Adam Radwanski points out in his latest column that several weeks into the election campaign, it's hard to see what message might be used against Tom Mulcair and the NDP to any meaningful effect. But let's note that the factors working in the NDP's favour - and the challenges for the competing parties - are even stronger than Radwanski's column might suggest.
For example, for all the talk of a polarized electorate when it comes to policy, all indications are that Mulcair has a huge advantage over his competitors over a range of issues.
On every single one of the 15 issues polled by Abacus, Tom Mulcair's judgment is seen as at least more acceptable than that of Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau. And more voters see him as more likely to make good decisions than both of his opponents on 9 of those issues, including the budget, tax levels, ethics and the manufacturing sector. So on policy, the theme is that the NDP is stronger both in terms of core support and broad acceptability.
How about potential party growth? The NDP's voter universe and combined first/second-choice support each extend to well over half of the voting public, offering significantly more plausible target voters than any of the other parties can claim.
And the NDP's positioning at the top of the party standings leaves the
Libs with no hope of using their typical strategic voting appeals to any
Mulcair's approval then represents just one more element of the same picture. He enjoys higher positives and lower negatives than either or any of his opponents, and there's no significant previously-established line of messaging for the Cons or Libs to draw on in trying to take him down at this point.
Of course, there was one trap set for Mulcair from the moment he won the leadership. But as I noted then, the "Angry Tom" theme was always one which could be avoided easily through plans which Mulcair was likely to pursue anyway. And he's has indeed managed to make his opponents look foolish for continuing to harp on what's at best an obsolete concept.
With all that in mind, the largest problem for the other parties is this: while the NDP enjoys a slight lead in voter support, it has even larger advantages in the other factors which tend to shift voter support during an election campaign. And while we should always allow for the unexpected (and should never take for granted the amount of work the NDP has to do to build on where it stands now), it's hard to see who can overcome those advantages before election day absent some major external events.