Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why the Conservatives Should be Discouraged by Latest Poll Numbers

The latest poll numbers have the Liberals and Conservatives in a dead heat, but is this good news for Stephen Harper?

This was his summer. He's gone around announcing and re-announcing projects, being photographed everywhere; and except for a few missteps and his abysmal performance at the Three Amigos summit, hasn't looked that bad.

So why aren't his numbers higher? Why is he one point down from Michael Ignatieff, who has had a lot of bad press, with the media implying that he's been loafing at the cottage?

Liberal Senator Warren Kinsella digs a little deeper on his blog. For Stephen Harper's summer tour, ticket sales were just not what they should have been.

Warren Kinsella
August 24, 2009

It's Summer. There isn't a lot of stuff to write about, politically, so you tend to get a lot of Summertime speculative stories by anonymous "senior strategists" who are neither senior nor strategic. It's a Summertime, North-of-the-Queensway thing.

Here's ten things you already know, but I'll point out anyhow. You're welcome.

1. Prime Ministers, being Prime Ministers, always get more media coverage than Opposition leaders. Always.

2. Governments - who have power and therefore actual money to hand out, and ribbons to cut - always get more media coverage than anyone else does. Always.

3. For an Opposition leader or Opposition party in the Summertime, that stuff gets even worse. National political coverage drops off dramatically and, with it, what little national media coverage you were getting.

4. If you are an Opposition party that wants to get lots of coverage for something, you can devote a ton of resources to putting together a big event. And then, the very same media pundits who have been criticizing you for being "invisible" will criticize you for putting together a big event in the Summertime, when "no one is paying attention."

5. Incumbents go up in the polls when legislatures aren't sitting. That's why Reformatory trained seals are so eager to get the Hell out of Ottawa all the time. Question Period is good for the Opposition, but not for governments.

6. Smart Opposition leaders use the Summer before a possible election to quietly get ready - their team, their policies, their bank account, their election readiness, themselves.

7. Smart Opposition leaders don't worry about getting in the paper a lot in the Summertime, because they also know that the last thing Joe and Jane Frontporch want is a politician getting in their face in barbecue season.

8. Opposition leaders who are months away from becoming Prime Ministers go to regional media markets in the Summer - to road test their team, their policies and themselves. Ask Mulroney (Summer '84), Chrétien (Summer '93), Harper (Summer '05); they all did the same thing, and it kind of worked out for them, didn't it? The Ottawa media will complain, but that's because it's Summertime and they're hot and bored.

9. Saying a guy has no policies - when that guy has written nearly 20 acclaimed policy books - is stupid. Saying a guy is "invisible" - when he has literally had four times as many events and activities as his main opponent - is stupid. Saying a guy isn't election-ready - when he's out-fundraising a sitting government, when he has united his party and made it competitive, when he has attracted advisers who know how to win (from équipe Charest and Team McGuinty and elsewhere) - is stupid. It's all stupid.

10. As the great Romeo LeBlanc used to say: when hunting bear, don't get distracted by rabbit tracks. Keep hunting bear, Liberals.

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