Ibbitson states the obvious to a certain extent, the Conservative strategy appears to be banking on this robocall storm simply blowing itself out. Hardly a new tactic, the Conservatives are masters at riding out controversy, knowing full well that today's media climate is immediate, attention spans non existent, what looks "huge" today, forgotten tomorrow. The catchword "BREAKING" is almost redundant, because our daily information is forever the now, issues go stale in hours, not days and unless a story is continually "stoked", it simply burns out, we move on to the next instant gratification. As well, a certain boredom tends to take hold, a recurring story tends to have less impact with each successive review.
Vikileaks fits into the above category, in a week nobody will remember the name of Liberal staffer, just another example of unseemly political activity, but largely forgotten. However, if the Conservatives are "banking" on the robocall controversy simply falling off the radar, I submit that strategy will fail. One caveat, given the available options, perhaps the tried and true Conservative reaction (go back and look at In and Out for example, Harper is eerily familiar now, as are the minions) is the least worst option, cornered, what other avenues are available?
I believe this scandal has "legs", there is an almost institutional element that will keep the issue top of mind. There are investigations, legal questions, the very real possibility of a bi-election or two, as well as unforeseen revelations, all congealing to create a scandal which has legs. As well, I note CBC's Jamie Watt segment on what is resonating found this issue is hitting a very widespread nerve, robocalls are resonating, it has burst outside the bubble and generating real world chatter. You could make a compelling argument that most of the previous controversies these Conservatives have confronted haven't truly resonated, which has contributed to the success of the "ragging the puck" strategies. In this instance, early evidence suggests a potentially deeper electoral reaction, which again puts into question whether the Conservatives can successfully ride this issue out.
The courts will decide in April if we will have a least one bi-election in Etobicoke Center, Liberals are looking at other ridings as well. The legal threshold for triggering a bi-election lies with the ability to demonstrate that this robocall behaviour may have impacted the result. There is a very real possibility this stipulation can be met, which would translate into a fascinating development. A bi-election, wherein ethics will be the primary issue, as impetus, no question any vote would become a referendum on this whole unseemly matter. Should a bi-election be called anywhere, it amounts to a guarantee that this scandal will stay front and center, we will have a protracted national debate about political behaviour and our democratic tenets. Voters will have the most concrete avenue available to weigh in, to sanction or punish, emotions will run high.
There are so many angles within this scandal, so much drip, drip, drip, so many formal avenues that will evolve, the Conservatives might find that this time, their formely successful scandal template doesn't bail them out. This fire has embers...