Watching CBC's reporter roundtable, it was interesting to listen to various media outlets all discussing Harper's "problems". No talk about Liberal division, weak leadership or rising Tory fortunes. Instead, what became crystal clear, Harper's behavior this week was so egregious that it flipped the entire mood.
Remember all those polls that showed Harper as the clear choice compared with Dion? Forgotten, the results really demonstrated Harper's inability to grow. The Tories should be quite worried, that despite "the perfect storm", disgruntled Liberal supporter parks their votes elsewhere, suggesting an apprehension to Harper. Dion hasn't failed, Harper has failed to attract support- he is still below his election score. Ceiling?
Harper re-affirmed the nagging concern of Canadians that he isn't really "a nice man". Hardly flattering when a reporter refers to the Prime Minister as a "shark", that knows how to "go for the jugular". Mean-spirited, distastful, all those old complaints are re-born with a new, glaring example. The media has tended to fall for the message control and crafted appearance, but this incident pierces the brainwash, and allows for naked assessment. If I read the panel correctly, it was as if someone poured a bucket of ice water and woke them from their slumber.
I don't want to read to much into the recent change in tone, but nor should we ignore it, there is a significant opportunity given. Liberals need to keep the issue of this government's character, or lack thereof as the case may be, on the frontburner. Pull out all the Harper pontifications on restoring honor and dignity to office and ask the PM the pointed question- "In your view, do you think you have upheld those commitments?" Make Harper defend, on ground of our choosing, as opposed to the usual reactive posture. This new newscycle lasts as long as we keep up the pressure, because it was confirmed to me today, the media is sympathetic to this angle.
Fluff off Dion's problem as unfair, give the man some time to adjust, use historical precedent, whatever, but counter with Harper's "problems". Dion's greatest strengths are his honesty and decency. Develop the talking points, get everybody rowing together, and juxtapose Dion's "style" with Harper's classless politicization. Frame Dion as the anti-politician, unscripted, casual, sincere. In my mind, Harper's greatest enemy is Harper, Canadians clearly haven't been "sold" quite yet, despite the onslaught of orchestration. Speak to Canadians cynicism and offer a different tone. It will be up to Liberals to decide if this week was a brief setback for Harper or a watershed moment that changes momentum.