Lonely guy kicks things off all by himself:
With a tight camera angle on him as he gave the speech, to anyone watching on CPAC. Nice red tie though.
And garners this reaction:
Harper was off his game today. He fumbled on the coalition issue earlier in the day, not able to take no for an answer from Ignatieff's earlier statement, showing perhaps how off guard that move took him:
This may be a bit of an overstatement, but at the starting gate, Ignatieff was breathing fire.Great move by the Liberals to release the "rules of democracy" statement this morning just before Harper's appearance. So that Harper didn't really have time to craft a stage-managed line in response. What was Harper on about there? Hidden agendas when it's clearly stated in writing? Clinging to the old attack. Life in the bubble doesn't prepare you for a lot of unscripted questions. Particularly when the rug's been pulled out from under a main line of attack they'd been savouring. Something to watch in coming days, if he continues to take questions, that is. If he doesn't, the contrast will be noticed.
His best line, the one that will linger throughout the campaign, came after Harper accused him of deceit. It was over the precisely drafted statement Ignatieff released pledging he would not try to usurp first place and attempt a coalition government if the Liberals place second once more under a Tory minority.
Harper, in an unscripted moment and in hasty reaction to the Ignatieff statement, made a mistake.
It was the kind of fumble that can happen in the rough and tumble quick action of an election, away from the controlled setting of the House of Commons, where the prime minister always gets the last word.
Harper, who really did sound a bit rattled, called Ignatieff’s written promise a “little tidbit” in a news release. Then, oddly, maybe even incomprehensively, he accused the liberals of “trying to set it as a hidden agenda” and that Ignatieff declared his position in writing because “he couldn’t deny it in front of the cameras.”
In another few moments, so short and yet pivotal in a campaign, Ignatieff replied at his own news event: “He wouldn’t recognize the truth if it walked up and shook his hand.”
Freeze frame that, and go back to Harper, at Rideau Hall.
Continuing down the unscripted road, looking and sounding even more unsure of himself, Harper did the one sure thing that had his script masters shuddering, he referred to the possibility his party might win only another minority. (emphasis added)
Meanwhile, surprising guy kicks the campaign off with a team:
And garners this reaction:
On the "surprising" characterization, see the beginning of the report linked to above and here's a view from Mr. Ivison on the Ignatieff kick-off:
Probably more important in any case are the take-aways — what sticks in the memory? What were the themes? Crucially, would people who are not partisans emerge with a more favourable impression of the Liberal leader?Day one but still a long way to go.
The key theme was an answer to the Conservative charge that he’s only in it for himself. In fact, the Liberal leader said, he is in it for the Canadian people. He conjured up Bob Dylan’s line that “everybody’s gotta serve somebody.”
The answer to the last question is, I think, yes. It was a convincing delivery of a well-crafted speech which most non-card carrying party members would probably say improved their impression of Mr. Ignatieff.