That, in a nutshell, sums up the Conservative line on the Guelph by-election. They downplay it, but at the same time admit they’re pouring resources in and consider it a bellwether riding to their majority chances. You’d positively get whiplash from the differing messaging.
Why, take the messaging in this one story on the Globe this morning alone. A story, by the way, that took one and a half journalists to write, is ostensibly about how the Conservatives view Guelph, and only managed to get one person to speak on the record: a Liberal senator.
First, from the downplaying expectations side:
* even as they say publicly that they can't win
* The Tories are playing down expectations of a positive result in Guelph. The Liberals won the riding by nearly nine percentage points over the Tories in the 2006 election, which is a difficult margin to turn around.
And now the bellwether side:
* Harper Conservative strategists are privately looking for a breakthrough in the by-election in Guelph, Ont., a riding they consider one of the keys to forming a majority government
* "If we can win ridings like Guelph in the next election, this is almost majority territory," a senior strategist said. "It will be a wake-up call for us if we don't do that well in Guelph."
* it is one of the 30 ridings on the Tory's main target list
* It is considered a bellwether riding, said the Tory strategist, as it has a mix of urban and suburban and its constituents would be affected by issues such as Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's proposal to put a tax on carbon fuels.
* the party is putting resources into the riding, where they have an attractive candidate in Gloria Kovach, a long-time Guelph city councillor. High-profile cabinet ministers will make many visits over the next few weeks
Here’s the line that I fine the most amusing from this story:
The Tories are playing down expectations of a positive result in Guelph…Privately, it's a different story.Privately, it’s a different story? It’s a different story in the same story. And when you’re talking to the media, whether it’s unsourced or not, it’s not exactly privately. You’re still aware that it’s going to be printed in a newspaper, and read by people.
Nothing the Conservatives are saying here is wrong. Guelph is a bellwether riding for them. It’s the sort of riding they need to win if they’re going to have any hope at a majority. And if they don’t win, as the unnamed senior Conservative says, that should be a wake-up call for them.
My point is about expectations. If even the Conservatives are admitting that Guelph is a litmus test for them (and shouldn’t they be making showings in Westmount and St. Lambert as well?), even if it their admissions are coming “privately” in the pages of national newspapers, can we stop pretending please that the Liberals are the only ones with something to lose in these by-elections?
Guelph is on their list of 30 targeted ridings. They admit its a bellwether. They're pouring in resources to support their "star" candidate. If they lose, won't that then mean the Conservatives are in trouble? Can we start talking more about Harper's failure to move his party into majority territory, despite spending us into a deficit while showering tax dollars all over the country? Can we start questioning his leadership then? Will he have hit a wall?
Expectations. They're not just for Liberals. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers