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.
In gambling, there's something known as the "hot hand fallacy."
It's when people win a couple of bets and imagine they are "on a roll," that they can't lose, when in fact the odds of winning have not improved at all. It's a trick of the mind, and can lead to bad decisions.
Woody Allen said that life is 80 per cent about showing up. In politics, success has a lot to do with believing you can win, even if the odds are uncertain, or even stacked a bit against you.
Confidence is like the muscle mass of political parties. Too much and you sacrifice agility. Too little and you lack stamina or strength.
This week's budget was like an injection of self-confidence for the Conservatives. For CPC candidates who need a helpful national trend in order to win their ridings, there was little in this budget that they need to fear on the hustings, and a fair bit for them to talk up.
For the Liberals, this budget doesn't make a great target. But that doesn't mean it presents no opportunity.
For voters who care about climate change – this budget says the Conservatives don't really share your concern.
For voters that think Canadian policy is increasingly tilted in favour of the wealthy, the Conservatives are saying "this isn't really on our radar screen."
For those who worried about opportunities for young people the budget has some labour market initiatives – but tonally they feel more like "adjust your expectations" not "let's help you lead the world."
In short, the budget laid out the best the Conservatives have to offer. And left plenty of room for the other parties to pitch what they would do differently and why it would be better.
For the Liberals, there are reasons to relish the fight ahead. But of late, I've read a couple of stories about unnamed "senior Liberals" hand-wringing about whether their party is losing its moment, and their leader stalling out.
I've watched the Liberal Party for 40 years, and this has become almost a ritual. Everyone in politics likes to win, but Liberals sometimes exhibit an unhealthy fear of losing. Conservatives and New Democrats seem less terrified about losing and less traumatized when it happens to them.
This anonymous, public fretting has been visited on all of the Liberal Party leaders in recent years. Often it's the same unnamed people talking to the same journalists.
But fear of losing is a bad way to enter any election campaign. And it seems a bit irrational, looked at from a distance.
There's money in the Liberals' bank account and talented new candidates.
Their leader has a feel for people, and has been the most popular or tied for the most popular, in poll after poll since he took on the job. Mr. Trudeau's positions on civil liberties, energy, climate change, infrastructure and balanced budgets have the potential to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters.
Polls put the Liberals well ahead in Atlantic Canada, and more competitive in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. than they have been in years. More people say they will consider voting Liberal than say they will consider any other party.
Of course this can all come to naught. Liberals should not believe that they have a "hot hand" and can't lose. They could easily lose. But it would be just as bad an idea for them to decide they now have a "cold hand."
People talk about seeing a "path to victory" in politics. The truth (forget about the lionized tallish tales victors often tell) is a path to victory is easier to spot after the fact.
One certain path to defeat, on the other hand, you actually can see in advance. It starts with fearing you will lose, then believing you are going to lose, and includes all kinds of panicky improvisation that seals the deal.
Parties that believe they will win often don't. But parties who doubt they'll win, hardly ever do.