Straight Eye for the Straight Guy
But the problem with Harper, as Mike Brock points out, is that he simply has too much baggage. People associate him with the Alliance and his seat is in Calgary. That's why the Ralph Klein health care comments and the victory tour down central Alberta were a lethal combination in the dying days of the 2004 election, probably more so than anything Randy White may have said. If Harper had wanted to, he could have resigned this summer and been praised for all he's accomplished. After all, he united the right and has been the opposition leader who oversaw a stunning collapse, first in Liberal support, then in Paul Martin's personal popularity. Yeah, most of those wounds were self-inflicted but Harper has accomplished a lot in the past two years. A graceful exit would have let Peter MacKay or Bernard Lord come in and pick up the pieces. I know it's a "what if" question political junkies love to debate, but you can put me in the camp that firmly believe either of those two would thrash Martin to pieces in the next election.
And heck, Harper is still a young guy. Maybe after a few 'non-scary' years as Industry Minister, Steve could run for and win his party?s leadership for the third time.
Instead, he's going to try for the political makeover. Don't get me wrong, showing off the "kinder, gentler, young, and athletic" Stephen Harper is likely a good thing to do. It's what he should have been doing the past two summers when he's gone to his Fortress of Solitude. It only makes sense when you're up against a Senior Citizen Prime Minister with little charisma.
But people aren't afraid of Harper's burger flipping abilities. The fact that he can catch a football or dance with a senior citizen won't get rid of the baggage he's accumulated. Stockwell Day tried these stunts when he first took over and it turned him into the biggest laughing stock of the past decade. Harper likely has enough substance to avoid that fate but I strongly doubt this makeover will have much of an impact on an electorate that has, fairly or unfairly, already made up their mind about him.