves one area where one might try to find a perceived uniformity of interest between the two. And the Libs are quite explicit about what they see as being the major similarity: both voted to bring down Paul Martin's Lib government in 2005.

Now, for anybody looking at the situation remotely reasonably that criticism doesn't figure to get very far. After all, it was thoroughly debunked from the beginning, and figures to be less and less relevant to most voters as Canada's political debate has moved in different directions since then.

But there's one group of voters which does figure to be motivated by an appeal to the Libs' continuing sense of entitlement to have held office at all times even since their 2006 election defeat. The ad will speak directly to the Libs' inner core, which may well have carried a grudge for over five years which can now give rise to some amount of additional motivation once it's activated through an election ad.

Here's the catch, though. While it works well on a purely tribal basis for stalwart Lib supporters, the ad also serves to exclude anybody who's so much as considered the possibility that the Libs shouldn't expect to be Canada's default government. And yet the Libs are using a broadcast medium which will put the ad in front of those voters in addition to the base they're seeking to reach.

Which looks to me like a signal that the Libs see a real possibility that a Layton wave will wipe them out across the country - and are thus pulling out all the stops to try to keep the top tier of party diehards in the fold, even at the expense of looking both insulting and incoherent to swing voters. And if the Libs are indeed in such dire straits that they need to advertise to reach their strongest supporters, then there figures to be a strong chance that the NDP can pull enough softer support away to present a serious challenge to Stephen Harper's stay in power.

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