Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Strategy of Casting for Votes: Harper vs. Flipper

Spring election or not? That speculation is the latest buzz everywhere in blogs and MSM.

National Newswatch has their "Election Fever Meter" at set 91% today! They apparently base the chances of a spring election on related buzz and spin. Personally, I don't see the connection. Spin means speculation; not statistical probabilities in my opinion. But what do I know?

In any case, we have two eminent MSM pundits putting forth their case today that an election is less likely than ever - or at least it should be.

Don Martin playfully christens Stephane Dion "Flipper" based on his inability to demonstrate clear focus and position on policy and issues ("Liberals go from Dithers to Flipper"):

It was a lousy week for Mr. Dion, a pattern in danger of becoming a trend. Not once or twice, but three times in four days we saw Mr. Dion flip-flop on positions he'd taken during the leadership race or his party had supported last fall.

Martin goes on to list a whole host of flip-flops including his changing support on Afghanistan, his reversal on the anti-terror provisions extension and his inability to define exactly where he stands on carbon-tax policy.

I love this gem:

To be fair, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been known to change his mind. Just ask income trust investors.

Still, it takes considerable effort for one party leader to irritate Afghanistan peaceniks, infuriate law-and-order types and alienate energy producers in the space of a week.

That last line was a thing of beauty.

In any case, Martin doesn't feel that Harper necessarily should, nor will take advantage of this pathetic display of ineptitude:

But for Mr. Harper to unilaterally seek a spring vote would flip-flop on a scale dwarfing even Mr. Dion's regular mind changes.

The Sun's Licia Corbella appears to concur (PM should relax, enjoy view from the top):

The Angus Reid poll, released yesterday shows the Conservatives at 40% with the Liberals 14 points behind at 26%, even lower than they were in the last election.

In other words, Dion's post-leadership convention honeymoon was short-lived, likely because when he makes a decision he tends to waffle on it and when he is decisive, he makes the wrong one.

But the primary reason Harper is in no hurry to hit the hustings is that he knows the more Canadians see and hear Dion flip and flop the better Harper looks.

I agree. As tempting as it is to yank poor Flipper out of the water, it is far wiser to muster up some patience and play him for a while. Let him shake his head furiously and tangle himself in the line.

Then when he's totally exhausted himself, Harper can calmly reel him in.

* * * *
Monday Update: Chantel Hebert - "How soon will Dion move in for kill on Dion?"


biff said...

Absolutely not.

The press is giving Dion a hard time, but they're feverishly looking to manufacture a Harper 'scandal' to even the playing field.

Election in early May. Strike while the Iron's hot, and the CPC warchest dwarf's the Libs.

Brian in Calgary said...

I tend to agree with you on this one, Joanne. It is one thing for a leader to change his stance on a policy issue if one can give a clear and rational reason for the change. However, Dion seems to be just changing his mind without giving any rational reasons. As you say, this pattern seems to becoming a trend. And, the longer this pattern goes on, the more firm and solid the CPC's numbers will be.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

but they're feverishly looking to manufacture a Harper 'scandal' to even the playing field.

Hard to manufacture a 'scandal' that isn't there.

On the other hand, if the opposition is deliberately dragging its feet on the Accountability Act, that could be Harper's defence for calling an election, because the four-year mandate wasn't put into law due to their dithering... Mmmm.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Yeah, Brian, let's just say that for now, Harper's got the winning hand. The trick will be to play it wisely.

And strategy is one of his many strengths.

wilson61 said...

With all these polls coming out showing a firm Conservative lead, and possibility of heading for a majority, the next set of polls will indicate how comfortable Canadians are with that thought.

IMO, 13 months is not long enough to ease out the 13 years of comfort Canadians had with the Liberal party.
October 2009 sounds good to me.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

October 2009 sounds good to me.

Wilson, I tend to agree. The risks outweigh the possible gains. I think we'd just be back where we started more or less. Another minority government getting nowhere due to opposition grandstanding.

Let the Canadian electorate really get sick of Dion!

In fact, it would play into the Liberals' hands to have an election and totally destroy Dion. Then they could get rid of him once and for all, and stop this ridiculous pretence of solidarity - which would not be good for the CPC. So let's wait them out.

chris from winnipeg said...

I agree that we are not yet ready for an election. Let's get a bit more of Flipper's flopping in the news first.

I will add to that by saying that we should not try to drive Dion too low because the Liberals may just decide to throw the dolphin overboard and fall back on the royalty card putting Justin Trudeau in charge. Then we will have to fight the Trudeau legacy. I know that we may think that would be easy but there is still a large segment of the population who look back on the Trudeau years with both nostalgia satisfaction and might hope to bring that back by electing his son.

