Brad Lavigne articulates the emerging NDP retort (twitter):
"bradlavigne #lpc has lost almost every rural seat it held in 2000. Today it announced it is writing-off what is left"
I've also heard that Layton's press conference yesterday was part of a wider strategy, which I think Lavigne articulates above. To be honest, this supposed "strategy" looks like reactionary damage control, certainly not a preferred thrust.
It could be true, that the Liberals risk further eroding what is left of their support in rural Canada. However, as Lavigne himself notes, the Liberals have pretty much lost their way in rural Canada anyway, so one wonders. It becomes particularly interesting when you counter the potential gains, and it is here that this wedge makes perfect sense.
If you peruse the last election results, riding by riding, you will find that rural seat pickups are mostly a pipedream for the Liberals. On the other hand, when you look at urban, suburban seats, you see dozens in the 5-10% back range- it is these seats that will make or break Liberal fortunes. An added dynamic, vote splitting in those key ridings, which reveals the true wisdom of this wedge play. Even if the overall voting is a wash (lose some in rural, pickup some in urban), it's translates to positive electoral weighting.
In addition, and I believe this facet to be the true kicker- kill Mulclair, kill the NDP in Quebec. Outremont was already setting up to be a herculian battle, but with today's speech by Ignatieff, it becomes even more pointed. A bold move, naming Mulclair, but not a reckless one, that's for certain. If the Liberals can knock off Mulclair in Outremont, the NDP dream in Quebec is dead, we go back to virtual oblivion. On the wider front, if you can shave a few points off the NDP support in Quebec, then that makes the Liberals all the more the defacto federalist option, once again. In Quebec, there is no downside for the Liberals to come out strong on the gun registry, particularly when the upstart is vulnerable.
The Liberals have already been hammered in rural Canada over the gun registry, the damage so clearly done. I suspect the NDP strategy is no such thing, an after the fact, make the best of it reaction. On the other side, the more you think it through, the more it looks shrewd for the Liberals to push this issue with fervor, drive the wedge.