Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Campaign 2005: The Beginning of the Beginning

Last night I was at Keith Fountain's constituency party at the National Press Club, watching the final hours of the Martin government. Pretty good-sized crowd; I also got to meet Brent Colbert and a few other people to talk blogs with. (One note: under no circumstances suggest to a Carleton University PCer that Keith should wear Ottawa Senators gear.)

While the votes were cast, it was interesting to see how people around me reacted to the individual MPs voting. While the biggest catcalls were for Martin (hey, he's the PM, he's entitled), the second biggest were for Belinda Stronach. (In the Card Deck of Librano Jokers, think of her as the Queen of Spades.) Ed Broadbent, of course, got a cheer; so did Jack Layton; and so did Pat O'Brien and David Kilgour (independents who voted against the government). A few of the Liberal backbenchers were a little slow off the mark standing up to vote, compared to the Opposition; this was tsked upon a bit. All in all, a pretty fun gathering.

I call this post "the beginning of the beginning" because it's exactly that. I remind my fellow Tories that for Paul Martin and the Libranos, this is not an end, but a mere setback; the end of the beginning will come on Election Night, whenever that may be.

The odds are that either Paul Martin gets a reduced minority or Stephen Harper gets a chance to be PM. Naturally I'm hoping for the latter, but I'm placing no bets. In either case, though, I don't expect Paul Martin to stay as leader of the Libranos for very long; he knows his performance as Prime Minister has been underwhelming, and his prospects as an Opposition leader don't hold that much promise either. If Paul Martin doesn't improve his party's standing, he'll be gone by the end of 2006.

Already Stephen Harper is getting armchair advice on how to win this one. I like to give armchair advice as much as the next blogger, but in my case I'm directing it towards the individual Tory candidates:

1. Don't rely on coat-tails. None of the party leaders are naturally charismatic enough to sway a populace. For this campaign, you're going to have to put in work in at the grass-roots level, and you're going to have to put in a lot.

2. Focus on energizing your base. This is a winter campaign, which means once you know where the polling stations are, you want to get voters through the snow and slush, and do it safely. Remember the Karl Rove strategy: don't spend too much time trying to persuade the other camp, but focus on getting out the people who'd vote for you anyway. (Hey, it worked in 2004, didn't it?)

3. Put your own stamp on the issues. This is not a campaign that requires "playing it safe" -- either with the party brass or the electorate. People need to be convinced that, when you address them, it's with your own words -- not merely re-stating the party talking points.

4. Use the Net, and use it well. The Blogging Tories are not a novelty thing; they're not going away anytime soon. The blogs can be used to publicize events and get-togethers; to help raise funds; and most of all to highlight parts of the political agenda that aren't done in mainstream media. That's all to your advantage.

With this campaign, the Libranos' biggest ally is not so much apathy, as complacency. If the Tories can counter both, they can take this election. It's time to begin.