Does anyone know what they are doing?

One of the keys to an effective political campaign is careful planning at the beginning of the campaign and then sticking to the plan.  Should be easy? Right?

Wrong.  Sticking to the plan is the most difficult part.  All the pressures of the campaign are determined to change your course.  There are things you did not think of.  There are new opportunities.  Your opponents have done something to which you really want to respond.  People are saying you need to change direction every day.

If you are a control freak like Stephen Harper, you tell the flunkies what to do and you do not let them tell you.  And yet he has been thrown off stride by this campaign.  He had to apologize for the Mounties keeping some young voters out of his highly structured campaign events.  When he let them in, they could only stand and listen politely.

Two factors have muted Harper’s early plans to use the supposed ‘coalition’ against Ignatieff.  One was that the polls showed that most Canadians were happy with the idea of a coalition.  The second was that the original coalition with the Bloc and the NDP was proposed by Harper in 2004 to try to remove Paul Martin as Prime Minister.

Campaigns have many buzz words.  One of the most effective against Harper in the past ten years has been the hidden ‘agenda.’ The anti-gun registry stance was linked at the time to anti-abortion, pro-capital punishment and other right-wing extremist positions.  Imagine Ignatieff’s surprise when he is accused of having a hidden agenda to remove some of the Conservative’s harsher sentencing penalties for the courts.  All of that type of law is routinely reviewed by Parliament over time and there is probably no disparity at all between Liberal critic Mark Holland and his leader Michael Ignatieff’s views on this.

The worst problems in sticking to the plan are at the local electoral district level.  You are never sure if people there had a plan in the first place.  Signs are ordered before literature is designed and any similarity has to be in party colors and nothing else.  Every day, voters are telling you what is important and what they have told you is a blur before the day is finished.  Campaign managers are chosen for their youth and their limited dollar expense.  Few really know what they are doing.  Their agenda is survival.

It seems to be an axiom that the less a candidate knows about campaigning, the more the person wants to control their campaign.  Where they really need controls is on the expenditures being made on their behalf.

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