Nothing particularly new in the results of a Segma poll for La Presse, in that Dion falls well behind on leadership, in fact he is a drag on Liberal party support. The question was asked, how would voter intention change if the various party leaders left? For the Conservatives, their support would drop a full 6 points if they replaced Harper. The NDP support would drop another 3 points in Layton was replaced. The Liberal support is the anomaly, our numbers would rise 3 points if Dion wasn't the leader. When you factor in the reality that those voters come from other parties, it represents a potential 6 point swing without Dion at the helm.
The pollster describes it as "normal" for a leader to boost his/her party's support, because afterall they are the face, the figurehead, personal identification, compared with the unknown, the numbers suffer. If you would expect the face to improve fortunes, relative to nobody, it makes the gap for Dion all the more pronounced, all the more worrisome.
These type of findings confirm the obvious, the Liberal brand is keeping the party competitive, but Dion is a weak spot, something which needs to be dealt with, if the party stands a chance, in a campaign where leadership is key. The question then becomes, how do the Liberals close the leadership gap?
If you had to isolate Dion's problem to one word, it would be perceived "weakness". IMHO, that fact is indisputable, that is the core negative quality. Dion must present strength to the public, convey the message that he isn't a wimp, look Prime Ministerial. It is true that opposition leaders generally face leadership challenges, but I don't think this historical fact should be used for comfort, a condition outside of our own doing. The number one priority for the Liberals moving forward, do everything in their power to improve Dion's personal fortunes.
On the broken record front, how does the current strategy of cowering and using soft rhetoric to justify, improve or hurt Dion on the "weakness" front? How does this approach translate on to Dion personally? In my mind, the answer is clear, this strategy reinforces the already held notion, it cements the key negative impression. What is happening, Dion is further defined as weak, and this reality will increase the gradient moving forward, the "weakness" hill becomes steeper. We give the meme anecedotal evidence, we feed the achilles heel. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for disaster, I'm not sure what does.
I'm of the belief that lasting damage has already occured, and this may partially explain results like the above. In some ways, we could be past the point of no return, a leader so weakened, prematurely defined, that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that the Liberals will lose. The fear of loss, creates a situation, where that loss is guaranteed. We are nervous about the "weakness", when in fact, we have contributed to the reality through our own strategy. Strange.