On the appeal of Harper: Bland and smooth- but not too smooth
Harper has done a bang-up job of appearing oh so reasonable throughout the campaign. He's managed to pull this off by cautiously presenting a moderate face, while at the same time speaking honestly about various issues in an ultra-calm and reasonable manner. Recently he's got a lot of flack about his comments concerning the Liberal bias of the senate and the courts checking his powers if he wins a majority. Various media pundits have shaken their heads at the apparent 'gaffe', while the Libs and NDP have pounced on this as evidence that Harper himself admits his agenda needs to reigned in. But what the pundits seem to fail to recognize (probably since they spend most of the time chattering with each other rather than the plebs), is that these unvarnished moments have helped to build an impression of honesty in eyes of the public.
Most of his 'raw' and possibly 'controversial' comments have actually come across as quite mild. For example, on his CBC appearance last night he made some comment about not understanding why all the government money going to Native affairs seems to have little impact on their impoverished standard of living. The direct implication is that the welfare approach to these problems doesn't work, but the clear indirect implication is that the Native leaders themselves have mismanaged the funds. Now that comment wasn't necessary. If he was being truly slick he would have just talked about how his government will continue to fund native programs and made some vague promise to tackle Native problems. But he didn't, he gave an honest assessment but in the most thoughtful and mildest of terms. He's done this many other times throughout the campaign, and it's definitely helped to give him the image of being really quite reasonable and therefore palatable to the 'average' Canuck.
Compare this to the endless stream of slogans out the mouths of the Liberals (and the NDP for that matter- Layton always sounds too much like an infomercial to me). Being 'on message' all of the time doesn't really work, the voters want to see any prospective candidate in the raw- at least some of the time. In the end, it's the Libs have consistently come across as slick, but also shrill and disingenous. And now, by pulling out the big anti-Con guns they've boxed themselves into a corner. They're not going to compete with Harper's uber-reasonable blandness, but are rather trying to tear down this image. I think this is a HUGE mistake. Rather they should have created a forum for Martin to make an 'intimate' appeal to the public and share his 'honest' thoughts. After all Martin isn't exactly the mad-hatter or some raving left-winger, he could have gained much support by just presenting his innermost thoughts on occassion. Instead they've continued on with their slick slogans and typical electioneering hyperbole (e.g. 'this is most socially conservative party in Canadian history'!!! Whatever. Just about everyone was probably more socially conservative then current batch of Con candidates a generation or two ago). The goofs that are calling the shots in the Martin campaign are going to make the entire party pay for this on the 23rd.