Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Post Debate

And now we spin.

I'm not going to call a winner on this one, because it's very difficult for someone who eats and breathes politics to predict how people tuning in for the first time will absorb what they saw. Often it comes down to body language, or one toss away comment on an issue we all assume is inconsequential but just happens to connect to the person watching.

I do think this debate was a lot more exciting for political junkies than for most voters - at one point there was a 10 minute stretch when the leaders argued over the 2004 coalition letter, proportional representation, and the mechanism by which the House of Commons gives confidence to the Prime Minister. I'd wager these issues aren't keeping many Canadians up at night. On this count, I think all four leaders got too caught up in Ottawa bubble squabbles and failed to connect with viewers as much as they could have.

So rather than score the debate, I'll present reasons why each of the leaders won and lost.

Why Stephen Harper won: Harper takes it on style and substance. He looked directly at the camera, making a connection with viewers. He kept his cool. He talked about the need for a stable government during the economic recovery.

Even though we all expected him to go on a coalition rampage, he stayed above the fray and stayed positive. After all, why attack your opponents when you can have your attack ads do it for you? At one point, he actually had the gall to tell the Just Visiting guy that "I don't think these personal attacks back and forth are very productive".

Beyond all that, Harper won by not losing. The opposition needed a "game changer", "a knock out blow", or another sports analogy (a "golden snitch"?) to throw him off his game. They didn't get that.

Why Stephen Harper lost: It's all very good to say Harper won by not losing, but any way you add up the points, Harper lost. He was on the defensive the entire night, and the issues discussed were not ones he wants this election to be about - contempt, G20 waste, corporate tax cuts, fighter jets. To use yet another analogy, you can't win when you're in your own zone the whole game.

Why Michael Ignatieff won: I suspect the pundits will not be as kind to Ignatieff as the public. After all, the pundits formed their expectations of Ignatieff around what they've seen from him on the campaign trail where he has, by all accounts, performed well. The public, however, have built their expectations on what they've seen in attack ads. Short of announcing the Liberal's National Puppy Genocide program (paid for by a new tax!), Ignatieff was going to look better than the Conservative caricature.

Ignatieff sounded forceful and confident in his attacks on Harper. He showed passion, pounding the podium when talking about Canadian troops. He highlighted Harper's democratic abuses, then drew out issues that differentiated him from the Prime Minister - corporate tax cuts, fighter jets and prisons on one side...and family friendly Liberal policies on the other.

Why Michael Ignatieff lost: Sure, he attacked. He looked like a great opposition leader. But he attacked hardest on Harper's contempt for Parliament, something few voters care a great deal about. And if they do, they assume the Liberals wouldn't be any different.

Moreover, he did nothing to present a clear Liberal alternative - there was no reason given to voters on why they should vote Liberal. Ignatieff did do a good job on the Learning Passport - he identified a need and explained the Liberal alternative. Twice. But there were only scant mentions of the other Family Pack items, and nothing to convince voters he had a plan and was ready to govern.

Why Jack Layton won: These debates aren't about what leaders say, they're about how they sound. And Layton, as usual, struck the right tone. He was, by far, the least scripted of the leaders. He sounded genuine. He cracked jokes and looked like he was having a good time. He talked to viewers like they were real people.

Most importantly, he talked about the issues that actual matter. He identified solutions and offered NDP policies that addressed them.

Why Layton lost: Layton started strong, but faded down the stretch. His "man you've changed" routine against Harper was tiresome, and he sounded like your grandpa trying to be cool when he talked about "bling" and "#hashtagfail". He did nothing to differentiate himself from Ignatieff this debate and was on the defensive during their one-on-one over Afghanistan.

Duceppe: It's impossible to spin a win or loss for Duceppe so I'll just give my synopsis. As usual, he had some good zingers. But much like 2008, he looked like someone who was angry with no real reason to be angry. In 2004 and 2006 when he had AdScam to fuel his indignation, but Duceppe didn't have an issue to punch on. Quite honestly, it would have been a better debate had he not been invited.



  • As someone who isn't voting for Layton, I just want to say, of course he faded in the last part of the debate. I can't even believe he was still standing in the last part of a 2 hour debate what 3 weeks after hip surgery, while fighting cancer.

    I almost think it's cruel and I don't even get why he's running. I sometimes wonder if the jokes weren't masking pain, like the heavy makeup is hiding his palour.

    Just a thought.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 AM  

  • Generally a good summary. I think Harper generally performed well. Nothing to really gain from those who aren't leaning Tory, but at least enough to help solidify support amongst those in the Tory camp. Ignatieff had a rough start, but he improved as the debates progressed and usually people tend to remember what is said near the end of the debates more than towards the beginning. Also when it comes to a winner, do you mean in absolutes or relative to expectations. In absolutes Harper definitely beat Ignatieff but in relative to expectations Ignatieff may have very well won due to the fact expectations for him were so low.

