Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dion, Dion, Dion

In the lead up to this election, I've argued over and over that the massive gap in leadership numbers were the Liberals achilles heel. It's one school of thought, others pointed to similar gaps between PM's and opposition leaders in the past, a natural circumstance, nothing to get terribly alarmed about. I would submit that this past week has demonstrated one clear thesis, the Liberals are nowhere unless Dion starts to make an impression. Even where the supposed Liberal brand remains strong, we are seeing glaring evidence that in a campaign, perceived leadership weakness will cause erosion.

The polls today show little change, Decima has the gap narrowed to 14% from 17% yesterday, NANOS unchanged, slight NDP uptick. The Strategic Counsel poll of battleground ridings maintains, the Liberals are in serious trouble. I'd like to focus on the common theme, a theme we've seen for months and months, and something which needs to receive laser-like focus from the Liberal team.

Question: Of the following individuals, who do you think would make the best Prime Minister? [Rotate] (N=1,201,MoE ± 2.8%, 19 times out of 20)

Conservative leader Stephen Harper 36% (-2)
NDP leader Jack Layton 18% (+2)
Liberal leader Stephane Dion 13% (-1)
Green Party leader Elizabeth May 3% (-2)
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe 3% (NC)
None of them 9% (+1)
Unsure 18% (+2)

Question: Which of the federal leaders would you best describe as:

The most trustworthy leader
The most competent leader
The leader with the best vision for Canada’s future
Leadership Index Score (N=1,201, MoE ± 2.8%, 19 times out of 20)

Stephen Harper 102 (+13)
Jack Layton 53 (+2)
Stephane Dion 42 (NC)
Elizabeth May 14 (+1)
Gilles Duceppe 10 (-2)

A new Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll suggests the leadership gap may be the single biggest obstacle standing in the way of the Liberals as they compete for the right to govern the country the next four years(or less ;)).

“The challenge for the Liberals appears to rest squarely on Mr. Dion,” said Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson.

“The Liberals must find a way to improve his appeal or make clear that they offer an appealing team of capable and experienced people.”

At week's end, 52 per cent of respondents said they had a positive feeling about Mr. Harper, compared to 34 per cent for Mr. Dion. Fifty-five per cent reported negative feelings about Mr. Dion, compared to 40 per cent for Mr. Harper.

Strategic Counsel:
Which leader talks about issues you care about?

20 Ontario battleground ridings (Sept 11-13):

Harper 37%
Layton 14%
Dion 12%
May 9%
None 9%

Quebec battleground ridings:

Harper 24%
Dion 14%
Layton 13%
Duceppe 13%
May 6%
None 11%

British Columbia battleground ridings:

Harper 29%
Layton 21%
Dion 13%
May 11%
None 9%

Liberals simply can't take any comfort in their brand anymore, in this campaign Dion is so far behind, that even Layton is a serious threat. The above numbers are dreadful, if anything they are worse than the pre-writ floor. Bottom line, Dion closes the gap or we are toast. Period.

I've watched about a half dozen Dion events, in their entirety, and in contrast to the media frame, he's looked very good, quite feisty in my estimation. One can hope that Dion starts to get traction, but it's better to make something happen, rather than passive rely on events to unfold. The good news, the Liberal braintrust can now focus with singularity, it has to be Dion. The "this is Dion" online application is great, but it's not enough. If the party has Dion-centered ads in the can, now is the time to unleash them, and maybe tape some more. THIS WEEK Dion desperately needs to gain some credibility, and sadly policy announcements don't seem to be changing poor perceptions.

We can't count on the debates, the fact there are five participants, and some of our opponents could well shine, should tell us that any reliance is pure gamble. Much better to be proactive immediately, and throw everything in our arsenal towards boosting Dion. IMHO, it's really the only option, other things merely bandaids, other ideas don't deal with the core problem. Dion, Dion, Dion, and then some more focus on Dion.


CuriosityCat said...

Dion also needs to attack Harper's leadership head on, as this is Harper's strongest point...

My suggestion is to frame Harper as follows: Can you trust him?

Then detail specific cases where such trust has been broken in the past.

Steve V said...


Sure, by taking on Harper, Dion shows his own leadership.

Anonymous said...

I agree those leadership ratings look terrible. I wonder what people think of in answering them. I can't understand why anyone would rate Harper high on trustworthiness, but there you go.

