Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tale Of Two Leaders

Both men have their respective problems, both haven't really connected with Canadians, but Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion are in completely different places. You often hear people say that Harper remains an "enigma", he needs to do a better job developing a repoire with Canadians. That excuse may have been applicable in the past, but the reality- Harper is now a known quantity in the minds of Canadians. Jeffrey Simpson articulates that view:
"Canadians had developed quite a sophisticated reading of their Prime Minister. Mr. Harper is what Canadians understand him to be: sober, serious, self-assured, intelligent, controlling, decisive, cold, formal and sometimes imperious."

Some of the adjectives are attractive, others a hinderance, but the detail suggests the gel has set with Harper. Afterall, Harper has been on the scene for quite sometime, fighting two elections, leading two parties. To think that Harper can re-invent himself is more wishful thinking than it is realistic. This fact makes the hopes of rising popularity all the more doubtful, Harper is defined, for better or worse. Policy could still put wind in the Conservatives sails, but don't expect any bounce because of the leader.

On the other hand, we have Dion, who's problems connecting might be more acute, and yet there does exist opportunity. Unlike Harper, Dion is still a relative blank slate, who hasn't made a lasting impression on Canadians. This reality is concerning, but you can allow for some optimism, in that Dion has room to grow, time to fill in the blanks. Opinion of Dion, whether good or bad, isn't as entrenched as it is with a leader, who has been on the scene for years.

The only caveat, the roles are somewhat reversed in Quebec. In his home province, Dion is well known, with an ample history to draw on. Dion does have a problem with perception, making a re-invention quite challenging. On the other hand, you could argue that Harper only came to Quebecers in the last election, with his first year and half in office a trial run to make a lasting impression. Opinion on Harper has gelled to some extent, but you do see indications of goodwill that Conservative strategists interpret as reason for optimism. Policy may actually be more of a drag on Conservative fortunes than personality.

Overall, if you look at the future prospects of both leaders, with the parties tied in the polls, I would rather have the "work in progress" scenario, as opposed to the "sophisticated reading" reality, especially when the known is such a mixed bag.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does anyone recall if we ever had a good view of an opposition leader? I don't.

Harper certainly didn't poll well in opposition, Chretien was a disaster in the polls when he was in opposition. So was Trudeau as I recall.

It doesn't make sense to me 33-33 and yet Harper doing well in the polls - it just doesn't jive. I don't think it's support for Harper but more of "we don't want to bother with an election right now".

Miles Lunn said...

Interesting take. I think you are bang on that Harper really cannot do anything to improve his personal numbers. I think the Tory numbers will only go up if the Liberals run an awful campaign, but at the same time will likely go down if the Liberals run a strong one. Otherwise what most polls don't tell you is there are some potential switchers and depending on the campaign, this could affect which camp they land in.