Thursday, May 14, 2009

Desperate Times Call For...

There was a rationale within Conservative circles, that accurately explained why we hadn't seen attack ads to date, despite the obvious temptations. What's changed? Here's the rub within the release of these ads. The balance has tipped in favor of going negative, because a sense of desperation has developed. Supporters can cling to some belief that this will be a Dion redux, that's fine, what else can they do really when you think about it? However, the circumstances aren't analogous, apart from superficial comparisons that largely evaporate once you absorb the preconditions.

The Liberals need to respond, any commentary presmes a sense that lessons have been learned, a measure of adaptability, given previous experience. Apart from that assumption, looking only at the Conservative tactics, it's not a strong presentation. The Conservatives themselves "held back", because even within their partisan brains, they understood the inherent negatives in attack ads, at this time. There was a sense of reinforcing unpleasant narratives, relating to Canadians view of Harper and how he conducted himself. There was the danger of going negative during an economic downturn, which allowed for easy counters as to government priorities. We assume the PMO understood the following retort was a given:
Trust the Conservatives to get attack ads out faster than they can deliver their promised stimulus funding. Unable to provide leadership himself, Stephen Harper has launched new ads attempting to divert attention away from his government's failures to fix the economy and to undermine the credibility of the one leader he knows can take his place

Michael Ignatieff.

Calculating a real opportunity for blow back, the Conservatives held their fire. Those dynamics haven't changed, all that's happened is a tipping point in thought process, borne of "desperate times". If you're scanning the various news items and opinion on this story, almost without exception the ads are discussed within the context of falling Conservative fortunes, a sense that Ignatieff is resonating and the Liberals on the move. That translates to this release coming from a perceived position of weakness, rather than the Big Blue Machine laying waste to their opponent. Nobody frames these ads as an example of the former "strategic brilliance", but more rightly, as a sign that the Conservatives are LOSING. The fact that the previous thinking has been abandoned, these ads released, provides official confirmation that within Conservative circles, they also believe they are LOSING.

I don't find it necessary to rationalize the dangers of these ads for the government from a Liberal perspective, because you find objective truth within Conservative circles, and those previous hesitations underscore simple facts. If, we are in situation wherein that previously sound logic has been replaced because poor circumstances demand it, then it tends to blunt the true impacts. The Conservatives are desperate, and they know it. That's the backdrop here, and that clear fact admits a relatively good position for the Liberals. These ads have a "hail mary" element, which by their nature speaks to real, concerning weakness, so one can modestly grin at the wishful bombast coming from the minions. This is fear, not formidable, which makes the entire proposition a dicey affair.


stooner said...

Good analysis Steve which leads to my conclusion that a quick immediate major response is needed to these ads.
You smell weakness, I smell weakness and the press smells weakness.
The CONS have fired the 1st pathetic shot. Now its time to fight back. No more pussying around with 'Canadians are above these ads'. Reality check - they're not.
As Rocco said in his email yesterday, enough is enough! DONATE NOW!

Steve V said...

This might sound a bit offbeat, but a good counter might be an ad that incorporates these attacks. Part of the Ignatieff narrative that Liberals are trying to put forth, this idea that he's trying to rise about partisan nonsense, that he wants to bring something different than the "old politics". What about an ad, with television cameras in the background, playing the Con ads. Ignatieff out front, crap in the background, simply articulating the Liberal approach with Canadians. The ad ends with Ignatieff asking Canadians, pointing behind him, if this is what they want from their leaders during these tough times. I think in that way, you don't go negative, but you highlight all the negatives about Harper, that people find distasteful. Pretty bold to embrace these ads, but with the contrast, plus what it says about the messenger, I'm not sure we don't use them to our advantage.

Anonymous said...

Kinsella has this up on his website:

What do you think? Sixty thousand bankruptcies in a single month, or a Canadian guy who went abroad to be a big success: what's the bigger issue, for you and your family? Wayne Gretzky, Neil Young, Celine Dion, Martin Short, Michael J. Fox, Alanis Morissette, the Sutherlands, William Shatner - and not a few others, many of whom are on tap, ready to speak up - are interested in your views, too.A counter ad which included a couple of these people could be great. Tackle the out of Canada too long charge head on.

Jesse said...

I think the campaign you suggested in your comment sounds great. These are enough of a joke, framing-Iggy-wise, that I think it's worth a shot.

If you're not going to go negative, scream it from the rooftops.

Mark McLaughlin said...

It's hard to argue that the CONS are launching this offensive because they are scared when everyone knew this was coming months ago.

You point to the timing as proof of the "hail mary", but it's more simply explained by the reality that ME has only officially been the leader for less than a month.

I don't have my calender in front of me, but it may be that these ads are coming out at about the same time after Dion became leader.

The reason for not releasing them earlier was because anything could have happened before the convention, and that getting the budget through would be easier without poking the Liberals in the eye at the same time.

Now the the contsant tide of bad economic news is slowly receeding, the coming lull in Ottawa will allow the ads to get the most attention, both earned and unearned.

Don't convince yourself that the timing of the ads is somehow proof of any advantage. The reality is that there won't be an election until sometime in 2010, and by then you'll still be cheerleading for a slowing economy while the rest of us are marching in the victory parade as things turn around.

Steve V said...

"I don't have my calender in front of me, but it may be that these ads are coming out at about the same time after Dion became leader.

I'd get your calendar Mark. AND, like I said in my post, your own strategists have intimated why they didn't want to go negative, the dangers, so you're arguing with your own logic. Have at it, but it's not terribly convincing.

Face it, the ads are out now, because you guys are going nowhere in the polls.

Steve V said...

My apologies, I missed your rather sad argument about the technicality of when Ignatieff became leader. You're kidding with that, right?

Anonymous said...

Desperation is in the air. There's blood in the water. In some ways reminds me of the desperation felt by the Tories in 93 when they went neg on JC. How did that one turn out for them?