Rather than offer a million caveats, let's just assume it's part of the equation. Disclaimers aside, the campaign is now starting to take shape and I'm hard pressed to find any real positives for the Harper campaign.
People will note, starting yesterday Harper edited his phrasing, coalition was for the most part replaced by these bland references to alternative government's. No accident, in a matter of few days, the word "coalition" has become a double edged sword for Harper, no longer able to pummel opponents with impunity. The word now brings questions about Harper, moreso than his targets, this explains why the Conservatives have massaged the language, at least from the leader himself. The fact Harper has adjusted speaks to, at least, partial message failure.
There is a fast growing theme emerging, on that paints Harper as detached, unaccountable and defensive. Ignatieff, Layton are taking all comers, Harper has chosen to limit access, creating an unflattering air. Harper doesn't look comfortable answering questions, he is somewhat flat and reactionary, this comes across, this has an impact. Particularly noteworthy when contrasted with Ignatieff, who by all objective accounts is on his game, at every stop, relaxed taking questions. I always look to body language as one of my key intangibles- pretend you no nothing else about the campaign- it says a lot about how things are going at the moment.
I take a different opinion than some, I don't believe Harper's one on one debate challenge was an accident or spontaneous comment. Nothing that happened last night dissuades me from my view, in fact the Harper team did push for just this concept, a fact which shouldn't be lost on anyone. The problem for Harper, the Liberals simply bested him, we didn't bite on either/or, we demanded both, which has lead to Harper on the defensive today. Harper offered a debate, Ignatieff is now taunting that challenge, further cementing a frame of a man who isn't accountable, won't debate, won't take questions, won't even wade into crowds of ordinary Canadians, unlike his opponents. Ignatieff looks strong, offensive, Harper has lost this back and forth in a decisive way.
On the policy front, Harper has really offered nothing that has grabbed attention, apart from the mocked commitment to maybe do something in the distant future, dependent on scenarios which could change. That is the signature announcement to date? Contrast with Ignatieff, Harper comes up short again. Take away the fear, so far a pretty THIN presentation from the Conservatives.
I see the Conservatives scrambling a bit, I think they are off message and tinkering. I see the Liberals calm and cool, a leader looking beyond comfortable, out there and thriving. Again, here is where all the disclaimers come, but let's just isolate ourselves to the first few days, I certainly like the way this campaign is shaping up, go so far as to see it's been pretty much best case scenario. And YES, it can all change in heartbeat, and probably will for that matter, a few times too :)