Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Debate, Polls, Scandal

I thought I would sleep on the debate before commenting. I read, heard much of the pundit reaction. I've also seen this flash polls, and note the source in one case, client in the other, consider me unimpressed. The polls I find interesting, EKOS giving overnight numbers on CBC, plus this morning's Nanos offering.

It's important to remember the pre-debate context, as well as the Auditor General angle not really being incorporated. The frame was as such, Conservatives with big lead, Ignatieff needed a "knockout punch" to get back in the game. This designation had a short memory, after all the Dion Liberals moved to a statistical tie in 2008 (3% Nanos, 4% Harris Decima) after the debate, and I don't recall any knockout variety exchanges in those debates. Last election aside, the pre-debate designation this time was confronted by a maelstrom story, breaking right before the debates. EKOS' Frank Graves was on CBC just prior to the debate and noted a substantial move in overnight polling, the lead down to 5.5% nationally, 3.7% MOE, a quickly tightening race. We also had Nanos out at 4pm, showing a huge fall for Harper's leadership score, a full 7% on trust. Combined, some compelling evidence that the Auditor General G8 scandal had penetrated beyond the chattering classes. This potential reality changed the debate dynamics, if we are seeing a pre-debate tightening, then the knockout punch simply isn't required, the frame DATED.

Nanos out this morning, and while the nationals are stagnant today, we do see the Liberal now slightly ahead in Ontario and some narrowing in British Columbia, a province Graves also singled out yesterday as changing rapidly, Conservative vote falling. Nanos shows the Liberals falling in Quebec, which offsets, but tonight we have the Quebec debate. I think the most recent polls, leadership, demonstrate that the race maybe closer electorally than previous assumed. With that contention in mind, Ignatieff's performance last night needs to be viewed within a more moderate lens.

The one glaring omission in the analysis I've read, hardly anyone plugged in the abysmal pre-debate Ignatieff impressions. A superficial negative impression, Anderson from Harris Decima added people really didn't know Ignatieff. Everyone knows Harper, Layton and Duceppe. While I think they all did well last night, Layton with the best "zingers", Harper's remained calm, Duceppe his usual self, I didn't see much where voters learned anything. As for Ignatieff, I thought he did fine, some very strong moments, a couple small stumbles, but overall he did well. If one was waiting for that nauseating knockout blow, then clearly disappointed, Harper wins by not losing. However, I don't think we needed that blow, and I don't think low expectations of Ignatieff properly plugged into the logic.

I think Ignatieff exceeded Canadians low impression of him, as Allan Gregg pointed out, simply not drooling and cobbling together a sentence, probably raised the bar. Ignatieff presented himself as an alternative to Harper, we saw clear policy direction distinctions. Ignatieff was a DRAG on Liberal numbers, his low standing capping our growth ability. I would argue less apprehension now than prior, and while not a big voter mover today, at least more openness to reconsider. It may well take a few days for the impact to shakeout, factor in the immediate French debate, within a scandal breaking in the midst, I'm not sure normal "reads" are worth much at this point. This isn't to say Harper didn't do well in the debate, only we are in a uniquely fluid situation at the moment, so assumptions need to incorporate this fast debate turnover, emerging issues that are indicating real resonance. Time will tell...


Jerry Prager said...

Harper's bubble world is so complete, that only sociopaths have the same depth of oblivion. The man's vision is a vision of himself from within, with no external touchstones but what he himself touches on... creeps me out just looking at him, and whenever he says let me be clear, I can see the edges of the bubble serving as a lens for his distortions of reality.

rockfish said...

He has insulated himself well - which is something that needs to be hammered at again and again. Harper skates around responsibility, even lies about what those who are tasked with holding him account say. Canadians are being inundated with too many micro-scandals but the last few days are just being digested. If I had one wish for tonight's french language debate, it is that the following point be brought up...

sharonapple88 said...

Conservatives have a habit of imposing an idea on a situation--Stats Can supports a nonmandatory survey, unreported crime is up--instead of dealing with may actually be happening. There's an interesting quote by a Bush aide on how this is suppose to work.

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'
(New York Times Article)

Personally, I'd rather live in the reality-based community.

Tof KW said...

sharonapple88, there's a word for what this Bush aide is describing:

Communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself.

Kirk said...

One thing about last night's debate is that because today we have the french debate we don't have the leader's out there building on their performances or taking advantage of any gaffes by others. That alone means I'll see the impact of the debate minimized.

But I agree, no mythical "knockout" and Harper held his own but then so did Ignatieff.

I was amazed the Harper claimed he wasn't cutting corporate taxes this year just because it wasn't in this year's budget. A bold faced lie that seemed to astonish Ignatieff so much that he could clearly address it. It may be encouraging to a supporter to see that Ignatieff doesn't think such lying is conceivable in a nationally televised debate but it would be more beneficial if the Liberals would expect Harper to lie when he speaks.

Jennifer said...

I really, really think the party needs to drop the gloves a wee bit more and call a lie a lie. When Harper lies, the party needs to call him on it. Loud.

I was a wee bit disappointed in Michael's performance last night, but only because I've seen him speak several times and know how much he is capable of swaying a room. but I still think he did fine. And I also had a great deal of sympathy - how does one debate someone who is completely unencumbered by facts or truth????

bubba said...

All here know my leanings, but there was only one prime minister in the room last night.Iggy had sooo many chances to define himself
-democratic reform?
-social programs
He did 0 to show anyone how Canada would be a better place if he was prime minister.
If the Conservatives are at 39% going into the debate that now becomes their floor.Also the Lib ceiling just got a little lower.

Tof KW said...

how does one debate someone who is completely unencumbered by facts or truth

...Again it should be called what it is. Propaganda. If Harper's not dealing with the facts, then he's using propaganda. Use the actual word against him, it's as old as the Romans and the tactic should be exposed for what it is.

