Friday, April 23, 2010

Attacking a messenger

Yesterday the Conservatives went full bore after pollster Frank Graves of Ekos and the CBC, whom he polls for, as a result of a quote by Graves in Lawrence Martin's column in the Globe yesterday. Here is the quote that has them so excised and led them to publicize Graves' freely available political donation history ($11K to Liberals since 2001, $450 to a Conservative in 2006) and wield it against him suddenly on a political show yesterday:
In his advice, Mr. Graves could hardly have been more blunt. “I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”
Graves was giving one of those interpretive quotes on the political state of affairs of the Liberals, much as he and any pollster frequently do in relation to any party when questioned by media. Graves' Ekos colleague made clear that Graves has no retainer with the Liberals and was only offering hypothetical advice in the media interview with Martin (first link). Use the google thing and you can find uncharitable Graves comments about Liberals. I'm sure someone could also dig up other pollsters making similar types of comments, saying the Conservatives or other parties should make certain arguments. So why did the Conservatives get so upset and make a big fuss about Graves?

1. They likely don't want to have the battle that Graves framed within that Martin column. They might lose a "culture war." It makes for a good contrast for the Liberals and the Conservatives haven't done well when fighting on the social issue terrain. Better to fight back hard now to try to nip this dynamic in the bud. Make it poisonous to pursue by discrediting those who dare suggest it.

2. They have a gun registry battle to win in the next month, one they dearly want to win. It can't be made to seem Palinesque. In Martin's column, the Liberal gun registry stance figured prominently. Since Monday, the Conservatives have not held back in a concerted, party-wide effort to go on the offensive to save C-391, their gun registry dismantling so-called-private-members-bill. The personal attack on Graves yesterday, by waving his donation history in front of him on CBC via Conservative spokesperson Kory Teneycke, may have been part of it. It sure sounds like it, based on Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey's comments here (at the end).

3. Intimidation is one of their political tactics of late. See for example, this report and this post on attacks against business leaders and academics, respectively, who disagree with the government. Graves is CBC's pollster. Freebie bonus! Any chance to accuse one of their pet pinatas of bias, they're on it. Yesterday's attack was intimidatory in nature, likely meant to check both Graves and CBC.

4. Distraction. From Rahim/Helena.