Like it or not, PET was a very charismatic man and if only a part of that was passed on to Justin, he would be a formidable foe.

Bring on an election but not until either this fall or next spring. If we go too much longer it could become difficult to lay the blame for all of the Liberal's crappy performance at their door. The electorate has a very short memory and the Liberals have a handy ally in the MSM. They can muddy the waters by reminding of past government wrong-doings but neglecting to mention that it was Liberal past government.

Gabby in QC said...

Add my voice to the "no spring election" group. If need be, one in 2008, or even hold off until 2009 if possible, but probably unlikely. The electorate has enough with the one in Quebec, followed by the fall election in Ontario.

What the Conservatives need to do, though, is to keep telling Canadians what they have accomplished so far, and what else they would like to do for the country.
Let whatever measures are adopted for cleaning up the environment prove the irrationality of Kyoto, versus the government's determination to do something concrete. Even Rad-Can, in a recent report on achievability of Kyoto targets, showed how unrealistic they are.

If the Liberals need to be mentioned at all, it should be to point out how they have used obstruction merely for the sake of it, not for any principled stand. The Anti-Terror Act in particular is a prime example.

In other words, slowly get away from the "13 years of Liberal government & you didn't get it done" song, and the exaggerated language.

Also, stop referring to themselves as the "new" Conservative government. That too has started to grate on ears, even on conservative ones like mine.

Whether Mr. Dion's performance improves with time is irrelevant. What IS relevant is what the government has accomplished for Canada and Canadians.

MrEd said...

It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion...Dion and the Liberals that is. Harper just needs to sit back and enjoy the view with the rest of us... every day adds more amunition to the campaign... every day brings the Liberals closer and closer to emploding and attacking themselves like the classic image of the snake eating it's own tail. We all need to take a step back and a colective breath, sit back, relax, and watch "Dr Dolittle" flip and flop... Harper will drop the GST another point next year, finish off a few more election and new promises, introduce income splitting in the 2008 spring budget, ...and then call an election. They've done more to strengthen Canada in 1 year then I think they ever realized they could accomplish. they're doing a good job and a Majority needs at least another year to truely develope.

biff said...

It's about blowing something completely out of proportion.

The Harper's scary meme, was a Liberal talking point that had virtually zero merit to it.

It was manufactured by the Libs, and the press pounded away day in and day out.

They would take a grain of sand and turn it into a mountain.

Lets not forget that the media is overwhelminly liberal. They'll even the playing field any chance they can get.

biff said...


Dion will be taking intensive English classes (probably already is),

and the Libs will fund up.

The Libs are one of the worlds best organizations for getting into, and holding onto, power.

Forgetting that would be a huge mistake. Its rare that this power machine is on the ropes, and a failure to deliver a knock out punch while the legs are wobbly will prove fatal.

Anonymous said...

One way to read these polls is 'approval rating'.Harper takes his position seriously, that he has government business to look after and at this point in time Canadians(according to the polls) 'approve'.All the more reason to keep on with the good work.
That being said a majority would be more effective...get the weak power hungry mob out of the way so some serious changes can be made in the HoC re: Senate reform, crime and justice,taxes, realistic enviro solutions.
Early fall election, majority for CPC because of Harper, not by default because of Dion.

Anonymous said...

"It's not fair"'s really not Stephane Dion's fault. The answer lies in his signature as compared to Stephen Harper's signature. For this article, go to National Post

and scroll down to Online Extras, The Signatures of Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion.

As for a comment about the liberal biased MSM, I was flipping through channels and stopped at The Hour with George Stephanopoulos (sp?) and saw that he was preparing to interview Stephane Dion. Stephane was handed a box of something, a bottle of wine, a quilt over his shoulders to make it seem like he was a king. He prompted George by saying, "What's going on?" George said, "Well, it's because the MSM is liberal biased." Stephane leaned forward and said, "Shhh...don't tell them."

I changed channels. :-)


Spinks said...

The only thing surprising is didn't the Liberals see this coming?!? C'mon no one is that arrogant are they?

wilson61 said...

Liberals are, without a doubt, arrogant enough to think that their new leader only need be 'unoffensive', and the natural governing party of Canada would be IMMEDIATELY handed back the crown.
-Poor English,
:doesn't matter, they are the NGPoC.
-No policy convention,
:doesn't matter, they are the NGPoC and can wing it, Canadians love them.
-Record of broken promises, multi-mini scandals,
:that's someone elses fault, Jack is at fault, in fact, Jack and the Conservative's are at fault! Yes, and the Cons better make some progress FAST, Canadians are extremely sick of all this Conservative inaction!
"Apologize or I'm calling my lawyer!"

