Other good news for Harper in the Leger poll suggests 57 per cent of respondents were satisfied with his government and 35 per cent saw him as the party leader who would make the best prime minister.
Harper was followed by NDP Leader Jack Layton at 14 per cent and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion at 12 per cent.
The Leger poll gives two party figures, hard numbers and an adjustment that factors undecideds. The bad news for Dion, even if you take the hard numbers, he is the only leader that shows a gap between party support and leadership:
Conservatives 33/Harper 35
Liberals 22/Dion 12
NDP 14/Layton 14
Almost half of the Liberal supporters don't give Dion the leadership nod, which doesn't bode well for a campaign, when the focus on the leader becomes even more acute. This isn't the first poll to find Dion lagging on leadership, and you can point to a million excuses to minimize what this actually means. However, these type of findings only confirm my opinion that Dion has a credibility problem.
I have heard some pundits say that Conservative strategists view Dion as weak, and they aren't particularly worried about any improvement in the future. I would argue that it's still to early to write Dion off as effective, but at the same time it is important to recognize the challenge.
A leader has to be relevant in parliament, whether it be in QP, scrums or press conferences. On all those scores Dion has been an objective failure to date, which the media loves to detail. Some have argued that Dion's strengths don't manifest themselves in this forum and we need to find other avenues to get the message out. However, that type of strategy amounts to a concession, a ceding of critical ground, that presents Dion as "challenged". You can't shield Dion, or attempt to shape the playing field. These are the realities of Canadian politics, and coverage will demand that you sink or swim within this lens. In my mind, Dion either gets it together in the traditional sense or we are fatally handicapped. Handlers should repeat one word over and over, leadership, leadership, leadership. That is the achilles heel, as the above clearly details, and you can't work on the margins, Dion needs to perform head on.