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Bruce Anderson is the chairman of polling firm Abacus Data, a regular member of CBC The National's At Issue panel and a founding partner of i2 Ideas and Issues Advertising. He has done polls for Liberal and Conservative politicians in the past, but no longer does any partisan work. Other members of his family have worked for Conservative and Liberal politicians, and a daughter currently works for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. He writes a weekly digital column for The Globe and Mail.

I've been in losing political campaigns. They are, the cup half-full people say, learning moments.

Each campaign has its own dynamics; losers lose for different reasons. The lessons from a defeat aren't always portable. But if there's one lesson that should only be learned once it is this: If there's a chance you're going to lose, lose with your eyes open. Get a handle on what's going wrong, and try everything you can to turn things around.

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It sounds obvious. Shouldn't have to be said. But you'd be amazed.

Political parties are prisoners of hierarchy. Leaders lay down a strategy, and everyone else is encouraged to acknowledge that it is perfectly formed.

Such strategies rarely include the caveat that they might need to be re-invented if circumstances change. But sometimes, like this year, say, a winning campaign might all come down to being nimble.

Stephen Harper has a decent chance of winning another election this fall. But right now, there's as good a chance he will lose.

Six months ago, there was wind in his sails. Today, doldrums.

The air around him seems stale, the arguments feel old, some of his best talent is gone. His poisoned relationship with the media is getting even worse. He's been pouring money into government and party advertising, only to watch support dwindle.

The Harper strategy seems, in a nutshell, this: the other guys are lame. We'll send people cheques, have some debates, remind people what we've done, buy plenty of advertising, our boots on the ground are better. No need to sweat. Canadians will get it right.

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If such a strategy were based on a cool assessment of strengths and weaknesses, risks and opportunities, that would be one thing. But it might have more to do with eyes-closed ego-driven group-think arrogance.

Recently, on national TV, a Conservative spokesman said his party's advertising offers voters information they can trust: "We're better than news – because we're truthful."

There's no good explanation for saying such a thing into an open microphone. It's plainly not true and wouldn't be any more true if another party offered it up. It would be funny except the fellow seemed to actually believe it.

WKRP's disc jockey Johnny Fever said "when everybody's out to get you, paranoia is just straight thinking." A good laugh line in a sitcom. And might make sense if you are Ezra Levant.

Some will argue that haranguing the news media rallies the base, pleases the trolls, raises more money, and where's the harm.

But a more honest, eyes-open assessment is that the whole media bashing strategy is foolish. It's not clever, nor a sign of strength; it comes off as amateur and petty.

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By now mistakes like this should be wearing thin on Conservatives who are running to win seats.

There are likeable politicians in the Harper cabinet who rarely get put front and centre. Instead, Pierre Poilievre and Paul Calandra have been the Huntley and Brinkley of the Conservative Party in the first half of 2015.

Those Conservatives with more talent are probably wondering why, in an election year, the strategy still seems to be about delighting a too-small fragment of the population and getting under the skin of everybody else.

There was a time when top-level ministers had the kind of relationship with a Prime Minister which might encourage a frank word of advice for the boss. An honest and blunt account of what things feel like outside the 24 Sussex and Langevin Block bubble.

If one were to do that now, here's what they might say:

"Our agenda will never please everyone, but we should be able to get a fair hearing from at least two of three voters. Too many aren't open to hearing us right now. Our talking heads sound smug and preoccupied with party, not country. The rest of us are seen as arrogant by association.

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"We talk about our achievements, but voters are interested in what lies ahead. Our opponents' promises are attracting interest. We need to fish where the fish are.

"Our treatment of the news media is a losing proposition. Maligning them makes life harder for candidates.

"To win this election, we need to a forward looking, nuanced, less partisan, more appealing approach."

Whether this advice will be tendered, or well received, is anyone's guess. But in a well functioning political party, necessity is the mother of invention. There's little chance that a strategy built on 2014 context will work in 2015.

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