We have evidence of what will be the official response from the Liberal war room.
Contrasting the attack ad focus with the economic circumstance seems a no brainer on many levels. One, you highlight the Conservatives misplaced priorities, during a serious economic downturn. The concurrent theme is that the Liberals have their focus where it should be, in line with Canadians concerns. While the PMO strategizes on how best to smear Ignatieff, the Liberals are worried about jobs and hardship. The economy is THE issue, really the only one at present, so exploiting the folly of partisan attacks within this environment is a smart and obvious counter. The only unknown, just how forceful the Liberals will be in providing the contrast. Will we run counter ads that merely speak to the economic management of the Conservatives, or will that be woven within the disconnect between good government and the distraction of partisan games? Whatever, I think everyone agrees that the really important point, the response must be persistent, prolific and pervasive.
There is one possible danger in merely doing a contrast on focus. While you highlight negative aspects of the Conservatives smear campaign, you don't address the substance of the ads directly. It's a tricky proposition, because if you start "defending", then you are really fighting on ground chosen by your opponent. Some would argue that the battle is half lost if you are operating within that dynamic. The Conservatives have concluded that they would like to have a conversation about Ignatieff's past, his patriotism and all the "questions" around his history. If Liberals present a counter that takes on directly, then you have ceded the thrust of the issue. However, if you ignore the thesis of the attacks, there is risk that eventually the frame takes hold.
I would side on Ignatieff directly addressing the substance of the attacks. I don't think you run counter ads on this score, the economy vs crap presentation is probably more effective. But, having listened to Ignatieff extensively now, he's actually at his best when he speaks about country and his perceptions of where we are, where we need to be, what unites us. When I say at his best, I mean my perception is that of a genuine desire, a intimate understanding, a true passion, which is articulated in such a way that Ignatieff renders the "out of touch" with Canada argument useless. If this presentation was forced, you might want to avoid it, but I honestly think Ignatieff comes across well when he speaks of country. There is a way to use the residency question, because it gives Ignatieff a forum to demonstrate why those attacks are baseless, it plays to a strength he's already demonstrated. If these attacks lead to a discussion about understanding the country and it's best interests, about US not HIM, Ignatieff can actually come across in a positive light, particularly when he's compared with Harper.
As far as mainstream ads and talking points, what Kinsella put out today is probably the best course. But, in terms of what Ignatieff puts forward, maybe a bit of both, the economy vs partisan pre-occupation contrast and a direct/indirect rebuttal of the Conservative attacks.