On the surface, the new polling suggests that the Conservatives are surging and look to form the next government. Given the volatility of the electorate, coupled with spectre of a possible Conservative majority, I would suggest these latest numbers may represent a turning point. Harper is now the clear frontrunner, and with that comes the renewed, pointed scrutiny. The focus of the media now shifts from the awkward Liberal campaign to the man who would be king.
A terrific percentage of voters still say they may change their preference. These findings suggest very soft support, tertiary interest and above all open minds. Up until now, all the talk has centered around minority governments, with the general consensus being no party would have enough support to govern freely. As the consequences of this latest polling begin to set, I would expect the mushy electorate to think through a Conservative majority. Yes, the Conservatives have made progress portraying Harper as moderate, not to be feared. However, this gradual acceptance still doesn't translate into strong positive impressions of Harper, merely a belief that "he ain't so bad".
The threat of majority raises the stakes, with the voter, with the media focus and with the opposition critiques. Layton will lay off the Liberals and train his sights on Harper, painting him as dangerous and extreme. The Bloc will protect its turf and try to quell the Conservatives Quebec support. Martin is now given the opportunity to ramp up the rhetoric, with a receptive media. I contend that this campaign has just started, and Harper is now exposed in the open for the first time. The questions asked to voters are now singular and clear. These polls may not bring electoral success, but a renewed sense of fear and doubts. These last two weeks are an eternity, Harper beware.