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The Insiders: Poor Guy Giorno

They are miserable and cranky, fighting amongst themselves in the Conservative campaign. This debate issue is driving them crazy.

I don't know this, but based on my experience I assume it is true. This is one of those issues you didn't plan on. 

When doing the day-by-day message plan for the campaign they did not say to themselves:  "...and then we will spend three days publicly waffling on whether we should debate Ignatieff." It is distracting from the messages they do want to send. Worst of all, they don't know what to do. How could they? On what basis do you decide? 

If you decline, you undercut the core swaggering John Wayne persona of your leader and  make him look like he ducked the gunfight. They are focusing their campaign around leadership comparisons and can't afford to look afraid of a head-to-head comparison.

Plus, who knows, maybe Harper will mop the floor with Ignatieff and confirm his majority. But if you accept, you roll the dice with everything. At the moment they have a huge leadership advantage over the Liberals. Harper is an advantage for the Conservatives and Ignatieff is a drag for the Liberals. But you have driven expectations for Ignatieff so low that he is bound to exceed them.

And anything can happen in a debate. Maybe Ignatieff has a Turner '88 moment. Maybe Harper has a Turner '84 moment. And in seconds, years of work, positioning and advantage would be gone.
 
You can't find the answer in polling. You can't find it in history or experience. It's a gut check. One of a few both sides will have to make in the course of a campaign.

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