Post-debate polls show the Liberals holding onto second place by as little as two percentage points over the NDP, but there's something in the Liberals' tactics that shows that they've all but given up on defeating the Conservatives. Instead, they're increasingly aiming their fire at Jack Layton in an attempt to stave off an embarrassing third or fourth place finish for Canada's Natural Grovelling Party.
Stephane Dion is cautioning voters against what he dubs the NDP's "old socialist approach," which includes radical notions such as freezing corporate tax rates at the level set by Paul Martin (and, notably, does not include any $700 bailouts for bankers).
As noted in a previous post, he's also still trying to blame the NDP for the fact that his party couldn't win an election on its own merits in 2006 (how dare the NDP... exist!).
The saddest aspect of the Liberals' attacks on the NDP has to be their repeated use of disgraced former NDPer Bob Rae to lead the charge. While Rae has lots of experience convincing people not to vote NDP, he's presumably never done it intentionally until now.
Moreover, Rae is making his case in places like Saskatoon and Vancouver, where the NDP is poised to gain seats from the Conservatives. To the Liberals, who are determined to "save the furniture" this sounds like bad news instead of the good news that it is -- so they are determined to thwart the NDP momentum.
Fortunately, the same old Liberal pleas don't seem to be working this time, at least not yet. That's partially because the NDP campaign is playing it smarter. As NDP Campaign Manager Brian Topp told The Globe and Mail today:
What we would like to do as much as possible is keep our focus on Mr. Harper... right through to e-day. In these times, he looks after them. We look after you. you can see this in the rally imagery we launched today.
With regard to Mr. Dion, we're following the principle "never get in the way of an opponent who is destroying himself."
‘Cept: we can't ignore the fact that the folks over in the red crew seem to be worried about us, and are sending an increasing level of flak our way. A shot unchallenged is a shot conceded.
So we are sending an equivalent amount of flak back their way - hopefully, to wash their evil-doings out -- and, hopefully, still permitting our main message to come through.
This week, for example, we tweaked one of the new ads we're starting up Monday to try to offset Mr. Dion's messaging about us, while still looking to make our main point. When you see it you'll know what I mean.
I think Mr. Dion is making a misjudgement in telling his party's voters that in his view this election is about stopping Jack Layton. Mr. Harper worries them more.
Mr Dion is therefore building the case that he might not be up to the main job at hand -- a point our leader made to him in the debates.
I'm quite often critical of my own party's election strategies, but this is really quite smart. Let the Liberals continue to thrash about while the NDP proves itself to be what more and more voters see it as being: the only real alternative to Harper.
Frankly, this isn't just about what's good for the NDP; its about what's good for Canada. If the Jack Layton doesn't beat Harper to become our next Prime Minister, at least our next Prime Minister will be facing a strong, principled and united party across the floor of the House of Commons.
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