Harper 30 (-1 since Nov poll)
Dion 14 (+2)
Layton 21 (+7)
Harper 39 (no change)
Dion 16 (+5)
Layton 15 (+2)
Leader with best vision for Canada:
Harper 32 (-3)
Dion 17 (+2)
Of note, Harper holds a large advantage over Duceppe in Quebec, on all questions.
A BIG caveat for Dion, if you take the SES numbers from one year ago, Dion is -6 on trustworthy, -6 on competence and -4 on vision. The good news, Harper is decidedly down as well.
Cherniak is making wild claims that Afghanistan is OUR issue. Mostly mindless, robotic propaganda, per usual, but I think we should look at the issue with these numbers in mind. Harper does have a massive advantage in terms of leadership and convictions. Is there another issue, besides Afghanistan, where Harper better demonstrates his leadership credentials? I don't care for the man, but when he speaks on Afghanistan, he does so with a genuine zeal that translates well for him. In other words, Harper looks like a leader on the issue, agree or disagree with the position.
If, and this remains an if, the Conservatives have calculated that they will fight an election with Afghanistan at the fore (this will be unavoidable, if the question remains open, the vote never taking place), it is important to acknowledge the rationale for doing so.
On first blush, it looks an odd choice, given the opinion polls. Look closer, Harper never needs a majority, only 40%, which is attainable. Factor in some acceptance of pushing forward, IF the Manley conditions are met, and I actually see some fertile ground for the Conservatives. We will only continue if these conditions are met, is attractive to the nervous voter, it might tilt the mental math for some people. And, don't doubt for a second, a big announcement during the campaign, that speaks to reaching these commitments. These people are always looking for an edge.
I believe we are seeing the final chapter of a co-ordinated dance that began with Manley. The pre-ordained conclusions allow Harper to use a Liberal against the Liberals, this is not a dynamic to ignore. There are hawks that vote Liberal, can Harper siphon off a few supporters, a couple points that will tip the election?
Harper is gambling here, no question. But, running on Afghanistan isn't as risky as it might appear. Over-confidence on our part fails to acknowledge a simple fact- Harper doesn't do anything without plotting the terrain. If the Cons move on Afghanistan, assume they see potential.