Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On timing

It's tough to disagree with the near-universal skepticism which has greeted the Libs' declaration that they're seriously considering growing a spine over the course of the next month. But let's note that even if the Libs are finally recognizing that continuing to prop up Deceivin' Stephen is a bad idea, their continued strategy of telegraphing their every possible move can only help the Cons.

After all, as Lib strategists note in Don Martin's column (the third link above), an election campaign will put the national parties on an equal footing when it comes to spending money - while during the period before the writ drops, the Cons' apparent advantage in cash on hand gives them the ability to pour as much money as they like into unregulated pre-campaign advertising.

Now, this is one reason why it would be pure folly for the Libs to delay an election until the fixed election date in the fall of 2009. If the Cons know in advance that the election won't take place until then (or that general time period), then they'll be free to pour millions of extra dollars into an ad blitz over the summer which will still be prominent in voters' minds for the campaign. And it's hard to imagine a starting point more likely to lead to a Con majority than that.

For the same reason, though, any smart Lib strategy to bring down the Cons would involve holding their cards to their vest to prevent the Cons from putting together a pre-campaign ad blitz sooner - rather than hinting a month in advance that they might be willing to oppose Harper.

If the Libs had shown any particular political shrewdness under Dion, I'd wonder if the current sabre-rattling is in fact an indication that they're not willing to force an election. After, if the plan was to wait until fall, it might well be in their interest to provoke the Cons into throwing money into a panicked pre-campaign which won't ultimately accomplish anything.

But based on how the Libs have given advance notice of their every move so far, it seems more likely that they're merely doing the same once again. And if there's anything the Libs have done far too much of already, it's going out of their way to make Stephen Harper's life easier.

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