The last time the Conservatives launched attack ads...

Besides the ads' targets, has anything changed?

These days I am occupationally obsessed with seeking the history in current events. So it took me only a couple of days to recall this story from May of 2009, two weeks after the Conservatives launched their “Just Visiting” ads against Michael Ignatieff. The story is now almost exactly four years old, and I am curious to see whether anything has changed except the identity of the ads’ target.

The story marks precisely the last time I ever accorded any credulity to the claims of then-Liberal president Alf Apps, who was quite sure the avalanche of advertising against Michael Ignatieff would have precisely one effect: to inflate Liberal coffers as indignant citizens donated to the unjustly slandered Liberal Party. In the breathless prose I affected when I wrote that blog post:

On May 18, five days after the Conservative ads started running, Apps held a special meeting of the Liberals’ National Management Committee….[F]undraising changes will allow “a constructive, comprehensive and focused response to the personal attacks on [the party’s] Leader by instead addressing the Harper Conservatives’ failed approach to the economic crisis and refusal to adopt the Liberal EI plan.”

“I believe the advertising campaign undertaken by our opponents last week has created the opportunity to galvanize the entire Party around a reinvigorated fundraising effort now, even before the summer commences,” Apps writes.

In fact, what happened was that the Liberals’ fundraising did not improve markedly; their chief fundraiser decamped to run for the Toronto mayoralty and then for a provincial seat as a Conservative; and Michael Ignatieff led the Liberals to their lowest vote score since Confederation. This is not exactly what many of our comment-board regulars predicted. “I might actually be fed up enough with Harper to start donating. This ad campaign makes the need clearer,” one wrote. There was a general sense that, with their clumsy and amateurish “Just Visiting” ads, the Conservatives had finally lost their touch.

But of course, this time it’s Justin, so this time it’ll be completely different.