On August 15, the day Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau launched the federal election campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s chief strategist made a prediction.
“Once again, @erinotoole starts a campaign as the underdog,” tweeted Dan Robertson. “It’s not the first time he’s been underestimated, but it will be the last.”
Today no one is undermining Mr. O’Toole, at least not a liberal. Both the leaders and both the parties are hugging each other Election. Any leader can become prime minister after 20 September.
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Those of us who underestimated Mr. O’Toole fail to appreciate the intensity of his desire to win – perhaps the most important ingredient in building a successful politician.
The desire to win manifests itself in many ways. Mr. O’Toole has lost 35 pounds in the past year and a half, mostly from running daily, which he says also helps clear his mind.
Some thought Mr O’Toole would not even seek Conservative leadership because his French was inadequate. But he is working diligently to improve it. My colleague Campbell Clark described Mr. O’Toole’s French as “a bit wooden, but serviceable” in last week’s TVA debate.
The conservative leader has two qualities his predecessors, Andrew Scheer and Stephen Harper, were particularly lacking in. The first is the desire – even the eagerness – to connect with the crowd. Mr O’Toole is an extroverted leader who enjoys interacting with the public, a quality he shares with Mr Trudeau.
The second is a strategic flexibility that both previous leaders lacked. Mr Harper sometimes stuck to a principle that cost him politically, such as cutting arts funding ahead of the 2008 election. Mr. Sheer could not or did not do whatever was necessary to accuse him of hidden agenda. On the right to abortion and LGBTQ comfort.
When Mr. O’Toole found that his pledge to lift some firearms bans was hurting him this election campaign, he quickly reversed himself. Flip-flops are bad, but declaring that a particular issue is a hill you’re willing to die on, and then die on it, is worse.
Political extraversion and strategic flexibility in the relentless pursuit of power make Mr. O’Toole the most liberal Conservatives to date. I mean it as a compliment.
Mr Trudeau, as Mr Robertson predicted, an underestimation of his rival, is now counterattacking furiously. Forget about “Build Back Better” or “Select Forward”. The Liberal campaign has turned into a no-holds-barred attempt to discredit Mr. O’Toole. He is thrilled to be in the gun lobby, the Liberal War Room claims. He would vaccinate hesitant individuals, he would privatize health care, he would limit abortion rights.
Despite the Conservatives’ credible plan to fight climate change, the latest slander is one that denies global warming. “Can’t be expected to care about something she doesn’t believe exists,” Liberal candidate Patty Hajdu tweeted Tuesday. Really now.
History tells us Mr. O’Toole will lose this election. Ontario voters have a lot to say about who makes up the federal government, and they like to kick tires with politicians. Provincially, he defeated Progressive Conservative Mike Harris (in 1990) and Liberal Dalton McGinty (in 1999), rewarding him with victories in the latter elections. He did the same with Mr. Harper in 2004. They may do the same with Mr O’Toole in 2021.
In the elections of 2004 and 2019, the liberals carried out a hidden agenda strategy when they found themselves on the ropes, and it worked. It may work again.
But Mr O’Toole has put to rest all reasonable doubts about his ability to lead the Conservative Party. and who knows? Mr Trudeau is sufficiently unpopular, and the hidden agenda trope is so finely crafted, that voters can’t buy the boogeyman argument this time, as if they failed to buy it in the 2006 election, which saw Mr Harper as the prime minister. made minister.
If anything, Dan Robertson was right. No one will ever underestimate Erin O’Toole again.
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