Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dan drinks the PC Kool-Aid

We've been away a few days, so we're just catching up on the pile of papers in the porch.

Not tons of things of interest, but Dan "the Sausage Man" Lett's election retrospective on the weekend had some points worth discussing.

Apart from creating titters around the Leg, we understand, by mislabeling Doer Chief of Staff Michael Balagus as the Clerk of the Executive Council, Dan offers up some interesting views from NDP and Tory top operatives.

However, it seems that Dan bought the Tories' rationalization of their loss as being largely due to massive government advertising.

It's nonsense, of course.

On one hand, the Tories can't even keep their story straight. In the "massive government advertising" they point to, they include the total $2.4 million spent over the past year on the Spirited Energy campaign, which in fact, a) was not government advertising but a community effort supported by the government, and b) includes lots of stuff which was not advertising at all.

But more importantly, just last week, Tory MLA Leanne Rowat noted the one-year anniversary of Spirited Energy by admonishing the government, calling the effort a "lead balloon" that landed with a resounding "thud".

Not only are the PCs trying to have it both ways, but they are wrong on both counts.

Spirited Energy will likely go on because the main movers and shakers in town want it to go on and know that over time the grousing will go away and promoting Manitoba is absolutely necessary.

But the other point they are wrong on is that government advertising, of course, does not win or lose elections.

If it did, Gary Filmon would have won in 1999.

We should not need to remind the greybeards in the crowd (and we certainly shouldn't have to remind Dan) that back then, the PCs ran tons of government advertising in the run up to the election. And it apparently did them no good whatsoever.

Objectively, there were similarities between the 1999 and 2007 elections: the incumbent governments had been in for multiple terms with well-regarded leaders, but the Probe polling showed a tight race shaping up.

However, there were big differences. So many that we will only touch on a few -- like the fact the government in 1999 was seen as terrible on the top public issue, health care, was bruised badly on the trust issue due largely to the vote-rigging scandal, and the mood of change permeated the air.

All the government advertising in the world can't actually change public perceptions. It may help highlight perceptions that are already out there, but to assert a few ads changed pubic opinion around 180 degrees in just a few weeks is to believe that the public is fundamentally stupid.

And they are not.

It's not surprising, though, to see Jonathan Scarth trying to explain his way out of accountability for a lousy campaign and advertising is a convenient excuse. But it is a bit surprising to see Dan seeming to buy the same basic premise.

And, by implication, Dan is asserting in his piece that Manitobans are dumb -- easily swayed by some advertising.

C'mon Dan. You can do better than that.


As a postscript to the above, another common thread between Dan's piece and the PC's story is a belief in the Probe numbers of March 2007 that there was a statistical tie between the NDP and the Tories, just weeks before the writ drop.

As Balagus stated, if that was true, do you think Gary Doer would call an election? Are you nuts?

But Dan positions that point in a way to try and wedge in the scenario that there was indeed a tie as Probe stated, then there was lots of government advertising which led to a lead for the NDP going in to the election.

That's just crazy. That kind of a short term lead, if it existed, would not have been enough to call an election on. For sure, Doer would have waited until the fall if that scenario were true.

The real story is, that Dan conveniently seems to push aside, is that Probe consistently underestimates the NDP support -- for lots of reasons we have detailed here before time and time again.

It just seems very strange to us that a newspaper ostensibly interested in reporting the truth would continue down this path, knowing how consistently flawed their pollsters have been.


Oh, and if anyone needs reminding how desperate the Tory campaign was in its final days, you need only play the ads below, which ran in high rotation on Manitoba radio stations the last several days of the campaign.