Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fall Back Position

Last night at the Conservative Party Convention (#CPC13), the Prime Minister delivered his much anticipated speech to the party faithful. After all of the distraction, challenges and criticisms Mr. Harper has endured owing to the Senate scandal, this speech was his opportunity to get back on track.

So, how did he do?

The answer to that question depends very much on whether you are a Conservative partisan or, basically, anyone else.

What the faithful saw...

For those Conservatives attending or following from afar, the speech was important in two ways. The first, and perhaps most significant, was the energy the Prime Minister displayed.

I joked last night on Twitter that the staffer who suggested he have a Red Bull before going to the podium was due a raise or a Senate appointment. The point is that Mr. Harper was clearly energized and demonstrated an enthusiasm that has rarely been present during this crisis.

Energy matters, particularly when you are dealing with your base. The base is the group on whose energy you depend for donations and organization. They needed to see this side of Mr. Harper.

The second key element of the speech was its recitation of the government's accomplishments. Or more specifically accomplishments as defined by the base.

- Death of the wheat board and gun registry...check!
- CETA...check!
- Victims rights and a tough on crime agenda...check!
- Support for the troops...check!
- Not letting environmental policy impede energy policy...check!

With each reference the base was reminded both what this government has done, and what was at risk should anyone else assume the reigns of power.

What others saw...

Of course those of us who are not Conservatives saw the same things. Mr. Harper was fired up and the list of accomplishments was proudly proclaimed. Beyond that, my takeaways were the following:

- Thomas Mulcair probably has to wonder what an Opposition leader needs to do to get a mention. The man has been hammering Mr. Harper in QP with greater effect than anyone since 2006 and he gets nothing by way of a mention. All the focus was on Justin Trudeau.

- The Senate narrative is set and in it Mr. Harper is the solution, not the problem. Standing in his way are Liberal Senators and the Courts (if you could name two opponents more distasteful to the base, let me know).

But the main takeaway for me was the re-set that was attempted last night.

It is somewhat fitting that this weekend we will adjust our clocks and "fall back." More than anything, last night was an attempt to fall back and do what the Speech from the Throne (#SFT13) was supposed to do.

As I wrote here, #SFT13 was about red meat for a blue base. Unfortunately, subsequent events scuppered any chance of that speech accomplishing its objectives.

Cue last night at #CPC13. This was #SFT13 on Red Bull, delivered to the party faithful. There was nothing of substance or measure; rather it was highly targeted at those people on whom the party needs to keep in the fold, energized and donating.


Whether the government can successfully fall back is another matter, of course. Time is on their side in terms of an election, but it is clear that their brand has suffered across the country.

Job #1 right now is to shore up the base, and in that regard I think they can call #CPC13 a reasonable success. Job #2 is to convince enough of the rest of the country. Time will tell if they can spring forward.

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