Thursday, April 27, 2006

Kennedy's Shrewd Strategy

I was reading some of the press pieces on Gerard Kennedy's announcement today. I found this interesting:
Mr. Kennedy — who is said to be positioning himself as a centrist candidate — made his announcement during a rally in Ottawa, with introductions coming from members of both political and business circles.

“We are the party of social progress and economic progress in Canada,” Mr. Kennedy said.

“This is the party of hope and of opportunities. It is a party of respect that has -- giving everyone what is due to them.”

Social progressive, fiscal conservative:
"Canada needs a vision," he said, and then outlined his own vision of a country for entrepreneurs, but also one characterized by social justice, respect for all and a clear international voice as an "honest broker."

"Canada should be the best place in the world to start and grow a business," he said.

If the speculation is true, and some of the above quotes serve as evidence, that Kennedy is going to campaign near the center, I think it is a very shrewd move on his part. Previous articles on Kennedy invariably referred to him as well left of center. Coupled with his pedigree, Kennedy has a natural appeal to the left wing of the Liberal Party. I don't think Kennedy takes a great risk in alienating some supporters by framing himself as a moderate, who understands the importance of a competitive business climate. As long as Kennedy remains progressive on the social side, he has the latitude to reach out to pro-business Liberals.

The pundits have already labelled this leadership campaign as having a heavy tilt to the left. Kennedy demonstrates smart politics by filling some of the center vacuum and in turn shaking off the stigma that he is too far left to have great appeal in a general election. I think we are witnessing an attempt to transform Kennedy's image into something that looks attractive beyond this race. In recognizing the importance of appearances, Kennedy shows good political instincts that should serve him well throughout this process. Great strategy IMHO.

I saw a roundtable on Duffy's show, with a couple of reporters who attended the Kennedy press conference. The general consensus of the media that was present was hardly flattering- adjectives like "underwhelming", "flat", "uninispiring" and "less than advertised". There was some acknowledgement that the hype had been so extreme, Kennedy was almost bound to disappoint initially. Take it for what it's worth. I didn't see his press conference, but I thought he performed well in the couple follow-up interviews I caught.


Simon Pole said...

Steve, more excellent analysis.

Kennedy's strategy is indeed very shrewd, especially this emphasis on "enterprise." This would seem to eat into Harper's base a little bit -- the independent, small-business type, perhaps also a professional of some kind.

If Kennedy can redefine his "leftism" in terms of social support for a dynamic, progressive society, he could really be all things to all people. Classic Liberal position.

Steve V said...


"This would seem to eat into Harper's base a little bit -- the independent, small-business type, perhaps also a professional of some kind."

Yes, the Tory voter who isn't necessarily crazy about the right-wing social agenda, but needs some assurance on economics. It looks like Kennedy has some experienced handlers, who understand the ultimate landscape.