One of the worst things a political party can do is take their opposition for granted. As such, parties need always assume there's method behind all of their opposition's madness, and they need to believe their opposition is smart, calculating, and strategic.
So, what happened when Hugh McFadyen responded to this week's Throne Speech? Did he assume the NDP was smart, calculating and strategic? Or did he write off the entire event as just another socialist attempt to fool Manitobans before scampering off to the Manitoba Club for a glass of soda water and lime?
Well, it seems McFadyen still thinks the NDP's stupid and cloaked in communists capes. This is a really big mistake.
What's surprising to us is that McFadyen didn't even try to use the occasion to generate some earned media of his own. Instead, he again chose to remain muted on what Manitoba Conservatives stand for and believe in, just like he did following his political convention. A few blog posts ago, we pointed out McFadyen had just 365 days left to do what took Gary Doer and the NDP ten years to do. Now, he has less than 330 days. And just this week, he passed up one of only two major opportunities remaining to tell Manitobans what he stands for and believes in.
And in the vacuum created by McFadyen's silence, the government's message ends up resonating more crisply than Christmas choirs in the rotunda. (Oops...! Should we have said "multicultural" choirs?)
And what happens as a result of all this? The NDP force McFadyen to follow when, less than a year out from the election, he should be leading.
And if readers are skeptical about our assertions, take a moment to review government news releases in the fall of 2006. Anyone with a basic level of political acumen who understands Manitoba will recognize how former Premier Gary Doer systematically stripped away and took ownership of key populist issues like Winnipeg road improvements, highway upgrades, bicycle paths, and the Canadian Wheat Board (just to name just a few), all of which was done well in advance of the 2007 election.
Doer ended up leading McFadyen, and Selinger's now doing the same. (By the way, McFadyen, remember when Doer forced you to give him a standing ovation in front of key Conservatives, including the Prime Minister, the day he called the election? That really sucked, eh?)
Conversely, has the NDP written off McFadyen's Throne Speech response as right wing blather before running off to the Union Centre to toast capitalism's demise?
Absolutely not. Which is why the NDP leads and the Tories follow.
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove issued a stern warning to fellow GOP members that they cannot count on President Obama imploding. Rather, Rove astutely points out to Republicans that the road ahead is going to be very difficult.
If this week's response to the Throne Speech is any indication, McFadyen's going to need to begin counting on more than an NDP implosion. And while we have to believe you're smart, Mr. McFadyen, it's getting more and more difficult to do so.