Volatility on the Campaign Trail

Hello everyone!
Wow!! Can you spell v-o-l-a-t-i-l-e?
Welcome back to my blog. This is a new format which I am trying out for this posting. If change is in the air, then why not in the blogosphere? A lot has happened in the past two weeks - in Canada and the United States. The stock market crash, followed by the failure of the bailout package has rocketed the economy to the absolute top of the public agenda. 

What will the credit crisis mean for the elections - North and South of the Border?
This has profound implications for both the American and Canadian elections. In the Presidential race, the conventional wisdom is that if the top-of-mind issue is foreign policy, then the race will favor McCain. If it is economic policy, then the tilt is towards Obama. 
That shift appears to already be underway. The failure of the Administration's package to pass the House, combined with John McCain's ''suspending" his campaign, the rapid turnaround in public confidence in Sarah Palin, have all led to a public perception that John McCain may not be the 'change' that they are looking for. 
This is one of those elections where programs such as Saturday Night Live can end up shaping public perception more powerfully than news programs.

In the Canadian election, ironically, it seems to have strengthened Stephen Harper's position as a strong economic leader. Canada so far, seems to have escaped the debacle in capital markets, but Canadians know that when their largest trading partner goes into recession, Canada can't be far behind. 

The Conservatives are currently enjoying an 11% lead over the Liberals [Nanos Sept. 30 poll: 37% Conservative; 26% Liberal; 19% NDP; 9% Green]. However, they need to secure another 3% to grab the majority that the Prime Minister is now directly asking Canadians to give him. The Conservatives need to pick up more seats in Quebec and make a stronger inroads in Ontario, while pushing back on the surging NDP in British Columbia.

Another Bump in the Road for the Tories
 However, one of the most damaging stumbles that the Conservatives have encountered is the revelation that a speech Mr. Harper gave in March 2003 was a carbon copy of Australia's then-Prime Minster, John Howard. Quick action led to the resignation of his speechwriter. 
Will it be enough? Probably, but it is another bump in the road to a majority.

The Debates Will be Key
The first televised Presidential debate was the famous Kennedy-Nixon face-off in 1960. There wasn't a lot to separate the two on policy, but Kennedy looked Presidential, while Nixon looked sweaty and defensive. 
Gerald Ford's gaffe in the 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter, really did him in.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8rg9c4pUrg

Then the famous "there you go again" line by Ronald Reagan against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Presidential debate seemed to take the wind out of Jimmy Carter's sails.

The Leaders' Debate on Thursday night will have even more significance this week. Harper needs a solid, cool, unruffled performance. Dion needs to position himself as the clear and credible alternative to the Prime Minister, and needs to connect with the voter on the core pocketbook issues - rather than on the defence over his unpopular - and complicated - Green Shift proposal. If he allows Jack Layton to steal his thunder, he will look weak by definition. Jack has to look and sound strong and down-to-earth; not too revved up or over the top.

Elizabeth May is the great unknown. She could be great or she could totally blow it. She needs to speak to the voter at home, not get so caught up in the heated exchanges that she turns off people watching in their living rooms. Her greatest accomplishment was getting into the debate in the first place.

And then there's the French Debate
Duceppe will be impressive as usual, but it won't get him too many votes in Quebec, so for him it is all about Wednesday's (tonight's) French debate. In that one, both Harper and Dion are struggling to be the clear alternative to the Bloc. So there will be fireworks there too.

Previewing the Vice-Presidential Debate
The Vice-Presidential Candidates Debate is far more important than at any time in history. All eyes will be on Sarah Palin, who needs to recover from an ill-advised set of interviews with Charlie Gibson and, most recently, Katie Couric. She needs to be credible enough on foreign policy - unlike on Couric.

 She needs to address the questions clearly and succinctly, and realize that a weak answer doesn't improve with length! 
She needs to admit that what she lacks in foreign policy experience, she makes up for in judgment, and a clear view of how a McCain-Palin Administration will act in a dangerous world and a global economy? How would they be able to secure jobs for Americans? How would they be different from the Bush Administration? What is wrong, in her view, with the Obama-Biden world view -especially on NAFTA and free trade?

She needs to be calm and cool, solid, and be capable of a counter-punch. But she shouldn't lead with her chin, as Dan Quayle famously did against Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.

Biden needs to avoid sounding condescending and over-talking. 
When he really gets going, there is a slight disconnect between his mouth and his brain.

If he overtly attacks Palin, he will look like a bully. He will try to label her as unqualified and the Republican ticket as Bush's third term. She needs to keep her powder dry and then wait for her opportunity.

So let the fun begin!

Until next time.....stay cool and stay liquid!