I'm a bit shocked, the general consensus, that can't see any upside for Harper to actively pursue a one on one debate with Ignatieff. The Ignatieff rationale is obvious, one on one fits very tightly into our election argument, we relish any opportunity to narrow the viewer lens, "two choices" has always been our choice. But Harper, people seem stunned that he would agree to this format, when really if you look at the alternatives, it just might be the shrewd call. In other words, a one on one works for both leaders, for their own reasons.
Does everyone forget the 2008 debates? I recall quite vividly a Stephen Harper always on the defensive, the dynamics never in his favour, basically doomed from the outset. May attacked Harper, then Duceppe, then Layton, then Dion, just wave after wave of people going after the Prime Minister. When you consider that 2011 will be exactly the same, there is no other real scenario, then the idea of Harper wanting to narrow his attackers makes some sense.
Have you heard Gilles Duceppe? I have already stated, that this coalition question will be in the debates, it's a done deal, there is no avoiding. In addition, rather than Harper making the accusations, he will be subjected to Gilles Duceppe, a seasoned, effective debator, RIPPING a strip off him, calling him a liar, reminding Canadians of his own duplicity. Layton will confirm, and Harper will effectively be destroyed on this question, I really have little doubt. I believe the Conservatives know this too, they FEAR Duceppe, much better to just have a one on one with Ignatieff, wherein Harper can actually land a few as well, rather than continually fend off the onslaught.
When you consider the alternatives, the idea of a one on one looks less "insane" that first blush suggests. We have one format that is a guaranteed loser, made that much worse because your core scare tactic is neutered, becomes a liability. Where is the attraction for Harper in having this five headed debate? Again, did we all forget 2008, because he lost, and the format guarantees a repeat, just a question of how badly.
These Conservatives don't do voluntarily go off message, if they are getting aggressive on this one on one debate it's because they've found a "lesser of two evils". Sure, debating Ignatieff has risks, but that isn't a question in isolation, because risk is inherent in EVERY option. No, I believe the Conservatives are pushing, because they see relative merit, it's the better of two possibilities, he could actually WIN this format. This fact, in and of itself, has a certain logic to it- one option I lose, just degree, another I might lose, but I might actually best Ignatieff. Crazy, not all, cold calcuation and maybe not bad math at that.