Remember the Lawrence Martin column "Where's Iggy?", which wondered why we hadn't seen more of the Liberal leader? Many of us pointed out the futile nature of promoting yourself over the holidays, better to wait and see, before making any declarations. Well, since that column, I've been entirely impressed with the way the Ignatieff team has conducted itself on the "sales job" front.
Everyday, Ignatieff has managed to keep himself in the news, on a host of issues, positioned entirely at the center of the debate. To be honest, part of the attention is merely a question of circumstance, given the dynamics of the budget debate, much of what happens moving forward rests on Ignatieff's shoulders, so every one of his musings are relevant. However, it isn't only a question of circumstance, much has been written because Ignatieff has created a mini-buzz around his ideas. The "listening" tour was entirely successful, creating a sense that the Liberals were on the move. Pumping Alberta in Quebec was surely something that would garner attention, and it provided a sense of Ignatieff's vision on the federation. Announcements on the "team", the talent assembled, another opportunity to convey a sense of competence and seriousness. Several high-profile interviews (today 3:30pm EST, Newsworld with Mansbridge, another example- good exchanges too). Everything has congealed, and Ignatieff has benefited from a host of free media.
I was speaking with a friend, and she noted the extensive coverage that Ignatieff's speech to the Coverage Club received the other day. I had noticed it as well, full live quotes on the radio, extensive bits on television, much more coverage than Liberals had come to expect under Dion, no matter the issue, forever challenged to get face time. I believe there was a study done, that showed Layton received as much coverage as Dion, and Dion was light years behind Harper. With Ignatieff, I get a very real sense that the media is much more curious, respectful and this bodes well moving forward. Even from unlikely sources, we hear certain praise about the team, the professionalism, the prowess, the optics of which creates the impression that Ignatieff is a serious challenger for Harper, his "equal" heard over and over, music to the ears of Liberals, particularly with recent past in mind. People dismiss the pundits and media class, but last time I checked, they are still the conduit for the vast majority of the population, their opinions and frames are entirely relevant. For a party still challenged financially, the free media narratives are important, getting Ignatieff in the news key.
"Where's Iggy?" Everywhere it seems, and almost all of it is positive. Ignatieff is a blank slate to many Canadians, and the big test will surely be the budget reaction, he will have the country's attention. However, in the preamble, Ignatieff has been quite successful in framing himself as a serious, careful thinker, that is more concerned with merit than posturing, a healthy contrast to Harper, and an initial impression that will serve him well. If we are judging the early days of Ignatieff's reign, the looming moment notwithstanding, I'd have to say Liberals should be entirely pleased.
Here is clip from Ignatieff's recent appearance at the Canadian Club: