Thursday, March 08, 2012

The First Look at Redford's Playbook

That sound you hear is the unofficial starting gun on Alberta's 2012 election, as the PCs launch their first round of negative ads, under the familiar "Danielle Smith: Not Worth the Risk" tagline.

The immediate reaction by most has been similar to Don Braid's:

In my prehistoric memory, the Tories haven’t done anything like this in all the long years since they were first elected on Aug. 30, 1971.

They clearly feel challenged, especially in Calgary, the only place where the ad will run at the beginning.

“It proves they see the Wildrose as a real threat,” says Mount Royal University political expert David Taras.

“Negative campaigns don’t come out of nowhere. They appear when a party has got a problem.”

I'm not so convinced this is a sign of problems for the PCs at all - to me it looks like the table setter of a very sound election strategy.

For starters, this is about as tame as attack ads get. It highlights a legitimate policy difference - one the Wildrose have turned into an election issue, and one the PCs need to get their message out on if we believe the Wildrosers when they claim two thirds of Albertans are against the law. Be they 5 points or 50 points ahead in the polls, it would be foolish of the PCs not to respond, and a limited radio ad buy in Calgary is a fairly timid response.

No, the real story here shouldn't be the ad, but the strategy it's setting up. The "Not Worth the Risk" message plays to the exact same "stability" theme that 6 governments rode to re-election last year. More importantly, this ad is a clear sign Redford wants to position the election as a Wildrose-PC showdown. And who can blame her? That narrative will scare Redford Liberals into voting PC, and it will make disaffected PCs view a vote for the Wildrose as a vote for a possible government, rather than a mere protest vote.

If that's the strategy behind these ads - and I suspect it is - then the media response that the PCs are "in danger" and "worried about the Wildrose" is the exact reaction Redford's team was hoping for. It wouldn't at all surprise me if we hear whispers from "senior PC insiders" throughout the campaign that they're worried they could lose, or that their internal polls have the race much closer than it looks.

In that respect, this ad has little to do with drunk driving and everything to do with framing the next election. The fact that it's an attack ad isn't at all a sign of desperation - much as the PCs might like us to believe it is.

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  • Bang on. Bang on.

    I've been through elections with the PC Party (no longer), and, really, in recent memory the by now, very old and very tired platform is this:

    We are the devil you know.

    There was a time, however, when the "devil we knew" was the Social Credit Party.

    So - are they in trouble? Not likely. Are they running the same, tired, themes they've run many times before?


    Should you vote for them out of fear of the "unknown".

    Not me. Vote Liberal, vote NDP, vote Wild Rose - time to send a message.

    By Blogger Robert G. Harvie, at 1:59 p.m.  

  • Re: Robert
    It may be hard to vote Liberal if Sherman can't muster up a full slate.
    Voting Wildrose is replacing the devil you know with the devil you don't want to know (think how many of the same people work for the Wildrose and the federal Conservatives).

    By Blogger Ian, at 2:04 p.m.  

  • Forget Wild Rose.

    The real fight is to see who becomes the progressive party of choice - Liberals or NDP.

    Probably NDP, given the momentum from the federal party, and the fact that the Liberals chose a former PC leader.

    Then watch out for them. Not to form government (obviously) but to get a strong opposition elected thanks to Wild Rose vote splitting.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 3:00 p.m.  

  • It sounds like Robert's wearing orange-tinted glasses.

    NDP as official opposition? Fat chance. I'll be impressed if they manage to get a third seat in this election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:49 p.m.  

  • My point is that the days of thinking that the PC Party is "good enough" are done.

    The mounting and continuing deficits, combined with a lack of accountability.. mean, that voters, more than ever, should feel more comfortable with "taking a chance" - regardless of your political leanings.

    By Blogger Robert G. Harvie, at 3:52 p.m.  

  • Fine, I'll go out on a limb.

    You heard it here first:

    NDP Official Opposition.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 5:37 p.m.  

  • Hope the Alberta NDP are more considerate of the electorate than their federal counterparts. I don't recall seeing a single NDP sign during the entire campaign and apparently the man/woman? Never even came here to address people.

    Having said that though, I'd much rather an NDP official opposition than a Wildrose one so grudgingly, I do wish them well.....and I"m about as anti-NDP as they come.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 12:13 a.m.  

  • I should add I never saw any campaign signs in my riding, not all of Alberta.

    By Blogger Way Way Up, at 12:15 a.m.  

  • Ian: (think how many of the same people work for the Wildrose and the federal Conservatives)

    For 67% of Albertans, that's a good thing.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 3:15 a.m.  

  • It may work, but it's still pretty boring. But I guess in Alberta, if you're conservative that's OK (and maybe required).

    By Anonymous Lynn Marie Calder, at 12:10 p.m.  

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