Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Economy sized

Paul Vieira offers one possible criticism of the Cons' call to focus more debate time on the economy, arguing that it's a matter of political opportunism. But am I the only who also thinks the Cons are likely to do themselves more harm than good if they succeed in shifting the focus?

Of course, it's true that the Cons' current branding strength is based largely on their perceived competence on the economy. Which perhaps explains some superficial appeal to their emphasizing it as an issue.

But the more time the debate focuses on the economy, the more opportunity there is for minds to be changed on the issue. And I'd have to think there's some real possibility of that happening.

After all, with just a couple of minutes apiece to talk about the economy under the current format, each opposition party would figure to have to spend more time trying to sell itself rather than taking direct aim at Harper. But given 10+ minutes apiece to work with, each would be able to make its own pitch while leaving plenty of time to develop strong and potentially reinforcing critiques of Harper and his Bush/McCain "fundamentals are sound" position - offering a perfect stage to demolish the myth of Conservative responsibility once and for all.

And while Harper would also get more time personally to discuss the economy, I'm not sure that would do him much good.

After all, economic issues are no exception to the Cons' apparent campaign strategy of attacking their opponents constantly and scrupulously avoiding offering up any meaningful plan in hopes that they can get away with saying nothing. But given more time to deal with the topic, there would be a natural expectation that Harper would actually offer up some details about what he'd plan to do, rather than his usual idle assurances that a Con majority will make everything all right and attacks on the opposition parties. And the pressure would be especially strong on Harper after he'd made the first move to push the debate in that direction.

In sum, the downside risks for the Cons in trying to focus the debates on the economy may far outweigh the benefits of turning more discussion toward the Cons' branding to date. Which means that if Harper wants to suggest an in-depth discussion of the economy, the opposition parties should be happy to take him up on the offer and get to work on their lines of attack.

Update: Mind you, Saskboy's suggestion would be even better.

Edit: fixed link.

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