Canadians like Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, they just don't know why and the governing Conservatives see that as an opportunity to fill in the blanks, which they plan to do by running attack ads this summer, says a top Conservative source.
"Notwithstanding Ignatieff's poll numbers, where he's seen as competent and popular, what our polling and focus group testing shows is that people really don't have a solid impression about him. They generally like the guy, but they don't really know anything about him. According to our polling, he's an unknown quantity in the eyes of Canadians. So, since people don't have a locked in, fixed impression about him, there's still a tremendous amount of opportunity to influence what people think about the guy," the Conservative source told The Hill Times in a not-for-attribution based interview last week.
While obviously there is a strategic rationale for the Conservatives to run negative anti-Ignatieff ads, I find the explanation offered by our anonymous Conservative rather amusing:
The source said that right now the absence of adequate information about Mr. Ignatieff (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ont.) is hurting Prime Minister Stephen Harper's (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) image because without a fully fleshed-out alternative, Mr. Harper is compared to an imaginary ideal Prime Minister.If this is really what the Conservatives think they're more screwed in the head then I'd thought. Harper isn't suffering because, compared to perfection and the mythical ideal PM, he comes off as mortal and less than perfect. Be serious here. Canadians don't expect perfection. We're a fairly reasonable bunch, actually. No, Harper's problem is that he has done a crap-ass job. Not by immortal standards, not by a standard of perfection, but by anyone's standards.
"What the negative campaigning allows us to do is it sharpens the contrast and say, 'It's not Harper versus perfection,' It's Harper versus Ignatieff. Harper may not be perfect but take a look at this guy and that's sort of [how we want to] reframe the debate from the way media frames it. It's pick one Harper or Ignatieff. Because the media can't intuitively create that dichotomy, we have to pay ourselves with the paid media," said the source.
The Conservative strategists are missing the point. They were out of touch with Canadians when they tried to ram through a fiscal update that put political positioning ahead of action of the economy, and they remain just as out of touch today.
As for the attack ads, I'm sure we'll see lots of out of context quotes from books and papers Ignatieff has written. After all, Conservatives love to lie, and pay people to lie, as Ed Broadbent said. There will also be lots of veiled anti-Americanism, which should be interesting given a) the Conservatives have always been opposed to that sort of thing, and b) With Obama in office Canadians kinda like the US right now.
How effective will they be? Time will tell. While I'm not one of those who predict a backlash, I do think a variety of factors will mitigate their effectiveness, including the economy and a lack of public appetite and patience for partisan mudslinging.
And, this time, you can also count on a robust Liberal response. The mistakes of the past won't be repeated. The leadership seems determined on that front.
So, bring it on, Conservatives. Your desperation is showing. We're not scared. As Michael said sarcastically a little while ago, "I am trembling in my shoes, I am quaking." Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers