Debate briefing - Macleans.ca
 

Debate briefing


 

I’ll be writing my column for our next issue right after tonight’s English-language leaders’ debate, so until then I won’t be writing much. A few thoughts before the big event:

• Debates matter. In 1984 (Turner), 1988 (Mulroney), 2006 (Martin) and 2008 (Harper), the incumbent prime minister ran into substantial difficulty after the leaders’ debates aired. (Here’s Coyne’s blog post, written when Harper’s support started to sag after the Oct. 1 and 2 debates in 2008.) Trouble doesn’t mean defeat: Mulroney in 1988 and Harper in 2008 were able to push back against challengers and win. And debates don’t always produce clear-cut shifts in public opinion. But they can.

• Time’s growing short for the opposition parties. Polls so far have been more characterized by stability than by any sensitivity to the news of the day. Most projections I’ve seen put the Conservatives under a majority, but not by much. If the opposition parties want to close their gap with the Conservatives, they need it to start happening soon.

• There are no knockout punches. By this, I don’t just mean that the leaders are so exquisitely coached that they don’t come up with any snappy lines, but that nobody cares whether they do. Voters watch the whole debate, or long extracts, looking not for a smart lip but for somebody who feels like a reliable leader. (For this reason, the notion that for Ignatieff the whole debate comes down to his six minutes facing Harper one-on-one is bollocks.) Command of detail, confident tone, a willingness to push back when pushed by an opponent — these will all get a leader further than a punchy clip would. And a leader who stands around nervously, hopping from one foot to another, looking for a chance to deliver his staff’s pre-cooked “knockout blow” — well, that leader is doomed.

• This should be an easier debate for Harper than 2008. In that election he faced four other leaders. One of them was Elizabeth May. Harper’s default reaction to a challenge is to snarl and bite. He didn’t dare do that while a woman was on the stage with him. Determined to react to her every gambit with what his handlers called “the icy blue eyes of love,” he looked like he’d been hit in the thigh with a tranquilizer dart. Expect him to lean into his adversaries with less restraint tonight.

That’s all.


 
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Debate briefing

  1. Well the “the icy blue eyes of love,” certainly sounds like something the corkbrains in the PMO would come up with. LOL

  2. Well the “the icy blue eyes of love,” certainly sounds like something the corkbrains in the PMO would come up with. LOL

  3. Expect him to lean into his adversaries with less restraint tonight.

    I agree, but I think it will be a tricky balance between his cool and collected performance of 2008 while adding a little more aggressiveness. Ignatieff is the only newbie and I think he may make mistakes.

  4. Expect him to lean into his adversaries with less restraint tonight.

    I agree, but I think it will be a tricky balance between his cool and collected performance of 2008 while adding a little more aggressiveness. Ignatieff is the only newbie and I think he may make mistakes.

    • I agree. I fear that Ignatieff's going to try to be all things to all people, and it's not going to appear authentic. He shines in forums and has proven he's got the common touch when working a room or meeting people one on one, but I still fear that tonight's not going to click for him.

      Winner? Harper or Layton, perhaps.

      • Less experience, but let's assume he's been doing prep and he has far more experience speaking on TV. and Harper is a pretty big target.

        It would be silly, as you have done, to try to declare a winner before it happens.

      • Kaplan hits nail on head—" try to be all things to all people "
        The only folks who tend to be impressed by that tactic are those who have heard all the talk points before and they have already made up their mind how they will vote.

        Harper should lose this debate. The incumbent usually does. The " good timing " of that AG leak yesterday would tend to put him on the defensive.
        But I think he will do well. He appears quite relaxed the past few days and if he can carry that look and maybe a little humour ( is that even allowed in a debate ? ) he will surprise.

        • Of the two Ignatieff is the one who has appeared more relaxed so far. He has the lower expectations. Although that may not be the case in the debate. He needs a good one. A bad one shouldn't be fatal for Harper, but it may well be for Ignatieff.

    • Ignatieff is a former TV host, who has done lectures for the majority of his adult life. He will have no problems tonight.

      • Agreed, he's good on tv and comfortable on camera. The big question is whether he's going to stand out, or just look like another person on stage crapping all over Harper. THAT's the big variable here — what the opposition attack is going to be like, will it be some ugly, shouting, histrionic tower of babel (which might make Harper look like the reasonable guy by default if he's restrained by comparison); or will the opposition leaders go at Harper in a way that's more measured and effective?

    • But if Harper is attacked even mocked personally, and hard, perhaps by Layton not Ignatieff, he could react with the anger and mean spiritedness that makes up his character. Somebody has to push him on ethics and character to the point that the person who approves those attack ads comes right out.
      So have the handlers imposed enough discipline and self control on him that the famous temper will be kept in check? Chances are yes, but he may face pressure unlike what he saw in the last debate or QP where he just sloughs off the attacks with his sheep bleating in the background.

      • If the other 3 mock and attack Harper personally, then they will pay a price—that will be their problem–not Harper`s.
        Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada. Canadians will not take kindly to that type of behavior from anyone—debate or not.

        • I would really like to see harper try to pull a whopper, the moderator actually shuts him down, and he goes ballistic.

          • How do you pull a whopper ?

        • You missed the point. If he stays Prime Ministerial you're right. I'm saying if Harper gets off the leash and shows his "other side" that's trouble. He's never been really been pushed hard in any recent debate.

          • And I think you may have missed my point when I disagreed with your point that personal attacks would be an effective attempt to bait Harper into a mistake.
            For example, many people never took Layton seriously after the 2006 ( or 2004 ? ) debate when he was like a little yapping dog interrupting throughout the evening.
            When your opponent misbehaves, just get out of his way.

  5. I find it rediculous that you are putting out that you won't be blogging between now and what? midnight tonight? given that you haven't blogged since Saturday afternoon. But thanks for the post, nonetheless.

  6. I find it rediculous that you are putting out that you won't be blogging between now and what? midnight tonight? given that you haven't blogged since Saturday afternoon. But thanks for the post, nonetheless.

    • Yeah, missed a weekday. Sorry about that.

  7. It was funny how he smirked at her while she tore a strip out of him.

  8. That stupid grin he wore during the entire 08 debate is all I can remember about the entire thing.

  9. That stupid grin he wore during the entire 08 debate is all I can remember about the entire thing.

    • Laudanum?

      • Petitbonum!

      • Well it worked for Dr. Maturin didn't it? Though boarding a French man of war is far more stressful than Parliament.

  10. Perhaps PW considers his twitter updates "writing"?

  11. I agree. I fear that Ignatieff's going to try to be all things to all people, and it's not going to appear authentic. He shines in forums and has proven he's got the common touch when working a room or meeting people one on one, but I still fear that tonight's not going to click for him.

    Winner? Harper or Layton, perhaps.

  12. Yes, and generally speaking, people don't like smirks.

  13. Laudanum?

  14. Yeah, missed a weekday. Sorry about that.

  15. True, but we get a massive post-mortem on the debates, one of those Wells Specials, then it'll be worth the wait.

  16. Yes, and generally speaking, people don't like smirks.

    • Maybe true, but I love a good s**t eating grin.

      • Classy.

      • Well, it didn't help him, so as a tactic….

  17. Since the CPC seems to be running this campaign on Paul Martin's 2006 playbook, is Stephen Harper going to randomly propose amending the Charter tonight?

  18. I'm not sure if debates matters that much. After the media hysteria is over, the underlying dynamics of an election usually kick in again. With the exception of Turner, all the leaders mentioned ended up winning anyhow, and I doubt it was just the debate that did in Turner.

    I think these things are way over-hyped, in part because people remember Kennedy-Nixon in 60, and Mulroney-Turner in '84. Other than those, are any debates really that memorable? For all the attention and analysis they get, I really do think they're pretty much forgettable. The phenomenon is amplified even more during this campaign because it's more about nothing then even recent elections were. So, the debate, however unremarkable it ends up being, will get far more attention than it deserves, in my opinion.

    Interesting anecdote about Harper and May. From what I recall, she was asked to say a good thing about the leader to her right, which was Harper. After maybe saying a line or two about his family, she started ripping into him,and basically ended her answer by calling him an autocrat. I think "autocratic" was the specific term used. That dart in the thigh must have been awfully powerful.

    So, will he be less tame this time around because she's not there? I know that's what I'd love to see. However, Harper has generally been calm and cool during these leaders' debates, so I doubt you'll see him throw bombs at the others. I suspect he'll play a lot of defence, try to look above the fray, and suggest that people need to vote for him to end the bitter partisanship we keep hearing from the rest of the gang on the stage.

  19. Since the CPC seems to be running this campaign on Paul Martin's 2006 playbook, is Stephen Harper going to randomly propose amending the Charter tonight?

    • Well a conservative promise would be to repeal it. But the sniper in the gallery will hit the trigger before he would be allowed to finish that sentence.

    • Strangely, people want to draw comparisons between this election and the one in 2006. Very different. Harper is not nearly as desperate as Martin was back then.

    • Maybe he'll propose new powers for the PM re prorogue, limited sitting hours and powers for parliament, abolish independent Officers of Parl etc.

  20. I'm not sure if debates matters that much. After the media hysteria is over, the underlying dynamics of an election usually kick in again. With the exception of Turner, all the leaders mentioned ended up winning anyhow, and I doubt it was just the debate that did in Turner.

    I think these things are way over-hyped, in part because people remember Kennedy-Nixon in 60, and Mulroney-Turner in '84. Other than those, are any debates really that memorable? For all the attention and analysis they get, I really do think they're pretty much forgettable. The phenomenon is amplified even more during this campaign because it's more about nothing then even recent elections were. So, the debate, however unremarkable it ends up being, will get far more attention than it deserves, in my opinion.

    Interesting anecdote about Harper and May. From what I recall, she was asked to say a good thing about the leader to her right, which was Harper. After maybe saying a line or two about his family, she started ripping into him,and basically ended her answer by calling him an autocrat. I think "autocratic" was the specific term used. That dart in the thigh must have been awfully powerful.

    So, will he be less tame this time around because she's not there? I know that's what I'd love to see. However, Harper has generally been calm and cool during these leaders' debates, so I doubt you'll see him throw bombs at the others. I suspect he'll play a lot of defence, try to look above the fray, and suggest that people need to vote for him to end the bitter partisanship we keep hearing from the rest of the gang on the stage.

    • she also mentioned he cheated. The great pity is she didn't out him live on air – unless she was lying. I know which way i'd lean on that.

      • So, in a question where they're asked to say something nice about another leader, you think it's perfectly alright to call them an autocrat, cheater, and liar. This is the kind of hatred Harper and conservatives have to face, is it?

        • He can take it — he's shown he can take it.

          He's been prime minister for five years.

        • "So, in a question where they're asked to say something nice about another leader, you think it's perfectly alright to call them an autocrat, cheater, and liar. This is the kind of hatred Harper and conservatives have to face, is it? "

          Why is it you are never able to follow anyones pov but your own? I never addressed the question of whether May was wrong to depart from the nice question format….it why i began with the words…she also.

          • This is what you wrote:

            "she also mentioned he cheated. The great pity is she didn't out him live on air – unless she was lying. I know which way i'd lean on that."

            You were disappointed that she didn't say even more. Isn't that what you just wrote?

    • Man, I don't know what's up with me, but I'm agreeing with all my usual snark-exchangers. I agree with Dennis that while debates can be game changers, I'm not sure they do anything more than confirm the leanings and suspicions voters already have. The only game changer I can recall is the Mulroney-Turner debate, and that was really only remarkable insofar as it introduced a calm, intelligent and feisty Mulroney to an audience that hadn't really seen him in action before. I think Canadians were fatigued with the Liberals by the time Turner took over, and were casting about for a place to park their vote. That Mulroney was the remarkable debater and campaigner he was in 1984 only solidified that turnabout, I think.

      • I agree that 1984 is about the only leaders' debate in which I remember a specific moment and specific words, and I'm a pol junkie. I remember that one with May et al. on the stage essentially swarming Harper, and like a lot of people I found the format and behaviour to be inane and off-putting.

  21. " And a leader who stands around nervously, hopping from one foot to another, looking for a chance to deliver his staff's pre-cooked”knockout blow” — well, that leader is doomed"

    LOL…would that be Jack in 06[?] Oh well. i guess a lots has changed since then.

  22. Your wish is my etc. etc., Kaplan. We are already pecking away at that project.

  23. " And a leader who stands around nervously, hopping from one foot to another, looking for a chance to deliver his staff%E2%80%99s pre-cooked”knockout blow” — well, that leader is doomed"

    LOL…would that be Jack in 06[?] Oh well. i guess a lots has changed since then.

  24. " And a leader who stands around nervously, hopping from one foot to another, looking for a chance to deliver his staff's pre-cooked”knockout blow” — well, that leader is doomed"

    LOL…would that be Jack in 06[?] Oh well. i guess a lots has changed since then.

  25. Your wish is my etc. etc., Kaplan. We are already pecking away at that project.

    • You guys want to leak who the winner is?

      • It will be a massive CYA effort: Wells will declare May the winner for sitting out, Coyne will declare Prince William the winner and want him to move here and be our next GG, Wherry will declare Layton the winner, and they will all say Duceppe stole the show and Iggy beat expectations. Harper is bound to make one or more gaffes in the one-on-ones because he gets flustered when challenged.

        • Check out, if you can, footage from the 2004 campaign when Harper was reacting to the media when confronted by the CPC news release claiming that Martin supported child porn. There's a few seconds where Harper's anger flashes through – and it's not a pretty site. He sneered for a moment, and then sounded hectoring and righteous.

          No doubt, that's gotta be top of mind for he and his staff. We've all heard about the chair-kicking tirades. I don't expect to see Harper lose it, at least not during a debate. But man, if people could see him come unhinged, or about to, it'd be campaign changer.

      • "You guys want to leak who the winner is?"

        Are you saying the fix is in? :)

        Maybe i should tune into NL tv and get the result a half hour before you guys? I never could get the hang of this time difference stuff.

  26. Less experience, but let's assume he's been doing prep and he has far more experience speaking on TV. and Harper is a pretty big target.

    It would be silly, as you have done, to try to declare a winner before it happens.

  27. "Time's growing short for the opposition parties. Polls so far have been more characterized by stability than by any sensitivity to the news of the day. Most projections I've seen put the Conservatives under a majority, but not by much. If the opposition parties want to close their gap with the Cosnervatives, they need it to start happening soon."

    Nonsense. Undecided are at 18% nationally. It will be too late when the undecideds squeeze out. There is no time limit on this.

  28. "Time%E2%80%99s growing short for the opposition parties. Polls so far have been more characterized by stability than by any sensitivity to the news of the day. Most projections I%E2%80%99ve seen put the Conservatives under a majority, but not by much. If the opposition parties want to close their gap with the Cosnervatives, they need it to start happening soon."

    Nonsense. Undecided are at 18% nationally. It will be too late when the undecideds squeeze out. There is no time limit on this.

  29. "Time's growing short for the opposition parties. Polls so far have been more characterized by stability than by any sensitivity to the news of the day. Most projections I've seen put the Conservatives under a majority, but not by much. If the opposition parties want to close their gap with the Cosnervatives, they need it to start happening soon."

    Nonsense. Undecided are at 18% nationally. It will be too late when the undecideds squeeze out. There is no time limit on this.

    • I haven't really seen the polls. Are the undecides growing at the expense of the CPC?

    • Of course there's a time limit. Election day is May 2. :)

      However, I think PW's point should be taken seriously. Have the Harper Conservatives ever sustained majority-like numbers for this amount of time, going back to even before the campaign started? If weeks of trumped-up controversies can't change that dynamic, nor two national debates, just what will? In fact, if nothing changes, doubts about Harper might completely fade, and his support might reach unexpected highs, just as Rob Ford's did on election night in Toronto a few months ago.

      • I fear you might be right. If Mr. Ignatieff doesn't show everything he's got tonight then I believe that left-leaning voters will gravitate back to the NDP or perhaps to the Greens as they won't belive the Liberals will stop Harper anyway.

        If it looks like the Liberals have a real chance coming out of this week's debates then support from the Dippers, Greens and even remaining PCs might start to gravitate in a final push to be rid of Harper.

        However, if coming out of the debates Harper is relatively unscathed only a revelation of some sort of complete corruption and other dirty dealings will stop him – he might even get his majority – although only a slight one I believe.

  30. The thing was, in 2008 Dion was far superior in the French debate and Harper looked like had indeed " been hit in the thigh with a tranquilizer dart."

    Harper was slightly more animated in the English debate (but not that much – maybe because of the presence of Ms. May). If M. Dion's English had even been marginally better then perhaps things might have been different. While I was sorely disappointed others were happy that he hadn't blown it so perhaps a slightly better perfomrane might have been enough to put thing really into play.

    For this year I agree with you Paul that Harper will not be so reticent but he also has to watch that he doesn't turn into a mean-spirited jerk. For him it's a very fine line.

  31. Well a conservative promise would be to repeal it. But the sniper in the gallery will hit the trigger before he would be allowed to finish that sentence.

  32. The thing was, in 2008 Dion was far superior in the French debate and Harper looked like had indeed " been hit in the thigh with a tranquilizer dart."

    Harper was slightly more animated in the English debate (but not that much – maybe because of the presence of Ms. May). If M. Dion's English had even been marginally better then perhaps things might have been different. While I was sorely disappointed others were happy that he hadn't blown it so perhaps a slightly better perfomrane might have been enough to put thing really into play.

    For this year I agree with you Paul that Harper will not be so reticent but he also has to watch that he doesn't turn into a mean-spirited jerk. For him it's a very fine line.

  33. Petitbonum!

  34. I don't expect a Mordecai Richler text from any Canadian journalist.

  35. Strangely, people want to draw comparisons between this election and the one in 2006. Very different. Harper is not nearly as desperate as Martin was back then.

  36. I don't expect a Mordecai Richler text from any Canadian journalist.

    • Settling for Tom Clancy?

      • Nah…Lecarre.

  37. Good thing Harper is wearing glasses now – “the icy blue eyes of love,” LMAO

  38. Good thing Harper is wearing glasses now – “the icy blue eyes of love,” LMAO

    • Just read "the fairy tale", lol!! Does this mean ABC fever is still running on the Rock??

      “We have come,” said the lead dragon, a large blue monstrosity with scaly skin, “to ask you for your carrots and turnips. For we really love carrots and turnips. And if you give them to us, in exchange we will give you…diamonds!”

  39. I haven't really seen the polls. Are the undecides growing at the expense of the CPC?

  40. Maybe true, but I love a good s**t eating grin.

  41. You guys want to leak who the winner is?

  42. Classy.

  43. spellcheck: Conservative, not Cosnervative

  44. Kaplan hits nail on head—" try to be all things to all people "
    The only folks who tend to be impressed by that tactic are those who have heard all the talk points before and they have already made up their mind how they will vote.

    Harper should lose this debate. The incumbent usually does. The " good timing " of that AG leak yesterday would tend to put him on the defensive.
    But I think he will do well. He appears quite relaxed the past few days and if he can carry that look and maybe a little humour ( is that even allowed in a debate ? ) he will surprise.

  45. spellcheck: Conservative, not Cosnervative

    • fidex. I mean fixed.

      • I quite liked cosnervative myself.

        • I remember voting cosnervative back in tickety-two

          • I almost voted cosnervative once…but then the beer ran out.

  46. Of course there's a time limit. Election day is May 2. :)

    However, I think PW's point should be taken seriously. Have the Harper Conservatives ever sustained majority-like numbers for this amount of time, going back to even before the campaign started? If weeks of trumped-up controversies can't change that dynamic, nor two national debates, just what will? In fact, if nothing changes, doubts about Harper might completely fade, and his support might reach unexpected highs, just as Rob Ford's did on election night in Toronto a few months ago.

  47. fidex. I mean fixed.

  48. Doesn't every politician dream of Gordon Wilson in BC in 1991, actually landing the knockout blow, singlehandedly restoring the Liberals? ANd don't they all try and imitate it?

  49. Doesn't every politician dream of Gordon Wilson in BC in 1991, actually landing the knockout blow, singlehandedly restoring the Liberals? ANd don't they all try and imitate it?

    • I think you are right – and it almost always looks utterly ridiculous when they try it. Very few politicians have the combination of wit/self-control/self-awareness/charisma/verbal coherence to land a KO. Stephen Harper doesn't have it but he's aware of it. Jack Layton doesn't have it but thinks he does. Michael Ignatieff definitely doesn't have it…not clear yet whether he knows it or not. We'll see.

  50. It will be a massive CYA effort: Wells will declare May the winner for sitting out, Coyne will declare Prince William the winner and want him to move here and be our next GG, Wherry will declare Layton the winner, and they will all say Duceppe stole the show and Iggy beat expectations. Harper is bound to make one or more gaffes in the one-on-ones because he gets flustered when challenged.

  51. Ignatieff is a former TV host, who has done lectures for the majority of his adult life. He will have no problems tonight.

  52. I fear you might be right. If Mr. Ignatieff doesn't show everything he's got tonight then I believe that left-leaning voters will gravitate back to the NDP or perhaps to the Greens as they won't belive the Liberals will stop Harper anyway.

    If it looks like the Liberals have a real chance coming out of this week's debates then support from the Dippers, Greens and even remaining PCs might start to gravitate in a final push to be rid of Harper.

    However, if coming out of the debates Harper is relatively unscathed only a revelation of some sort of complete corruption and other dirty dealings will stop him – he might even get his majority – although only a slight one I believe.

  53. Check out, if you can, footage from the 2004 campaign when Harper was reacting to the media when confronted by the CPC news release claiming that Martin supported child porn. There's a few seconds where Harper's anger flashes through – and it's not a pretty site. He sneered for a moment, and then sounded hectoring and righteous.

    No doubt, that's gotta be top of mind for he and his staff. We've all heard about the chair-kicking tirades. I don't expect to see Harper lose it, at least not during a debate. But man, if people could see him come unhinged, or about to, it'd be campaign changer.

  54. I know exactly what will happen tonight. A mentioned above, there will be no knockout blows, but Ignatieff will outperform expectation sufficiently to be crowned the winner by the punditocracy. Everybody will act surprised that a former tv host and professor managed to shine in front of the cameras. The real question is whether it will resonate with voters. Arguably Harper won the 2004 debates, and Joe Clark definitely won the 2000 debates. In neither case did it pay off.

    This could be a "game-changer" if Ignatieff is able to convince people:
    A. the election is about ethics and accountability (is Ignatieff's issue salient enough?)
    B. there is some non-zero probability that Harper is a crook (does Ignatieff win on his issue?)
    C. Michael Ignatieff is a plausible Prime Minister (if we throw the bums out, can we trust Ignatieff to not screw up the country?)

    I'd say A is very tough, B is moderately difficult, and C should be a breeze.

  55. Settling for Tom Clancy?

  56. Well, it didn't help him, so as a tactic….

  57. I think Ignatieff should look to the first U.S. presidential debate of 2004 in which John Kerry looked presidential opposite a hesitant and aloof George W. Bush. In other words, Iggy needs to look prime ministerial without being arrogant or aggressive. If he does that, then I think he will have done the best he could. Even so, larger factors always decide elections, and I doubt anything Iggy does will have him winning, or seriously eroding Tory support. If he can keep Harper to a minority then, again, he will have done the best he could, imo.

  58. Of the two Ignatieff is the one who has appeared more relaxed so far. He has the lower expectations. Although that may not be the case in the debate. He needs a good one. A bad one shouldn't be fatal for Harper, but it may well be for Ignatieff.

  59. "You guys want to leak who the winner is?"

    Are you saying the fix is in? :)

    Maybe i should tune into NL tv and get the result a half hour before you guys? I never could get the hang of this time difference stuff.

  60. Nah…Lecarre.

  61. she also mentioned he cheated. The great pity is she didn't out him live on air – unless she was lying. I know which way i'd lean on that.

  62. Keeping Harper to a minority is likely Ignatieff's ceiling, short of SH turning himself into a parody of his attack ads.

    Good thing for MI though there aren't any swift boaters up here.

  63. Keeping Harper to a minority is likely Ignatieff's ceiling, short of SH turning himself into a parody of his attack ads.

    Good thing for MI though there aren't any swift boaters up here.

      • Nicholls fired two weeks after criticizing Harper's budget…why am i not surprised!

  64. So, in a question where they're asked to say something nice about another leader, you think it's perfectly alright to call them an autocrat, cheater, and liar. This is the kind of hatred Harper and conservatives have to face, is it?

  65. I quite liked cosnervative myself.

  66. But if Harper is attacked even mocked personally, and hard, perhaps by Layton not Ignatieff, he could react with the anger and mean spiritedness that makes up his character. Somebody has to push him on ethics and character to the point that the person who approves those attack ads comes right out.
    So have the handlers imposed enough discipline and self control on him that the famous temper will be kept in check? Chances are yes, but he may face pressure unlike what he saw in the last debate or QP where he just sloughs off the attacks with his sheep bleating in the background.

  67. Well it worked for Dr. Maturin didn't it? Though boarding a French man of war is far more stressful than Parliament.

  68. I think he has a real job at the magazine. We've got Wherry. And I'm OK with that!

  69. I might have agreed on A until yesterday. B also became less difficult and i'not so confident on C but i'm glad you are.

  70. I might have agreed on A until yesterday. B also became less difficult and i'not so confident on C but i'm glad you are.

  71. I remember voting cosnervative back in tickety-two

  72. Just read "the fairy tale", lol!! Does this mean ABC fever is still running on the Rock??

    “We have come,” said the lead dragon, a large blue monstrosity with scaly skin, “to ask you for your carrots and turnips. For we really love carrots and turnips. And if you give them to us, in exchange we will give you…diamonds!”

  73. your analysis seems sound to me

  74. your analysis seems sound to me

  75. I almost voted cosnervative once…but then the beer ran out.

  76. If the other 3 mock and attack Harper personally, then they will pay a price—that will be their problem–not Harper`s.
    Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada. Canadians will not take kindly to that type of behavior from anyone—debate or not.

  77. Man, I don't know what's up with me, but I'm agreeing with all my usual snark-exchangers. I agree with Dennis that while debates can be game changers, I'm not sure they do anything more than confirm the leanings and suspicions voters already have. The only game changer I can recall is the Mulroney-Turner debate, and that was really only remarkable insofar as it introduced a calm, intelligent and feisty Mulroney to an audience that hadn't really seen him in action before. I think Canadians were fatigued with the Liberals by the time Turner took over, and were casting about for a place to park their vote. That Mulroney was the remarkable debater and campaigner he was in 1984 only solidified that turnabout, I think.

  78. I would really like to see harper try to pull a whopper, the moderator actually shuts him down, and he goes ballistic.

  79. I think you are right – and it almost always looks utterly ridiculous when they try it. Very few politicians have the combination of wit/self-control/self-awareness/charisma/verbal coherence to land a KO. Stephen Harper doesn't have it but he's aware of it. Jack Layton doesn't have it but thinks he does. Michael Ignatieff definitely doesn't have it…not clear yet whether he knows it or not. We'll see.

  80. You missed the point. If he stays Prime Ministerial you're right. I'm saying if Harper gets off the leash and shows his "other side" that's trouble. He's never been really been pushed hard in any recent debate.

  81. Agreed, he's good on tv and comfortable on camera. The big question is whether he's going to stand out, or just look like another person on stage crapping all over Harper. THAT's the big variable here — what the opposition attack is going to be like, will it be some ugly, shouting, histrionic tower of babel (which might make Harper look like the reasonable guy by default if he's restrained by comparison); or will the opposition leaders go at Harper in a way that's more measured and effective?

  82. I agree that 1984 is about the only leaders' debate in which I remember a specific moment and specific words, and I'm a pol junkie. I remember that one with May et al. on the stage essentially swarming Harper, and like a lot of people I found the format and behaviour to be inane and off-putting.

  83. He can take it — he's shown he can take it.

    He's been prime minister for five years.

  84. The other big variable is Layton. So far, my impression has been that the NDP is struggling, because Ignatieff has one thing going for him that Layton does not — novelty. This campaign has gone very well for the Liberals so far in the sense that Iggy has generally gotten good reviews, and their poll numbers have not been scraping the bottom end like they were a while ago.

    The NDP, in contrast, has had a big problem getting attention from the MSM, they are clearly struggling with how to respond to Iggy's obvious lurch to the left in terms of policy, and their poll numbers are generally not good. If Jack doesn't make a good, distinct impression tonight, the NDP campaign is probably not going anywhere good, and the Liberals will have achieved a big part of their campaign objective — making themselves the main anti-Harper alternative.

  85. The other big variable is Layton. So far, my impression has been that the NDP is struggling, because Ignatieff has one thing going for him that Layton does not — novelty. This campaign has gone very well for the Liberals so far in the sense that Iggy has generally gotten good reviews, and their poll numbers have not been scraping the bottom end like they were a while ago.

    The NDP, in contrast, has had a big problem getting attention from the MSM, they are clearly struggling with how to respond to Iggy's obvious lurch to the left in terms of policy, and their poll numbers are generally not good. If Jack doesn't make a good, distinct impression tonight, the NDP campaign is probably not going anywhere good, and the Liberals will have achieved a big part of their campaign objective — making themselves the main anti-Harper alternative.

    • That's a very good point. The other thing to consider is that Jack really is only looking to steal Iggy's voters, not Harper's. So he might very well go at Iggy harder than Harper. If that were to happen, it's possible Iggy beats Harper, but comes out looking the worse for wear over all. Iggy's got it the toughest because he's got to defend both flanks, left and right. His two main opponents only have to appeal to the centrist/undecided voters. I think Iggy could have a tough time tonight.

      • If Jack shows up. So far he hasn't, really. I think part of Jack's problem is that congenitally he doesn't have it in his belly to go after Iggy; he's way more comfortable going after Harper (as is Jack's base).

  86. Maybe he'll propose new powers for the PM re prorogue, limited sitting hours and powers for parliament, abolish independent Officers of Parl etc.

  87. That's a very good point. The other thing to consider is that Jack really is only looking to steal Iggy's voters, not Harper's. So he might very well go at Iggy harder than Harper. If that were to happen, it's possible Iggy beats Harper, but comes out looking the worse for wear over all. Iggy's got it the toughest because he's got to defend both flanks, left and right. His two main opponents only have to appeal to the centrist/undecided voters. I think Iggy could have a tough time tonight.

  88. Nicholls fired two weeks after criticizing Harper's budget…why am i not surprised!

  89. And I think you may have missed my point when I disagreed with your point that personal attacks would be an effective attempt to bait Harper into a mistake.
    For example, many people never took Layton seriously after the 2006 ( or 2004 ? ) debate when he was like a little yapping dog interrupting throughout the evening.
    When your opponent misbehaves, just get out of his way.

  90. How do you pull a whopper ?

  91. "So, in a question where they're asked to say something nice about another leader, you think it's perfectly alright to call them an autocrat, cheater, and liar. This is the kind of hatred Harper and conservatives have to face, is it? "

    Why is it you are never able to follow anyones pov but your own? I never addressed the question of whether May was wrong to depart from the nice question format….it why i began with the words…she also.

  92. If Jack shows up. So far he hasn't, really. I think part of Jack's problem is that congenitally he doesn't have it in his belly to go after Iggy; he's way more comfortable going after Harper (as is Jack's base).

  93. This is what you wrote:

    "she also mentioned he cheated. The great pity is she didn't out him live on air – unless she was lying. I know which way i'd lean on that."

    You were disappointed that she didn't say even more. Isn't that what you just wrote?

  94. "Harper's default reaction to a challenge is to snarl and bite."

    I thought this was bs before the debate. As everyone who watched the debate knows, it is in fact bs.

    How is it possible that a full time observer of national politics gets this basic fact about Stephen Harper wrong? Dude is cool as a cucumber and has been since nineteen freaking ninety three when he first arrived on the scene.

    Even Liberal humourist Rick Mercer conceded that Harper was cool as a cucumber in the debate, which is hardly surprising to anyone with a passing interest in Canadian politics.

    Yknow, its no wonder millions of canadians are wrongly brainwashed to believe Harper is a rabid nasty vicious so-and-so – you've been weaving that narrative for years! With zero factual basis!

    You suck, man.

  95. "Harper%E2%80%99s default reaction to a challenge is to snarl and bite."

    I thought this was bs before the debate. As everyone who watched the debate knows, it is in fact bs.

    How is it possible that a full time observer of national politics gets this basic fact about Stephen Harper wrong? Dude is cool as a cucumber and has been since nineteen freaking ninety three when he first arrived on the scene.

    Even Liberal humourist Rick Mercer conceded that Harper was cool as a cucumber in the debate, which is hardly surprising to anyone with a passing interest in Canadian politics.

    Yknow, its no wonder millions of canadians are wrongly brainwashed to believe Harper is a rabid nasty vicious so-and-so – you've been weaving that narrative for years! With zero factual basis!

    You suck, man.

  96. "Harper's default reaction to a challenge is to snarl and bite."

    I thought this was bs before the debate. As everyone who watched the debate knows, it is in fact bs.

    How is it possible that a full time observer of national politics gets this basic fact about Stephen Harper wrong? Dude is cool as a cucumber and has been since nineteen freaking ninety three when he first arrived on the scene.

    Even Liberal humourist Rick Mercer conceded that Harper was cool as a cucumber in the debate, which is hardly surprising to anyone with a passing interest in Canadian politics.

    Yknow, its no wonder millions of canadians are wrongly brainwashed to believe Harper is a rabid nasty vicious so-and-so – you've been weaving that narrative for years! With zero factual basis!

    You suck, man.

    • I agree that this is something that is a problem for those who loathe Harper. Most of the time when Harper's speaking publicly, he comes across as calm and unflappable. It makes his opponents, who insist Harper is a scary monster, look a bit silly in that respect.

      • He's sure come a million miles in that regard. I remember him noticabely bristling when reporters asked him questions in 2004. Or when John McCallum ambushed his campaign, he snatched the letter out of McCallum's hand and snarled some repsonse about "giving it to my staff". The 2011 version of Harper would never do that.

  97. I agree that this is something that is a problem for those who loathe Harper. Most of the time when Harper's speaking publicly, he comes across as calm and unflappable. It makes his opponents, who insist Harper is a scary monster, look a bit silly in that respect.

  98. One thing that struck me was during the post-election media scrums Mr Harper would repeat his answer in the other official language. He was the only leader to do that. He is definitely a pro.

    (Also at the scrums most of the questions after the English debate were in French. What's wrong with the anglo media these days?)

    Speaking of language, one curious moment I thought occurred during the immigration and multiculturalism debate.Mr Ignatieff was speaking about the importance of language for integration of new immigrants and said that new immigrants need to learn French if they settle in Quebec and "the other official language" if they settle elsewhere.

    What's wrong with saying the word "English" in the English debate?

  99. One thing that struck me was during the post-election media scrums Mr Harper would repeat his answer in the other official language. He was the only leader to do that. He is definitely a pro.

    (Also at the scrums most of the questions after the English debate were in French. What's wrong with the anglo media these days?)

    Speaking of language, one curious moment I thought occurred during the immigration and multiculturalism debate.Mr Ignatieff was speaking about the importance of language for integration of new immigrants and said that new immigrants need to learn French if they settle in Quebec and "the other official language" if they settle elsewhere.

    What's wrong with saying the word "English" in the English debate?

  100. He's sure come a million miles in that regard. I remember him noticabely bristling when reporters asked him questions in 2004. Or when John McCallum ambushed his campaign, he snatched the letter out of McCallum's hand and snarled some repsonse about "giving it to my staff". The 2011 version of Harper would never do that.

  101. I take back all the accusations of you being shamelessly partisan Wherry. At least you concede the obvious: Iggy didn't do very well in this debate. He didn't flop, he was just…flat.

    Sadly, many media outlets are reporting that he won the debate, or rather, more sneakily, are running articles along the lines of "group of 18 year olds watching debate declare Ignatieff winner". Ignatieff's "Riot Grrrrrl" gang of groupies over at the CBC – Kady, Barton, and the rest – are making excuses left and right for his performance, as one might expect.

    So kudos, brother, at least this one time you reported what happened.

  102. I take back all the accusations of you being shamelessly partisan Wherry. At least you concede the obvious: Iggy didn't do very well in this debate. He didn't flop, he was just…flat.

    Sadly, many media outlets are reporting that he won the debate, or rather, more sneakily, are running articles along the lines of "group of 18 year olds watching debate declare Ignatieff winner". Ignatieff's "Riot Grrrrrl" gang of groupies over at the CBC – Kady, Barton, and the rest – are making excuses left and right for his performance, as one might expect.

    So kudos, brother, at least this one time you reported what happened.