I for one think Harper should stay the course. Laying out a policy platform may not be pretty but it needs to be done. When the Tories go negative after Christmas, they'll need to have already established themselves as a viable alternative to the Liberals. When the Liberals go negative after Christmas, the Conservatives will need to have a platform for all to see, in order minimize the "hidden agenda" damage. I also think that associating Harper with policy is a good idea since it can only soften him up. Let the TV ads and Jason Kenneys of the world smear the Liberals - they need to portray Harper as a policy focused intellectual...who cut kids like to hug.
I can also think of at least seven reasons not to put too much stock in the early polling numbers:
1. Income trusts - this could give the Tories a win by itself.
2. It's a long campaign - A lot is going to happen between now and voting day.
3. Soft support - 4-5% of the Liberal support comes from the soft NDP voters who will vote Liberal to stop the Tories. If it doesn't look like the Tories will win, they'll vote NDP.
4. Debates - There are still four debates. Martin, uhh, isn't a very good debator.
5. Negative ad blitz - People may be focused on policy, instead of sponsorship, now. But when Layton and Harper both go after the Liberals on Adscam in January, it will become an issue yet again.
6. Voter turn-out - It's going to be a cold winter. Conservative voters are more likely to vote than Liberal voters, so a January 23rd snowstorm could make a huge difference.
7. Volatility and undecideds - There are still a lot of undecided voters out there. Things could very easily swing back Harper's way.
So while the recent poll numbers are a little baffling, it's far too early to call this campaign.