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The Insiders: The home stretch

What do the leaders need to do as they head to the finish line?

The end is near - and for one and possibly more of the federal leaders, the end is also nigh.

Stephen Harper and Jack Layton have pulled away from the pack, leaving Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe well back with a slim chance of catching up.

While politics will drop from our collective radar as the nation watches the pomp and pageantry from the other side of the pond, there is still enough time for a surprise, maybe two or three. After all, who would have though the "orange crush" was possible even two weeks ago?

Here is my take of what the leaders need to do in their final days.

Harper: Fuel the fire

While the Globe and Mail's endorsement is nice, the only votes it's going to change are the members of the paper's editorial board (and even that's not a guarantee). The point is - it's not going to give Harper a majority.

The prime minister needs to continue to play up his management of the economy, and work to hold his gains in the GTA, as well as lock down what he can in BC. He needs to drive home his message of hope for Canadian families; to drive home his plan for a better tomorrow.

At the same time, the Conservatives need to throw even more fuel on the coalition fire. Harper needs to get Canadians to understand the consequences of a Layton-led coalition.

That said, Harper must not lose sight of Ignatieff. He's not a lost cause in this election - yet.  When you do the seat math, Iggy is still the likely opposition leader. To disregard him in the last days of the campaign could be a fatal error.

Ignatieff: Stop the bleeding

Ignatieff needs to do one thing and one thing only: stop the bleeding. He started strong, but began to flatline post debate. Things have gone from bad to worse in Quebec and even in "fortress" Toronto where Jean Chretien was brought out to help shore up the base - in Ken Dryden's riding no less. The Grits used to win York Centre by 20,000 votes!

It's too late for the Liberals to win any new seats in this election. There's no time left to break through in areas where they aren't already strong. All efforts should be focused on stopping the bleeding in Quebec, especially the Island of Montreal, and in the GTA.

Layton: Keep the momentum going

Layton is on a roll and he has to find an extra gear in the next few days to keep it going. Jack has been in fighting form throughout this campaign and I don't think he's hit his ceiling. He's riding high and continues to gain momentum.

In the last days of the campaign, Layton needs to look long and hard at Quebec. There's a lot of buzz about a number of ridings - if he figures the NDP might actually be able to win them, he should be making one last trip to bring home that vote.  

Duceppe: End on a high note

I have one word for Duceppe's campaign - lacklustre. In these final days, he should be presenting Quebecers with a strong closing argument to fend off a surging Layton. He needs to be clear with voters in Quebec that despite the NDP leader's burgeoning popularity in their province, he's nothing but a shiny new toy. He needs to remind Quebecers that Duceppe's been there for Quebecers all along.
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