Monday, July 07, 2008

More About Leadership, Than About Issues

Jeff has an interesting post, detailing the latest "environment" numbers for the various parties, and possible ways for the Liberals to capitalize moving forward. At first blush, barely ahead of the Conservatives on the question of the environment is, as Jeff says, "a little disappointing". However, when you consider that the other two players here, the NDP and the Greens, both have well deserved credibility on the issue, hardly surprising to see no party with a clear advantage. In other words, I'm not fretting about that question at the moment, there is an ample pool from which to "grow", should the message receive a fair hearing.

In my mind, the most important indicator for the Liberals in the next few weeks and months won't be the horserace numbers or the issue questions, but the leadership trends. If you had to pinpoint the most glaring weakness for the Liberals, it would be Dion's woeful leadership numbers, the overwhelming sense that he is weak and indecisive. Until Dion raises his personal stature, the horserace numbers will mask an underlying problem that will likely manifest itself during a campaign.

The "Green Shift" should be judged, not just by the acceptance of the policy, but how this initiative transforms the perception of Dion. If this debate starts to show a marginal rise in Dion's leadership numbers, that may just be the best political news for the Liberals in the grand scheme. Replacing "weak" with "bold", would be quite the coup, whether one agrees or disagrees with the idea. At the very least, a developing measure of respect is exactly what the doctor ordered for Dion. Many negative columns or opinions, at least acknowledge the "stones" in proposing a controversial idea, give some credit for presenting something which shows no obvious political advantage. It would appear, the "wimp" tag is fading into the background, the tertiary leader firmly planted on center stage.

Obviously, the horserace numbers are indicative, and I'll be looking closely. But, more important in the preamble to a looming election, the notion that Stephane Dion is a serious character, armed with serious ideas, someone Canadians start to view as a credible leader. If, we start to see a favorable trend on leadership questions, I would argue that the "Green Shift" has achieved the most critical, purely political, goal.

11 comments:

Jesse said...

Whereas I would argue that the leadership numbers are crap anyway, because the PM of the day is always way up, leaving the dregs at the bottom pretty unimportant, especially given the small sample sizes.

Are leadership numbers in advance of an election writ good predictors of who will win, or do they just flip to the future winner right before he goes over the top?

Steve V said...

"Whereas I would argue that the leadership numbers are crap anyway, because the PM of the day is always way up,"

The PM is always ahead, but it's the size of the gap that Dion needs to narrow. I don't think it crap, or irrelevant, to have Dion polling behind Layton. It is simply critical for Dion to raise his personal standing, shed the "not a leader" perception. The Liberal brand has shown itself to be very resilent, now we need the leader to counter the "drag".

Gayle said...

Dion has been getting some very good press here in Alberta. Most people think he is brave to come here and discuss the green shift.

Personally I do not believe he expects to gain any votes here, but I think the idea is to demonstrate to people in the rest of the country that he has the courage of his convictions.

Frankly, since the day the green shift was announced I have not heard hardly anything about his "weak" leadership - at least not outside BT land.

One of my colleagues has been saying he is weak for months. Today he heard Dion on the radio and completely changed his mind.

Steve V said...

"Personally I do not believe he expects to gain any votes here, but I think the idea is to demonstrate to people in the rest of the country that he has the courage of his convictions."

I completely agree Gayle. Glad to hear all the coverage hasn't all been apocalyptic.

Anonymous said...

Both Trudeau and Chretien polled extremely low when in opposition. Harper polled between 19% to 10% from April to September 2004, for what it's worth.

Steve V said...

"Harper polled between 19% to 10% from April to September 2004, for what it's worth."

And how did he do in the 2004 election?

A BCer in Toronto said...

And how did he do in the 2004 election?

Harper darned near won as I recall. The Liberals will have to do more this time though than avoid accusing Harper of supporting child pornography, and having a crazy guy with a beard go off on the power of the courts. Still, 04 very nearly had a far different result.

Jesse said...

So it was a series of steps Harper took which improved his leadership numbers and get him elected?

Or, did Martin just take a dive?

There's no causation between leadership numbers and popularity.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the Liberals feel that there is a strong correlation between leadership numbers and how they think they will do in the next election - otherwise we would have had an election by now. Most national polls over the past few months actually show the Liberals and Conservatives to be neck and neck. So why are the Liberals scared of an election? Because the same polls show that Dion is a massive liability and obviously the Liberals themselves are morbidly afraid that when people see Dion on TV every night - Liberal support will drop like a stone.

Steve V said...

anon

Bingo. Does anyone think we would have abstained all spring, if not for the sense that Dion was an albatross? I mean the polls looked good, when you did the regionals, but it was the underlying internals that caused much of the nervousness. To just fluff off the leadership numbers is a fools game IMHO.

Steve V said...

Jeff

True enough, but let's not forget that the entire Con campaign for 06, and the prelude, was trying to ease Canadians concerns that Harper was "scary". Apart from accountability, which was the obvious negative line against the Liberals, there was much emphasis on presenting Harper as a moderate, re-inventing his image, which they rightly concluded was a drag on their chances.