Meanwhile, the overal Nanos polls look a lot like
the last election except the Conservatives are two points higher (and Greens up and Bloc down). That is nothing much has changed for a long time. You are probably right that if the Liberals could figure out how to boost Dion's leadership rankings relative to Harper's, we might finally see some movement in the Liberal support.

Steve V said...


One thing that keeps getting pointed out by the pollsters, Harper almost wins the day by default. It's not like people adore or trust him, but they see no real alternative, so he's the relative winner.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see Andrew Coyne's blog in Maclean's?
The Harper leadership cult
Everyone knows Harper is a strong leader. But where would he lead us?
ANDREW COYNE | September 10, 2008 |

On the Conservative party website, it’s all about “Harper Leadership 08.” Tory campaign ads show us Sweater Steve, shyly revealing a fondness for veterans, immigrants and his kids. Party message-trackers hammer home the point at every turn: this election is all about “leadership.” Or as an early campaign slogan has it: “Strong leadership on your side.”
Everyone agrees Stephen Harper is a strong leader. He dominates his party as few other leaders have; he is more or less a one-man cabinet; he has manoeuvred adroitly through 2½ years of minority Parliament, often through sheer projection of will; his personal strengths are undoubted. Leadership polls put Harper ahead of his nearest rival by 25 points or more. So overwhelming is his advantage that even other party leaders acknowledge it. An NDP ad suggests that, while “Harper is a strong leader,” so, too, is Jack Layton — surely one of the more bizarre attempts at borrowing an opponent’s clothes in electoral history.
The election, then, shows every sign of shaping up as a referendum on Harper. He is the issue, in a way that no other party leader is: the Tories by all accounts plan to unveil little in the way of a platform.

Well worth the read.

I think all progressives should be writing to the MSM and asking them why they aren't questioning Harper's platform as well as Harper's non environmental plan.

Anonymous said...

Steve the LPC missed the boat last week when Harper said "I discount that the Liberals are going to give back income tax relief in the green shift because I don't trust them. Therefore it will be a rax only..." All of the MSM reported the speech without question as well as all the other parties ignored it.

Only a liar doesn't trust others to tell the truth and the Liberals need to get that message out along with all the other lies Harper has been caught up with like income trusts. By establishing a pattern of lies it them becomes easier to question his credability in the future and finally put some pressure on for once and deflect the medias obsession with Dion's weaknesses.

Harper has yet to face real questioning on his record where he has to defend himself either from the media or FOUR other parties. He is winning purely by default not by anything he has done or said.

RuralSandi said...

Elizabeth May, through access to information, has found a report that Harper was trying to hide. This report is by a panel picked by Harper.....this panel says that carbon tax will not hurt the economy. I think she's going to put it on her website.

Anyway....where are the MSM on this? Why didn't the do their research? May has spoken publically about this, and yet, none of the MSM are asking about it.

Seems all they want to do is run around having fun on the campaign trail and talk about Dion's tie being to tight or some other nonsense.

Steve V said...


Nevermind the media, where ARE WE on this?? Blows my mind.

Anonymous said...

Harper's statement that the carbon tax will cause a recession and hurt national unity is outrageous. Why has nobody pounced on this? Remember Martin saying Quebec would lose one million jobs in the referendum campaign? Remember how that worked out?

Where is the push back?

Steve V said...


They should send out a talking point directive to every single candidate, and have each of them issue their own press release on this topic, whatever interviews speak on it, everyone on the same message. Dion leading the charge, other prominent people on the networks, our war room pressuring the media, a sense of uniformity. If people get bombarded with the same thing, from all sides, then the cumulative effect might just make it the topic of the day.

Anonymous said...

Think about how pervasively the Conservatives have apdopted the "Rovian" tactics; amongst which is the premise of attacking your opponents strengths. As an example the "Swiftboating" of John Kerry's war record. The attacks by Harper on Dion may point to Harper's greatest fear: that Dion would be a leader Canadians could get behind. The answer is to ridicule Dion as not being a leader. While Dion may appear to be the weak link, he is likely seen by Harper as the most dangerous opponent he could have faced.

Gayle said...

Steve - I know I have said this before, but the liberals themselves must take responsibility for Dion's numbers.

Harper's ads never would have carried any weight if there had not been a number of opportunistic liberal "insiders" willing to feed the media.

Now the whole party is paying the price.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you and Chantal Hebert are on the same page. Her analysis in today's Toronto Star is pretty close to yours.