    By Blogger Miles Lunn, at 12:42 AM  

  • Sorry, calgarygrit, but Ipsos has released its poll in order to tell us what to think.


    Predebate/Postdebate % declaring winner

    Harper: 34/42%
    Layton: 13/25%
    Ignatieff: 23/23%
    Duceppe: 2/2%

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 12:58 AM  

  • Whether this debate can alter what's established, I doubt it; however, i don't think the last few days of terrible news for the CONs -- which attacked at their achilles of honesty and accountability -- is still just flowing through the polls. But what i found most deciding was in the punches missed -- if you're going to bring up international aid, kairos and Canada's commitment to Africa, why not hammer him with his original attempt at denying funding for birth control? Make him say those words...

    By Blogger rockfish, at 1:53 AM  

  • Miles: "Ignatieff had a rough start, but he improved as the debates progressed and usually people tend to remember what is said near the end of the debates more than towards the beginning."

    Assuming they didn't change the channel. As a CPC supporter, I'm happy with the overall debate but am not sure it really matters. As a recruiter, I'd be pi$$ed if I'd sold a client on Ignatieff. He didn't fail as badly (IMHO) as some CPC supporters would suggest. BUT. He needed to win.

    If I'd collected a fee for his hire, I'd be refunding it.

    That being said, this is Canada. Who knows how much this matters? Really.

    By Blogger Candace, at 2:26 AM  

  • Opposition didn't do enough. Layton attacks Iggy instead of harper. Iggy finally spoke with passion, but doesn't convince as PM. Too bad!

    As usual, harper was lying and flaking with gusto.

    Better ask the oppostion voters to vote strategically.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 3:08 AM  

  • I've been doing some hunting around for commentary since I got home (yeah, sorry, I have a life) and I have yet to find a Liberal source who claims that Iggy won, without reservation.

    I have a hard time believing that they've all finally come to see life through an untinted lens.

    Did Iggy really lose *that* badly last night that even his most loyal supporters can't find a way to spin him to a "win"? I have my own opinions on this, but I would have expected more positive spin from his own team.

    By Blogger Paul, at 3:49 AM  

  • Paul, yes,

    By Blogger lance, at 3:57 AM  

  • Candace,

    I found it unwatchable after an hour. I'd be surprised if a significant number of the undecided vote managed to stay focussed on this for two hours.

    Jack delivered a standing 8-count on the Count that underscored the CPC's "just visiting" theme. Jack will never take votes from the CPC, but he will most certainly recover the ones he lost to Iggy since the campaign started.

    By Blogger Patrick, at 6:59 AM  

  • I thought Jack was a liar saying Mr.Ig.was away 70 percent playing hookey...it was 50 and he was working on the road...I thought he was very arrogant...I was going to vote Ndp as where I live the Ndp have a good candidate...Not now I would not vote Layton..Mr.Ig.failed to strike a direct blow on the cheshire cat who thinks he is king...Gilles was super as usual.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:17 AM  

  • I watched the debate with the volume off and noticed a few interesting things.

    - Harper looked very calm, probably too calm.

    - Iggy had a feigned angry expression the whole debate and putting his hands on his hips several times made him look kind of feeble.

    - Layton looked confident and in control.

    - Duceppe had a death grip on the podium and looked very angry.

    By Anonymous Sam Gray, at 10:04 AM  

  • The Ipsos poll makes a certain amount of sense. If I had to call it, I'd say Layton was the best which kind of makes Harper the winner in the broader sense of the election.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:10 AM  

  • The Edmonton Journal has Ignatieff winning:


    By Blogger Holly Stick, at 11:30 AM  

  • I liked the format. MUCH better than last year's "vote for me because I hate Harper the best" format.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 11:32 AM  

  • I've only seen clips of the debate, but Ignatieff came across as a grouchy old man. The CBC panel of undecided voters chose Layton as the big winner.

    By Anonymous Nuna D. Above, at 11:57 AM  

  • Iggy lost because he quoted Chairman Mao to make his point about democracy. Ouch!

    "Let the flowers grow"

    Like as a history and politics professor from Harvard he doesn't know who coined that phrase.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 PM  

  • I walked away mid second question. Harper almost lost control during the first question but switched into his "father knows best" voice that sounded pretty patronizing. Couldn't take two hours of nattering at each other.

    Maybe MI was the winner after all given this was his first debate and the others have had a few under their belt. Harper should have done much better than winning because he didn't lose.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:51 PM  

  • Are the Tory-bots seriously pushing the "Mao" angle today?