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Raz - That was quite the interesting article about the signatures.

Yeah, I should post a sample of that. Maybe later. I think it's a subscriber only feature.

I can only stand George S. for short periods of time, before nausea gets the better of me.

I think he figures he is CBC's saviour.

PGP said...

Hard to manufacture a 'scandal' that isn't there.

That's what most of the MSM lives for!
Where have you been??
Watch for a whack of push-polls in the Globe and on CTV over the next few weeks. CBC will continue to scrub all reports that are critical of Liberals actions or words.

Layton has already started (or tried anyway) a new cycle over a BS issue involving asbestos use.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Layton has already started (or tried anyway) a new cycle over a BS issue involving asbestos use.

Oh, you mean the puppet show? lol!

BTW, check out Chucker's latest post. He thinks Jack should try for second place, and he has some good advice.

Tony said...

I agree with you on this one. Harper still needs more time to make some more inroads in Quebec, as Conservative Party support in that province was as low as 15% not too long ago. Expect him to make more appearances with Mario Dumont and Jean Charest in the coming months to shore up provincial federalist support and to build Federal Conservative grassroots support in Quebec.

PMSH also needs more time to solidify the Conservative Party's support in Ontario, as Ontario support is very fickle and could easily swing back towards the Liberals, as we saw in 2004.

Another year of governing should allow more Canadians to become comfortable enough of PMSH to give him a majority. I think maybe summer or fall of 2008 would be a good time to call an election.

Anonymous said...

Joanne, the signature article is online for all. It's not behind a subscription wall. Yes, it was interesting, wasn't it? I was surprised to find something like that on National Post's website.

Chantal Hebert has a new book out, called French Kiss, and it deals with what she calls "Harper's blind date with Quebec" it's a mutually beneficial relationship. I haven't bought it, putting it on hold in the library instead.

As for Harper wanting an election, firstly he's a far better strategist than I'll ever be, so I'll entrust that call to him. (as if he'd call me up anyway) :-)

However, I do see him as very methodical in his plans, and very patient. He'll strike (as they say) when the iron is hot.


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Raz - Chantel's book sounds really interesting. I think I'll do the same, i.e. get it from the library.

As for Harper wanting an election, firstly he's a far better strategist than I'll ever be, so I'll entrust that call to him.

Well said. Kinda funny, your saying that. I think sometimes we amateur pundits tend to take the whole political scene on ourselves, as if it's up to us to figure out the best strategies...

Wonder if any of them ever read our suggestions.

Tony - Agreed. A little more time needed in Quebec, but if the PQ gets tromped, wouldn't it be tempting?

Anonymous said...

I'm watching the hockey game, but flipped the channel and found Mansbridge interviewing Hebert on his one-on-one show. I think the CBC repeats that show a few times over the next day. I didn't see it, but I think she has a pretty savvy political eye. Thought there might be interest. Back to the NHL.:-)


Mac said...

As frustrating as a minority government is, the longer PM Harper can make this one work, the better it looks for the Conservatives, IMHO. In order to run on your record, you have to have a record and that's what the Conservatives are doing now... starting their record.

Besides, let's watch the fireworks when the Auditor General sinks her teeth into all those departments which the Liberals had previously excluded from her reach.

I don't see Dion as being the type to take one for the team and he's not in a position to call a strictly controlled "enquiry" like Martin did with Gomery.

The next big lump will be the budget. If the Opposition want to bring it down, now's their chance but if they choose to do so, it'll be at their own risk!

biff said...

Dion's sinking like a rock.

The economy is delivering perhaps the greatest "good news" budget of our time.

Harper's numbers are going up by the week

the CPC warchest is almost double the Lib's

Charest will likely win the election, which is widely viewed as a coup for Harper

And yet we should wait?

I'm sorry, but we're looking at a majority, this spring.

It's the political perfect storm. All of the above factors can change in a few months. All of them, not just one of them.

Dion can only get better. The Libs can only get more funded and organized. Ecomonic cylces are as guaranteed as death itself, and a recession is the single biggest destroyer of governments.

I respect my fellow conservatives here. But its difficult to fathom things getting better, but I can see a number of ways it gets worse.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Besides, let's watch the fireworks when the Auditor General sinks her teeth into all those departments which the Liberals had previously excluded from her reach.

Mac, great point! Isn't that happening around April Fool's Day? (I love the irony).

What will Dion say? - It's not fair!!!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Raz, thanx for the tip. ;)

Biff, timing is everything, but it will have to be the opposition that brings down the government, IMHO.