Following up on this morning's post on the federal political scene, I'll offer a few observations on the Cons' immediate attack ad against Justin Trudeau:
Now, I've pointed out before that the Cons' previous attack ads against Lib leaders succeeded precisely because they made claims which were so vague as to be unfalsifiable. And by that standard, there would indeed be substantial risk in an attempt to define Trudeau as comic relief (which would seemingly allow him to defeat the Cons' definition simply by avoiding the most massive of gaffes) or as inexperienced (which falls under the category of self-defeating criticisms as a leader spends more time in the public eye).
But I have to wonder whether the first salvo against Trudeau is less an indication of the Cons' ultimate plan to define him, and more a form of inoculation against future scenes like this.
The Libs will naturally want to build up a unique persona for the man who holds their party's future in his hands. But the Cons will now have a ready-made counter to any step outside the political straight and narrow - with any originality on Trudeau's part framed as evidence of a dilettante "in over his head" rather than a distinctive personality. And the flat-out falsehoods within the Cons' ad will seem far less significant in the long run if Trudeau's actions make the underlying theme seem plausible - forcing the Libs into some much more complicated calculations as to how to set Trudeau apart without risking the Cons' message sticking to him.
Meanwhile, the Cons also look to have signaled that at least for now, they're more intent on dealing with Trudeau than managing risks posed by both the NDP and the Libs - as both points of criticism within the ad involve areas of strength for Tom Mulcair. (Hence my suspicion that Stephen Harper may be placing a greater emphasis on destroying the Libs for good than on his own likelihood of holding onto power in 2015.)