You have to give the Prime Minister some credit. On several occasions Harper has shown the capacity to morph and redefine himself, in the face of very negative impressions. The mean, hyper-partisan, preoccupied with divisive tactics, all these narratives looked to be on the wane. Harper managed to position himself as co-operative in the coalition aftermath, and he also managed to project a "softer" image, somewhat helping his "affection" score with Canadians. All the negatives remained, but it was back burner stuff, Harper had effectively manipulated the political short term memory dynamic. However, if you scanned recent editorials, and the overall tone of coverage and voter reaction, all that "good work" has evaporated and we are back to dissecting the cold partisan, self interest before good government, all those frames that have held Harper back. The question now becomes- is this just another temporary setback or has Harper finally cemented himself as a tragic figure?
While things in politics do tend to change quickly- only a fool is entirely definitive- it is relevant to mention that each time you reinforce negative narratives, the chances for rebound diminish. When you judge the character of a person, if you see an almost pathological recurring theme, you eventually conclude that's the persons nature and it takes much effort to convince you otherwise. In the political realm, when enough voters reach a personal conclusion, it equates to ceilings, it suggests past your political prime.
At this point, I honestly believe much of Harper's future opportunity will rely on the Liberals and their perceived effectiveness. Should the Liberals project strength, vision, competence, Harper may have a very hard time "recalibrating" if you will. Let's not forget, his fall surge in the polls was largely a by-product of Liberal self-inflicted wounds. Left with no credible alternative, the Conservatives benefit, but this support shouldn't be misconstrued as solid or firm.
I have no doubt that Harper is capable of rebound, the chameleon qualities and propaganda machine formidable. That said, how many times can you project the same negative attributes and not pay a permanent price? Every former leader would agree, the public tolerance isn't infinite.