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:10 PM  

  • RV - Agreed on the format. Losing May helped - losing Duceppe would be even better.

    The 1:1 followed by the free for all was a good set up.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:11 PM  

  • Where's Iggy's birth certificate? Until we see it, we won't be able to verify he wasn't born in Red-China under Mao.

    By Blogger Patrick, at 1:25 PM  

  • Calgary, I don't know what you mean by pushing anything. I'm not a Conservative operative. I'm a former Liberal Leadership delegate and campaign worker.

    Why does a Harvard History and Politics professor quote Mao to lecture Canadians on democracy?

    He knows who used that famous phrase. He has to. Yes Mao was fighting the imperialist Japanese and Chiang Kai Shek, not exactly democrats, but come on.

    Liberal spin is trying to portray Harper as Robert Mugabe, or well Chiang Kai Shek. The historical reference is old, but so is Ignattieff. He knows exactly what he was referencing.

    It had to have been deliberate and was completely inappropriate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:27 PM  

  • Another interesting thing about that stupid reference, maybe Canadian born Canadian don't get it, but Chinese Canadians sure as heck do.

    I live in a riding that is about 70% Chinese, first generation. The ridings around me are about 50% Chinese. I bet the Liberal's Chinese candidates in Vancouver were not amused by the reference in last night's debate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:53 PM  

  • Lovely thinking, CG.

    The right answer was Harper won, Iggy lost.

    The real interesting story, to my mind, is the Bloc Quebecois.

    Gilles Duceppe looked terrible and sounded pithy but pointless.

    He could be in real trouble tonight if the federalist three turn on him and make this an anti-Bloc night.

    Layton and Harper will go after Gilles.

    Iggy? He'll just say we have "so much to learn from Quebec" and then throw in a couple of french words in the middle of a sentence - like it were a mind message with a happy ending.

    By Anonymous chuckercanuck, at 4:03 PM  

  • Has Iggy abandoned Chinese Vancouver for the old Maoist, aka NDP vote, in Quebec? We'll see tonight if he uses the same reference.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:07 PM  

  • Why don't you ignorant Conservatives google the phrase "Let the flowers bloom" and see how many other people use it in many different contexts, such as here:






    On the other hand, what Mao actually said is translated as "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend."


    I am so sick of lying Conservatives!

    By Blogger Holly Stick, at 4:42 PM  

  • The Edmonton Journal has Ignatieff winning

    ...according to "three student debaters." Broad consensus, that. :)

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 5:31 PM  

  • The quality of after debate commentators was poor. Right after the debate I saw a student complaining that no one mentioned education, when Ignatieff definietly talked about it; and on a different show a small business guy said no one mentioned small businesses, when Layton talked about them quite a bit. I'm afraid the commentators were just not up to par: what were their coaches thinking?

    By Blogger Holly Stick, at 6:01 PM  

  • I am so sick of lying Conservatives!

    Everyone is. But the person to whom you were responding referred to themselves as a Liberal.

    Furthermore, he wasn't lying, Mao used that similar phrase often, and is well known for it.

    What Ignatieff's intentions were, or how it will be received by certain communities - that's spin, not lies.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 6:12 PM  

  • Iggy? He'll just say we have "so much to learn from Quebec" and then throw in a couple of french words in the middle of a sentence

    Ah Chucker, you remind me why I miss your blog so much and so often. You have a way with words and a laser sight.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 7:27 PM  

  • It's been fun watching the Liberals "correct" the NDP - that Ignatieff only missed about 50% of the votes.

    Makes it so much better.

    Of course, the NDP will point out that the 70% figure was - as stated in their ad - for 2010.

    Great way for the Libs to keep the story alive. Can you find a way to drag it out for a few more days?

    By Blogger Paul, at 8:13 PM  

  • Robert, millions of people probably have said something similar to "let the flowers bloom." Ignatieff did not quote Mao who said "let 100 flowers bloom" and any Conservative who says he did or even pretends he was referring to Mao is just a damned liar.

    Oh look! More Conservative lies and sleaze!:



    By Blogger Holly Stick, at 10:55 PM  

  • I rather thought Layton did the best, and I really don't like the guy. I also thought Harper took some pretty serious body blows, but probably nothing that will upset his base. I was actually quite impressed with Iggy's performance, I did not think he had it in him.

    This election I am voting as strategically as I can, anybody that seems to have any chance of beating a Harperite gets my vote. I thought I was in a pretty safe Tory riding, but giving the amount of polling calls I am getting, evidently somebody out there thinks not. Hmm.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:59 PM  

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