I think the Conservatives might have gone to early on the fear mongering front. Nevermind the historical fact that parties that go entirely negative are usually LOSING, the better strategy for the Conservatives would have been to unleash this debate mid to late election campaign. The fact we are having the coalition discussion now, scribes busily chiming in as we speak, means that the issue is unlikely to sustain itself in a campaign. I don't know much, but I know about attention spans, unless something fresh or shocking is added, people will get bored and move on. In addition, Tom Flanagan would tend to agree, saying it was "a bit early" to get into this coalition discussion.
None of this says the Conservatives won't continue to highlight this "issue", I just wonder about the mileage. Even yesterday, I sensed some pushback from the media, as the Conservatives kept re-issuing updated Ignatieff attacks, in response to his clear coalition statements. I also heard a few "the issue is dead", a sentiment which apparently angered the PMO. Why? Without much of a positive vision to offer, Conservatives concluded that creating fear would recapture the one moment when a majority looked in reach. The Conservatives have clearly concluded that a protracted coalition debate works to their advantage- I'm not sure, because even if they stir up English Canada, it's negated in Quebec, no majority is mathematically possible. Even if that argument is true, timing is everything and you best maximize the impact if you drop the attacks in the midst of the momentum of a campaign. I've got no problem with "Ignatieff on his heels" pieces Friday before the writ is dropped, let's air it all out now, that works for the Liberals. Moreover, when you consider that this week hasn't been stellar for the Conservatives, one wonders if this talk has any impact at all.
The leaking of this tape has short circuited the Conservative plan. I saw a building up of a lather before they went into full attack mode. The quickly put together and quite disjointed messenging in the latest attack ad shows a kneejerk reaction to events of the day. It's almost like the coalition portion was put in at the last minute, the ad lacks coherence. We all know that ad was cobbled together in short order, because the old "just visiting" ads never make it to the air if anything was in the "can". The old ads were intended to blunt the Liberal ads in the immediate, while they regrouped and got something new out. I firmly believe we've caught them flat footed. Further proof is found the website, where the usually sharp Conservatives aren't pumping their own ads, not even a link. Looks more like reactionary mode than methodical plan at the moment.
I predict the coalition discussion will linger, but it will be just a one sided facet of the larger discussion about what kind of government we want. Liberals relish the opportunity to present themselves as the party that can make Parliament work, "co-operation" will never be a dirty word in Canada. We will contrast that with an argument that you don't reward the failure, all this dysfunction was on Harper's watch, time to change the pecking order.
Conservatives will argue this until they're blue in the face, but I'm willing to bet when they laid out their election strategy, the emphasis on the coalition didn't happen prior to the writ drop.