Wafting gently downward - Macleans.ca

Wafting gently downward

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Statistically, when you add the numbers from a bunch of different polls with different methodologies and questions together, you get porridge. But since I’ve linked to Calgary Grit’s monthly polling roundup in the past to show that nothing much was changing in voter support, here I am today linking to it to show the opposite. The polls have been an accumulation of discouraging news for the Conservatives.

Three quick thoughts. First, before anyone gets too excited about how far Harper has fallen from his election-day high, they should remember that election day marked a high for him. I’m told the results on election day often have some sort of political significance. And three elections running, the Harper Conservatives ended with a higher share of popular vote (or their opponents with a lower share) than a poll a week before the writ drop would have suggested. He campaigns well.

Second, these results come before the inevitable summer-long multimedia carpet-bombing of Michael Ignatieff. My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the theme will be “Hey, look: Weirdo.” Today we’re at the point in the narrative where Liberal supporters hotly declare, “Well, none of that negative stuff is gonna work against our guy, because Canadians see right through it.” Let me ruin your sugar high by cutting right to the next phase, which is dismay and alarm. Negative ads work. That’s why people buy them. (And before Conservative supporters get all weepy because I used the term “negative ads,” let me hurry to add that they’re also perfectly legitimate. They have an effect on voters’ perception of the target and of the group that’s buying the ads, and if you can handle that then go right ahead.)

Finally, a thought that’s not really poll-related. Last week Stephen Harper went into the Conservative caucus meeting and said something clever to take some of the energy out of the little fight he and his staff had decided, a couple of weeks earlier, to pick with Brian Mulroney. I don’t know what he said, I just know it was clever. I also know that while his MPs were looking at him, they were thinking that nothing he said could change the simple fact that this was yet another exercise in putting toothpaste back in the tube, and that Harper sure has been doing a lot of that lately. Damage control may be necessary but it is never great for morale. Especially not when the damage was self-inflicted. And especially not when self-inflicted damage is starting to become routine.