Sunday, April 13, 2008

How To Close The Leadership Gap?

Nothing particularly new in the results of a Segma poll for La Presse, in that Dion falls well behind on leadership, in fact he is a drag on Liberal party support. The question was asked, how would voter intention change if the various party leaders left? For the Conservatives, their support would drop a full 6 points if they replaced Harper. The NDP support would drop another 3 points in Layton was replaced. The Liberal support is the anomaly, our numbers would rise 3 points if Dion wasn't the leader. When you factor in the reality that those voters come from other parties, it represents a potential 6 point swing without Dion at the helm.

The pollster describes it as "normal" for a leader to boost his/her party's support, because afterall they are the face, the figurehead, personal identification, compared with the unknown, the numbers suffer. If you would expect the face to improve fortunes, relative to nobody, it makes the gap for Dion all the more pronounced, all the more worrisome.

These type of findings confirm the obvious, the Liberal brand is keeping the party competitive, but Dion is a weak spot, something which needs to be dealt with, if the party stands a chance, in a campaign where leadership is key. The question then becomes, how do the Liberals close the leadership gap?

If you had to isolate Dion's problem to one word, it would be perceived "weakness". IMHO, that fact is indisputable, that is the core negative quality. Dion must present strength to the public, convey the message that he isn't a wimp, look Prime Ministerial. It is true that opposition leaders generally face leadership challenges, but I don't think this historical fact should be used for comfort, a condition outside of our own doing. The number one priority for the Liberals moving forward, do everything in their power to improve Dion's personal fortunes.

On the broken record front, how does the current strategy of cowering and using soft rhetoric to justify, improve or hurt Dion on the "weakness" front? How does this approach translate on to Dion personally? In my mind, the answer is clear, this strategy reinforces the already held notion, it cements the key negative impression. What is happening, Dion is further defined as weak, and this reality will increase the gradient moving forward, the "weakness" hill becomes steeper. We give the meme anecedotal evidence, we feed the achilles heel. If that doesn't sound like a recipe for disaster, I'm not sure what does.

I'm of the belief that lasting damage has already occured, and this may partially explain results like the above. In some ways, we could be past the point of no return, a leader so weakened, prematurely defined, that it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that the Liberals will lose. The fear of loss, creates a situation, where that loss is guaranteed. We are nervous about the "weakness", when in fact, we have contributed to the reality through our own strategy. Strange.


Anonymous said...


Its difficult to find fault with your analysis.

Right now, there is a media perception that the Liberal front bench is a source of leadership, wisdom, and power.

The LPC may want to quit scripting its front bench, give them a platform to sell and then let them out of the box.


Anonymous said...

Now that we squandered real issues to go to the electorate with - Afghanistan and the Budget - Liberals need to wait (and continue to abstain or support the Conservatives) until a valid issue/reason comes again.

It may mean that we wait until fall 2009.

However, it may mean that we only have to wait until the Environment becomes again a serious issue for average Canadians. Unfortunately, with the economy on a downturn, this may never happen. And we may have to wait until fall 2009.

Alex Arnet said...

Dion has clearly subscribed to Deng Xiaoping's "24 character strategy: keep cool-headed to observe, be composed to make reactions, stand firmly, hide our capabilities and bide our time, never try to take the lead, and be able to accomplish something.”

Seems to be working for China. Now if only the Liberals can protect "soft diplomacy."

Alex Arnet said...

I meant perfect, not protect.

JimmE said...

I know it took four years, but a guy named Dalton was able to shake the "not up to the job" lable. Let's see what a campaign will bring.

A View From The Left said...

That just goes to show that the "not a leader" ads did what they were supposed to. Then we compounded the problem by abstaining all the time. Another argument for an election sooner rather then later me thinks.

On a bit of an unrelated note, something I found interesting about that poll was that the Bloc would only loose 1% if Duceppe left, which seems to imply that that 35ish number is a bit of a basement number for Bloc/separatist support.

Karen said...

a view from the left: That just goes to show that the "not a leader" ads did what they were supposed to. Then we compounded the problem by abstaining all the time. Another argument for an election sooner rather then later me thinks.

While I don't disagree in terms of what the numbers suggest, the big missing ingredient here is the real Dion.

In an election campaign I think the myth will be dispelled somewhat, but he's going to have to bring one hell of a game.

I do like the notion that he can put the nonsense to rest and Steve, it's important I think, to weigh the faux macho factor in the Con party. You may think that the strategy to portray a wimp sells, but a bully gains few favours.

Just sayin....

Anthony said...

You cant put too much stock into polls like this because unless they name potential replacements.

lets not forget ehen paul martin had 183% support when Chretien was leader.

Also, the real myth is this "real Dion" stuff. Quebec Liberals knew the real Dion as a minister for 10 years. The fact that all the predictions emanating from Quebec came true has proven those prognostications to be correct.

Steve V said...

"In an election campaign I think the myth will be dispelled somewhat, but he's going to have to bring one hell of a game.'

All I'm arguing, the ONLY way to dispel the myth is in an election campaign. If you agree that it is perceived weakness, and you acknowledge the need to rectify, then delaying an election doesn't solve anything. In fact, the negative is only amplified over time, as there is more evidence produced to support the thesis.

I would add, that if we delay past this spring session, then Dion is face with another summer, wherein he will get little traction, the Con numbers will probably rebound somewhat, as the weight of parliament isn't part of the equation.