Stephen Harper did not have a good night last night during the French debate. The post-debate polls and analysis back this up. Will it matter? Will he lose seats because of it? We will have to see. Going into tonight's English debate, Harper has a bit of a dilemma. Last night he tried to pull off two hours of sweater-vest. It was almost as if he had a couple of valiums before getting on stage. He was so calm, quiet - almost meek. His answers to questions were also different from the Stephen Harper we all know and love: underselling crime legislation, praising culture spending, saying he thinks he does a great job getting along with the other political parties and that there are too many ad hominen attacks in politics. The Stephen Harper who used to be President of the NCC would have thrown up in his mouth watching Stephen Harper circa 2008 answer questions. I think the results from the two polls were so overwhelmingly negative for Harper because (a) people aren't stupid; and (b) Harper is a politician, not an actor. People can sense authenticity. They may not be able to articulate it but they know when somebody is putting on an act. Sure, some politicians can pull that off for a 30 second TV commercial but a two hour debate? No way.
He came across as a phoney and thus he flopped. People got that the Harper who was on TV yesterday wasn't real and they weren't buying what he was selling. Here's the dilemma though: Those of us who watch Question Period have seen the "real" Stephen Harper. A certain percentage of us would vote for that guy. And guy is the key word - lots of men, outside of big, urban Canada have no problem with the "real" Stephen Harper.
Women? Quebec? 905? Well, let me put it this way: If the Tory brain trust thought that the "real" Stephen Harper was sufficient to piece together a winning coalition, we wouldn't have seen the Sleepy McLovin performance last night. The fact that they focus grouped him to the point that he channeled Perry Cuomo tells me that they didn't think the "real" Steve would work - or at least not in Quebec. So what do we get tonight? An encore performance or the name-calling, finger-wagging PMSH we all know and love? Must have been an interesting 24 hours in Harperville.