At the beginning of the Ignatieff tour, I dubbed it the "Last Chance Express", and in reality I don't think that characterization hyperbole. At some point, one either gets some traction or the negative narratives gel, and you are left with your opponent self destructing as the only realistic hope. I believe Ignatieff was at a crossroads heading into this summer, and while I didn't expect a radical turnaround, some projection of a credible alternative was desperately needed.
I've held off making any definitive judgements on this tour to date, because you need time to see if any themes have really developed. Hebert's column today confirms many of my gut instincts, and I think she's bang on.
I've sensed a different tone with the media, in regards to Ignatieff. The piling on mentality that dogged Ignatieff for most of this year seems to have waned. Part circumstance, part projecting different narratives, Ignatieff seems to be generating a certain amount of respect. The improving perception is warranted, because really this Liberal Express, save for the first day hiccups, has gone very, very smoothly, both logistically and professionally. Ignatieff has waded into crowds with ease, a far cry from the gaffe prone rookie that ran for the leadership in 2006. Ignatieff looks comfortable, his new summer garb now routine and ordinary.
Ignatieff hasn't shed all the baggage, obviously, and really I never expected him to. However, the notion of the out of touch elitist has taken a serious hit. I've scanned the local news on a daily basis, and for the most part, puff pieces that paint Ignatieff in a "on balance" positive light. This under the radar coverage, coupled with a certain re-think on the national media front congeals to a success by any definition.
The polls really haven't moved, there is no Iggymania sweeping the land, but when you consider realistic goals for this summer, it's hard to see failure. The team looks professional, the leader looks engaged and at ease, making it all the more realistic for those covering, and those voting, to see the Liberals as a viable alternative to this government. The "Last Chance Express" has become the "Greens Shoots Express" in my view, horribly overused wording aside :)