Week one is "in the books", and while the polls aren't kind, they are about the only measure that bears any resemblance to the 2008 campaign from the Liberal perspective. In fact, when you add up all the factors at play, it still seems remote, from my perspective, that the Liberals fail to improve their situation this election. Polls are part of the mix obviously, I check first thing every morning, but to isolate yourself to them as only measure of a campaign, only indicator of your mood for the day, you're losing a big part of the plot.
There were many signs early on in 2008 that the Liberals were in real trouble, things that foreshadowed Liberals "staying home" in 2008. I recall early news reports detailing abysmal turnout at rallies, one or two not even touching triple digits. There was no "jam", no "moxy" to the Liberal campaign, absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever, again a early sign that trouble was possibly at hand. Contrast 2008 with this campaign, Ignatieff is simply stuffing them in at every stop, which translates to volunteers on the ground, a curiosity about this man, a motivation to get out and get involved. Small indicators, but Liberals are coming out, absolutely no comparison to 2008. This headline, from a local paper yesterday covering Ignatieff's stops, is symbolic, as well as indicative: Ignatieff ignites crowd on two-stop visit. I will guarantee the word "ignite" was never fathomed in 2008, "extinguished" maybe, but...
Liberals are rowing together this election. To understand this more united front, your starting point is Ignatieff's speech to caucus and candidates on January 25. I've heard various reports from that room, I've watched that speech a few times, that is when Ignatieff made people believers, that is when all the time on the bus, all the message development, congealed into a compelling figure. That speech was the end of whispering behind Ignatieff's back, people rallied behind him and there was more confidence going forward, no question in my mind. That speech is also why I wasn't worried about Ignatieff on the trail, why I said pre-writ, low expectations are chief asset, this guy would surprise. Ignatieff is doing just that, and because of this compelling fact I have a difficult time seeing a 2008 redux, or worse for that matter. Review the columns, news items the last couple days, I defy anyone to find any similar sentiment in 2008.
Another indicator of some enthusiasm is fundraising. I remember the shock I felt when the 2008 campaign spending was released post-election. The Liberals hadn't spent near the maximum, it was entirely disappointing, little surprise we did so poorly. This election, we already have stories of "unbelievable fundraising, another core indicator that Ignatieff is resonating, the Liberal message is finding takers. Again, another "intangible" that points to optimism from the Liberal perspective. We will spend to the max, Harper will have no key advantage this election.
Pretend for a moment that we had no polls during a campaign, and we were left to our own mental calculus, rather than lead around on a leash by Nik Nanos? I suspect in that world, people would be concluding that the Liberals had the big momentum, everywhere you look, positive indicators, contrasted with a bit of a disjointed Harper campaign. And yet, this isn't the case to date, or more rightly, the polls haven't caught up to the "gut feelings". Maybe the polls will, maybe they won't, but after a week I can't find even the slightest similarity to 2008, in fact the polar opposite for a host of reasons.