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The Insiders: Election 41 myth-busting

There are so many predictions for tonight's result that I will not add to that confusion with my own.  Rather, before we start looking ahead to the impacts of the 2011 election, let's take a look back and examine some of the assumptions people have made over the course of this campaign.

Myth #1:  The NDP have run a positive campaign, and its success signifies the virtues of positive advertising over negative.

Hogwash.  The NDP have run more negative ads than the Liberals have.  Using humour doesn't make an ad positive.  One of the turning points in the campaign was Layton's debate attack on Ignatieff for missing House votes, an attack so planned that they had an ad about it up on the air within hours.  If anybody has doggedly stuck to positive advertising promoting the policy program, it is Ignatieff and the Liberals.  Maybe the Liberals should have jabbed Layton with a stick as sharp as the one he used on them.  Further, to attribute NDP success in this election to their positive message would imply that NDP gains tonight are a considered vote for an NDP government, and implementation of its platform.  That is not at all what is happening.  The NDP are riding a wave of protest against Harper.  The NDP's most important appeal in this election is what it is not - Harper - rather than what it is.  Which leads me to ...

Myth #2:  Nobody could have foreseen this happening.

For five years, there has been 60 - 65% of the electorate with a very strong desire for a prime minister other than Harper. He provokes strong support among his base, and very strong antagonism among most others.   For five years and into the first three weeks of this election, the Liberals showed no ability to remove him from office.  Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.  The Liberal Party is paying the price for complacently assuming it would remain the default option even if it spent years languishing in the mid-20% in support. When the NDP showed signs of momentum out of Quebec, anti-Harper voters seized the opportunity to jump on board with a vehicle that looked like it had some gas in the tank.

Myth #3:  The Conservatives were wasting time with their crazy coalition talk.

In the final week of the campaign, the Conservatives have the ballot question they want, with the added cherry that the NDP are on the top of the coalition.  This is allowing them to make an effective appeal to centre-right Liberals to vote Conservative to prevent an NDP government.  The Conservative campaign was strategically sound, if often awkwardly executed.  Some have wondered why Harper didn't use the good economic news to run a Reagan-esque "Morning in America" campaign full of sun and optimism.  Two reasons - the electorate is actually not in that frame of mind (Harper is the rare incumbent who is not getting punished), and Harper doesn't have that campaign in him.  He doesn't inspire that feeling, and he can't appeal to enough people for a massive sweep. They were only every going to be able to trench warfare him across the majority line. and that is what they have tried to do.

One last blog tomorrow.  Thanks for reading and watching throughout the campaign.

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