Duceppe, Layton and Ignatieff seemed to come off at times pleading with the PM, begging for answers. It didn't help that some of their responses were so obviously coached and they appeared to stumble over their lines a few times. All Harper did was maintain that father-knows-best tone and he beats them on style, which of course seems to be the most resonant theme with some of our special voters. Add the camera angles, and the other leaders are definitely at a disadvantage. Most thinking voters ought to see past that, but there's likely enough of Gore Vidal's "simple people" here that'll be swayed by the optics alone to give the man his min/majority. I mean, following the debate, Harper all but declared himself the winner damn the content, while the other leaders mulled and reflected:
"I think we did that, we communicated to Canadians and laid out where we want to take the country and that was my objective and I feel quite comfortable that we achieved that," said Harper.I think I heard also the words "ganging up" from the PM, as if the Cons were the poor little bullied kid at the table. It really is incredible to watch him play the strong patriarch and the weak victim at the same time.
The Opposition won't beat him that way. They either need to find a chink in that deadpan creepy armour or cut him out of the conversation entirely. I don't think they're able to do the former; none of them seem to have the natural wit, rhetoric, and sense of interpersonal nuance needed to unbalance him. He's pretty well protected against those attacks and deftly ignore is record.
What Harper doesn't do is respond well to overt and substantive action. Remember this image from the far away time when the Opposition [almost] showed some serious spine?
The man had obviously been crying. Naturally for a control-freak, he is at his most vulnerable when he loses control. He is also a proven liar and a cheat. Most of us don't engage people who lie and cheat us. Why does our elected Opposition?
The Opposition members may seriously unbalance Harper if they turn their podiums toward each other and their backs to Harper during the debates. Extend this to all-candidates meetings in the various ridings, and you have a strategy. When Harper and is minions protest, the other parties can state clearly and truthfully to the camera that they 'don't associate with liars and cheats' and list the Conservative crimes of office. Turn the election into a contest between the other parties and leave the certifiably dishonest party out of it.
No, Canadians are too polite for that, and it offends our sensibilities. Besides, Ignatieff hopes he can reason Canadians into giving his party a minority government (let's be real, that's the only real possibility that they've got here). This would very likely mean another election before the year is out where the Cons would turn around and defeat a Liberal minority super-quick and win on a blame-the-Liberals-for-failing-to-maintain-a-minority for as long as they did platform.