Thursday, September 04, 2008

How will this election play in the media?

That is one of the intangibles in the upcoming election.

The current media narrative is not positive for the Liberals. After months of not mentioning the notion of a Conservative majority government, because the Conservatives were drifting in the other direction, many media pundits have resurrected the idea. Of course it is based on a couple of polls that suddenly show the Conservatives in the high 30 range after they had been sitting in the low 30s for more than six months. The media fails to mention why such a sudden change took place especially since nothing dramatic has happened in the last two weeks. Unless, of course you include more bad economic news in Ontario, an outbreak of a potentially deadly infection borne by tainted meat products, casualties climbing in the war in Afghanistan, Stephen Harper breaking his own fixed-elections law, and almost universal accounts that the Conservatives were about to take a beating in four by-elections. I am certain all of these events explain the sudden rise in Conservative fortunes being touted by the media.

My God, they must think Canadian are idiots.

So what can we expect for the election?

My guess is they will be on the lookout for any mistake by Mr. Dion or the Liberals so that they can hype it up while they will ignore or at least downplay any errors by Mr. Harper and the Conservatives. That mean the Liberals will have a great deal of pressure in them for the first couple of weeks. If they can get through the first couple of weeks relatively unscathed they will be in good shape.

The Liberals will have to hammer Stephen Harper while staying on message with regard to their platform. They will need to be disciplined. That does not mean Stephane Dion will have to muzzle his team. It does, however, mean that the Liberals will need to avoid another "Beer and Popcorn" moment, which was the most hyped moment in the 2006 election. How an off the cuff remark by a party apparatchik can become a three day story just demonstrates how bankrupt is our media. But I digress.

They will also have to realize that the media cares more about strategy than policy. So while they should be releasing their policies as the election goes on they will have to keep a close eye on their overall election strategy and that of the Conservatives.

Media narratives can change on a dime during elections.
  • In 1984, the narrative was John Turner would win the election for the Liberals over the inexperienced Brian Mulroney.
  • In 1993, the narrative was Kim Campbell would hang on to government over yesterday's man Jean Chretien.
  • In 1997, the narrative was Jean Chretien would handily win another majority government.
  • In 2000, the narrative was Jean Chretien would be reduced to a minority government.
  • In 2004, the narrative was Stephen Harper, a bookish, policy wonk with zero charisma and leaderhship ratings more than 20 points behind Paul Martin would not stand much of a chance and the Liberals would hang on to their majority, just not the sweep that was expected when he became Prime Minister.

In all of these elections the narratives changed in mid-election because events overtook them.

The Liberals are in better shape that the media is letting on. They are well within striking distance of the Conservatives and as I stated in my previous post history has demonstrated that election campaigns are not kind to incumbents. The Liberals have as much chance of winning as the Conservatives and I would even state they have a better chance of winning a majority than the Conservatives. (See my previous post for why)

However, the Liberals have to understand that they will have to be prepared to deal with a hostile to ambivalent media as well as the other political parties.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, and analysis.

I think the Liberals can win this, but they will have to be disciplined and consistent.

September 04, 2008 7:05 PM  

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