Thursday, June 10, 2004

Leadership

The latest polls continue to show a tight race in Canada with the Conservatives slightly ahead. The Liberal strategy will now be to demonize Stephen Harper as much as possible over the next week. I suspect this won't get them too far for reasons I've outlined in my last few posts. The extremist tag just isn't sticking, and Ontario voters seem to be drifting to the Conservatives in reaction to the provincial Liberal government's budget.

Still, the key here seems to be "drifting." The Liberals are hoping to get back some of those who've left their sinking ship, but I think the only place they can do that is during the leadership debates next week. The problem is, Paul Martin is a known quantity, while Stephen Harper is still somewhat obscure to many voters in eastern Canada. All eyes will be on Harper and his performance. The Liberals are going to try and pin him down, painting him as a right-wing radical. If Harper can stay calm and appear moderate, he could impress a number of Ontario voters. The latest polls show that around a quarter of those currently saying they'll vote Liberal will switch to the Conservatives if Harper puts in a good performance. This could mean some extra Conservative seats in suburban Ontario and the Fraser Valley in BC, enough to give the Conservatives a substantial lead, even without a majority. In any case, the man on the spot is Stephen Harper, and all the Liberals can do is throw insults from the sidelines.

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