Personal attacks on others will be Harper’s “Legacy”

Ignatieff interview with the CBC, wherein he states that when history looks back on the Harper years, attack ads, the politics of fear and intimidation will be his legacy. One thing for a party leader to take that view, but there is ample evidence that Ignatieff is mirroring developing opinion, the latest ads drifting toward "more about the messenger" rather than injuring the target.

We have to wait to see how these ads resonate with actual people, but to date, it’s fair to say the attack ad "reception" hasn’t be charitable. In fact, these ads have brought more connecting of the dots, more reinforcement of Harper’s negative characteristics, traits that have handicapped his ability to truly connect with Canadians. 

This latest round has one "positive" ad you could say, but even that is lost in the sheer volume of the attack ads, not issue based like the Liberals, but personal and nasty, something no one seems to deny. Have these Conservatives ever had a solely positive ad campaign? Go back to all the outside of writ campaigns, every single one is personal in nature, like a one note bully that doesn’t know it any other way. The question then becomes, at what point does the kneejerk "attack ads work" perspective become complicated by WHO is delivering the message? Do voters get to a point where they see more to dislike about Harper than they do what they say about Ignatieff? I believe we are at this tipping point right now, and I would suggest the reaction to date supports this emerging recalibration.

There was a story a few weeks ago by Linda Diebel, that canvassed a wide range of Ottawa opinion to get a read on the Harper government. Again, with this subset, the now common negative themes emerged, that of the "super-partisan", preoccupied with besting his opponents, strategy over substance, basically a political animal with little in the way of redeeming qualities. Canadians have this sense as well, although it far less pronounced or truly understand. That said, the achilles heel is available and these ads only serve to lend weight to detractors.

I might be wrong, maybe my own bias as a Liberal fails to understand the effectiveness of the latest batch of ads, but there is a credible logic developing that suggests Harper on the attack, in this way, is actually a net negative from the Conservative perspective. Time will tell….

Click HERE to read more from Steve Val.

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