The Conservative framing of Stephen Harper - Macleans.ca

The Conservative framing of Stephen Harper

Aaron Wherry on a sunny new ad about the Prime Minister

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The Conservative party has a sunny new ad about the Prime Minister.

Unlike the last round of Conservative attack ads, which were quietly televised without an online presence or advance warning, this new advert was promoted to the party mailing list last night—”We’re going to be launching a new, positive ad featuring our Prime Minister in his own words”—and posted to the party website. Though if you want to see the video, you have to supply the party with a name, email address and postal code: the video is hosted on YouTube, but, at least as of now, it is unlisted so it can’t be found unless you have the URL.

“Better off with Harper” is the line. It isn’t a wholly original line—there seem to be precedents for the “better off” construct—but it’s probably interesting nonetheless. First, it suggest to me the Conservatives still see value in the Prime Minister’s individual appeal. Second, “better off” seems to do the trick of looking both backward and forward. On that count it recalls, at least for me, Ronald Reagan’s famous test for incumbents.

So “Better off with Harper” is the preferred framing for the Conservatives.

In this case, the Conservatives buttress that idea with the fact that 1.1 million jobs have been created since the low point of the recession. That number is more impressive-sounding if you don’t know that 14 months ago the Prime Minister was boasting of one million new jobs. Our Jason Kirby looked at the last year of job growth in July and Mike Moffatt has since looked at employment here and here.

Unlike the quietly televised Trudeau ads, this ad is being written about. We’ll now see what sort of television run it gets—if you use the hashtag #SawAnAd to tweet any sightings we can all follow whatever rollout it receives.

Update. As noted here and here, the “better off with Harper” line isn’t new—the Conservatives used it in 2008 as well (though in that case they included his first name).

And if you like numbers, our Stephen Gordon has compiled a handy chart for comparing the pre-Harper economy with our current situation (with the necessary caveats).

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