Stéphane Dion says he worried he would muck up his trademark line and tell voters, "Go red, vote green."
It was an upbeat, almost giddy Liberal Leader who joked with reporters at a Thanksgiving dinner in Vancouver on the eve of the election about his pitch to Green Party and NDP supporters to cast their ballots for the Liberals.
He didn't blow the line, but he blew much of the campaign.
His late plea for strategic voting was ignored by the electorate just as he ignored advice from his strategists.
"He's a lone wolf," a veteran Liberal MP says.
From the day the writ was dropped, Mr. Dion dismissed suggestions from his advisers to avoid the subject of his Green Shift plan during the campaign, according to those close to him. When he did follow his strategists' advice and emphasized the economy instead, the Tories attacked him for not talking about his carbon-tax scheme.
At that point, he panicked and re-embraced the Green Shift, said one of his advisers. "... [He]talked more and more about the Green Shift. That hurt him."
And at another point, he grew wary of emphasizing the Liberal team because he felt that he was being overshadowed by leadership rival Bob Rae, the adviser said. Mr. Rae was campaigning outside his Toronto riding and garnered some favourable headlines.
Then Mr. Dion was seen to have won the French-language debate but couldn't capitalize on that.
"The debate wasn't as important as it should have been," the adviser says. "He won the debate ... but it didn't go anywhere because people didn't see him any more competent to run a government and so they weren't changing their vote."
And then two weeks before the vote, internal polls showed the Liberals wiped out in Ontario's 905 area code, with the exception of John McCallum and Maurizio Bevilacqua, whose personal popularity kept them in the game.
Some of that Liberal vote in 905 returned by election day - although the Liberals lost five seats there - only because the Harper Conservatives were dipping in the polls and traditional Liberal voters started to "come home."
"The Liberal vote hardly changed at all during the course of the campaign because it was the core brand vote," the adviser says. "It wasn't Dion's vote because Dion didn't have a vote."
So it was a combination of factors that cost the Liberals so dearly: Mr. Dion was not connecting with voters and his Green Shift was unpopular.
"The Green Shift was a millstone around his neck," the Dion adviser says.
In fact, he had been counselled in the spring by his senior advisers, including campaign manager Gordon Ashworth, not to use it as a major election piece.
As well, deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and Mr. Rae "went hand-in-hand to dissuade him from this lunatic policy," the adviser says. "They struck out as well. Nobody could change his mind."
Now Liberals are searching for positives from the campaign. National campaign co-chair David Smith says that as he was flying through the clouds back from Montreal on Wednesday morning to his home in Toronto, he thought of the "silver lining" - the Harper Tories were held to a minority government.
Another positive outcome, according to Dion strategists, is that the Tories collapsed in Quebec because of the cuts to the culture programs and the party's stand on youth crime.
"... Basically now the Tories are not as important as they had been and the Liberals are sort of recovered," the senior adviser says. The Tories held on to 10 of their 11 seats in Quebec; the Liberals gained two.
But the 905 ridings need more work: "Are they changing into Conservatives, or are they rejecting the Green Shift?" the adviser asks.