Tof KW said...

bubba, Harper was a pre-programmed robot and only 'won' because he didn't get blow up and loose his cool. He didn't look very human thought, I swear I heard servos during the quiet times.

Ignatieff 'won' because he wasn't the scary, drooling caricature that Harper's 24/7/365 attack ads made him out to be.

Layton 'won' because he's a used car salesman and used to showboating ...been that way since he was in municipal politics.

And Duceppe always does good at these things, and I in fact thought he was the overall winner last night - except for that part about accommodation for immigrants in Quebec, he was very nervous during that and he should be.

In short, no one 'won' last night - this was a giant stalemate.

Marpman said...

To be Prime Minister. I think what makes a good PM is someone who can rally the populous.
While Ignatieff is not there yet, he has the potential to be a great collaborative PM. Harper has never met that definition, he rules by iron-fist in a dictatorial fashion which is so out of sync with Canadian's as a whole.
The line from the debate which I took away, and was reported this morning was telling:

"There he goes again with this word 'bickering,' " Ignatieff quipped. "This is a debate, Mr. Harper. This is a democracy. … You keep talking about Parliament as if it's this little debating society that's a pesky interference in your rule of the country. It's not."

Tof KW said...

Latest EKOS poll - if true Harper looking at a reduced minority, now only a 5-point gap.

CPC - 33.8
LPC - 28.8
NDP - 19.1
BQ - 9.0
Green - 7.8
Other - 1.5

LPC with healthy lead in the Atlantic. Drops for the CPC everywhere except the west. CPC and LPC now tied in Ontario (confirmed by Nanos & H-D) with NDP dropping badly there - serious implocations there. However NDP rising sharply in BC, now 1st
overall there. Quebec is wild - BQ dropping and NDP seems to be the main recipient (no surprise to me, the NDP runs separatists in la belle).

Overall a big drop for Harper, Libs static (but look good in ONT) and the NDP make huge gains here overall.

Niles said...

Did anyone else notice how many repetitive psych tells Harper led his statements with?

Maybe I'm too old, but they struck me as very Nixonian, including the "let me make this perfectly clear", which popped out more than once.

Most of his rebuttals consisted of "those things you're pointing out? well you're wrong, and my saying so makes it fact, neener neener. Double neener on us being in contempt."

The more significant answer for me was about the matter of ruling in a minority government. His repeated demand for a majority and lack of addressing working in a minority government said very much that it will be his way or the highway if there's another Conservative minority. And somehow, a majority is the only thing preventing us from going to a fifth election...although, we would go to elections every how many years anyhow, so it doesn't stop elections at all and didn't Harper call at least one of the elections before this, breaking his own 'law', meaning he could go to an election again any time he chose?

huff huff.

He got through the debate by essentially ignoring everything the others said and addressing the tv while they peskered his greatness from the sides. Sadly, the framing of the cameras played to that in the psychological power of filmic point of view. It was an echo of his usual style of ignoring others in Parliament and the media and talking 'directly' to the 'people' with his err...message.

That said, I thought all the Opposition leaders got in good, telling shots that far too many viewers might be hearing for the first time, regardless of how much media coverage there has been or not.

Ignatieff seemed to get tongue tied a couple of times trying to edit himself and say the polite thing rather than the 'you lying liar' thing. He was at his best when he just cut loose and said what was on his mind. Yes, he did seem astounded a moment or two when Harper out and out prevaricated on national tv. Maybe it will hammer it home that his Conservative opponent doesn't give a shit what kind of lies get out, so long as people don't read the retractions on page 45 by the ad for used cabbage. I want to see harder attacks from the Liberals. Being nice will NEVER be nice enough for the Conservatives. No, he didn't handle the absentee shot from Layton well.

Layton can take his crutch and beat all his concern troll critics with it. He looked great (bonus points because they were standing), sounded great, dragged healthcare out with neon signs on it and still got tripped flat by Duceppe on the bill 101 for workers challenge.

Duceppe had the armour of not having to concern himself with anything outside Quebec. This freedom allowed him to stab merrily with palpable hits, but he still went defensive on multiculturalism not being a Quebec value, muttering about ghettos.

Steve V said...

"Ignatieff seemed to get tongue tied a couple of times trying to edit himself and say the polite thing rather than the 'you lying liar' thing. He was at his best when he just cut loose and said what was on his mind."\

My only criticism, TO much debate prep. Watching the guy on the stump, he knows every issue inside and out, in the debate he was searching sometimes for "his line" and that made for a disjointed answer sometimes. Yes, when he just riffed, those were his strongest moments, and you don't need prep for that.

On that EKOS poll, he has a 5% gap, which means last night had to have been 4.5%, given the 5.5% he said for Apr 11.

sharonapple88 said...

If Harper's not dealing with the facts, then he's using propaganda.

I wonder how much of the crap Harper said he actually believed.

He got through the debate by essentially ignoring everything the others said and addressing the tv while they peskered his greatness from the sides.

Sort of like Sarah Palin after the VP debates except without the cue-cards.

Gayle said...


The people calling in to my radion station today were saying how weird it was that Harper was looking into the camera instead of at the people he was debating with.

I also found it interesting that those of us in my office who are following this closely were a little disappointed in Ignatieff's performance. However those who were not thought he won hands down.

Not that anecdotes are worth much, but I did find that interesting.

Steve V said...

Mansbridge on CBC just said that you have to be careful with pundit reactions, many times they get it wrong.

In some ways, I think tonight is the more important debate, because of the close proximity to last night.

Steve V said...

Also, viewship was way up for this debate over 08, so people might be more interested than pundits assume.