Lynton Crosby, Australian strategist, hired by Tories to boost political fortunes
Harper's campaign manager sent back to Ottawa as part of an effort to refocus campaign
Stephen Harper is going Down Under to come up on top.
With polls suggesting the Conservatives are struggling in third place, the party has reached out to Lynton Crosby, a top Australian political campaign strategist who has been credited with securing victories for British Prime Minister David Cameron and other right-leaning leaders.
Crosby, known as the "Wizard of Oz" for his string of political successes, is working with the Tories as their campaign tries to regain momentum after a series of negative headlines.
But the exact role he will play is unclear. Conservative campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke would only say that "Crosby is somebody that pretty much everyone in our organization has known for a long time, we've had a lot of cross-pollination over the years with our friends in Australia and also the U.K."
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Teneycke wouldn't get into details, but denied Crosby was running the campaign, adding, however, "he's been around for a very long time and continues to be around."
Crosby is widely acknowledged for playing a key role in the surprising majority victory of Cameron's Conservative Party in Britain this year. He was also the national campaign director for the successful campaigns of former Australia prime minister John Howard in 1998 and 2001 and was behind the winning London mayoral campaigns of Boris Johnson in 2008 and 2012.
He has been described as the Australian Karl Rove, after the key adviser to former U.S president George W. Bush. According to a Guardian profile of him, Crosby employs the strategy of wedge politics — finding an issue that can be exploited to split off an opponent's traditional supporters.
In 2013, for the Patchwork Foundation, Crosby outlined some of his political strategies to 20 youth leaders, which can be seen on YouTube.
"Message matters most. If you don't have a message that's relevant to people, that connects what matters to them, you can spend millions on advertising, you can spend millions on direct mail, but it won't strike a chord with people … so it won't have an effect on them and their lives," he says.
"A campaign is simply finding out who will decide the outcome, where are they, what matters to them and how do you reach them and how do you monitor the impact of what you're doing when you're communicating with them," he says. "Who is the target for you? Who matters?"
Crosby says that it's important to have a clear and written strategy, to make sure everything that's done is to reinforce that strategy and that you're "not easily pulled from pillar to post by whatever the latest media story is."
Jenni Byrne sent back to Ottawa
News that Crosby will be helping the Tories in some capacity comes a day after CBC News reported Harper's campaign manager Jenni Byrne was being sent back to Ottawa as part of an effort to refocus the campaign, after weeks in which their message has been overtaken by other events.
Those events include the unseemly actions of two Conservative candidates, one of whom had been recorded on video urinating into a mug while on a service call at a private home, while the other was removed for making prank calls recorded on YouTube that mocked people with disabilities.
Harper has lately faced repeated criticism that his government has not done enough to address the Syrian refugee crisis. He has also been dogged by media questions about revelations from the Mike Duffy trial, where it was suggested that members of the Prime Minister's Office, including his current chief of staff, knew that his former top aide Nigel Wright had personally repaid $90,000 of the senator's expenses.