Thursday, April 28, 2011

There's the panic

Yes, it was probably inevitable that the Cons would notice that something was happening outside their campaign bubble and feel a need to lash out at it. But the timing and effect couldn't be worse for Stephen Harper and the Cons.

For all the talk about how campaigns can shift at the last minute, two of the most recent examples (the Cons' late-campaign swoons in 2004 and 2006) also serve as evidence of something else: when Harper ad-libs in trying to seal a campaign, he can be his own worst enemy. And there's plenty of reason to think that's happening one more time - with potentially even more significant consequences.

After all, Harper has spent the entire campaign trying to stay above or outside the fray, effectively portraying any discussion with or about other parties as being beneath him. But with Harper taking the lead role in attacking Layton now, he's giving up any pretense of appearing prime ministerial just at the point where he faces the most serious challenge for the position. (See Wells' Rule of Politics #4 as to why that's particularly dangerous.)

What's more, Harper's choice of attacks also looks to be counterintuitive (to be generous). In effect, Harper is challenging Layton on trust just as all indications suggest that Layton is opening up a wide lead on that point. And with Harper already seen as relatively untrustworthy, he may only cast more doubt on himself by forcing a collision with the positive impression Canadians have formed of Layton.

Of course, one can make the case that Harper didn't have a choice: it's probably too late to develop a brand-new ad campaign to have somebody else serve as the point person in attacking Layton, and the NDP surge certainly demanded that the Cons do something. But Harper's choice of responses may only end up confirming the public's impression that he's a major part of the problem that needs fixing.

No comments:

Post a Comment