For years, Harper has missed no opportunity to portray himself as the only leader who can keep us from ruin, characterizing his rivals as unhinged crackpots with crazy schemes.Now, there's certainly some appeal to the idea of running an election based on Harper's economic record, and indeed some polling data to suggest he doesn't have any particular advantage in the area.
Harper has spent more than $100 million in tax dollars on advertisements promoting the Economic Action Plan, a transparently partisan expenditure aimed at inducing a pavlovian response from voters. Add all the cheque presentations, ribbon cuttings, speeches, interviews and party advertising and you have an almost decade-long communication effort that has succeeded in associating economic competence with Harper.
(T)o get rid of Harper, the opposition has to convince voters not that he is nasty or dishonest, but that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
That looks like a hard job, but if they don’t do that they won’t win.
But as Maher notes, any attempt to present mere facts on that front is running into a headwind generated by hundreds of millions of dollars of past advertising - not to mention the corporate media which has so determinedly ignored Harper's actual record in promoting him as an economic manager in the first place. Which is to say that a successful message focused on the economy today would have to go a long way to account for people who may have found Harper acceptable on the same issue in the past. Maybe "Harper: He's Had His Chance"? Or "Harper: Tried and Failed"?
At the same time, though, Harper is likely far more vulnerable on other issues such as ethics or social policy than he is on the economy in any event. So while it's worth having some economic counterpoints available to highlight how Harper hasn't lived up to his billing, I'd think a core message should probably focus elsewhere.