Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff
BRICKER: Iggy is a cipher. To the extent that the public knows anything about him at all, it’s what the Tories have told them. Ask people what they know about him and it’s usually the tag lines from Tory ads that come out of their mouths. They plastered him for two months before the campaign and it stuck. Parliamentary Press Gallery reporters talk about how good he is on the road, how good he is on his feet and how well his campaign events go. But none of that has got through to the Canadian public. On every leadership attribute that we’ve tested — and no matter how we do it — he always scores behind Harper and Layton. He seems to be a hard read for people and they don’t know what he is trying to say. Part of it might be his delivery, but part might reveal a very real problem about what is it that defines the Liberal party these days. At the start of the campaign, when he tacked hard left, and left the Martin Liberals behind, he created a lot of confusion as to where the Liberals stand and where the NDP stand. You’re seeing it bite him pretty hard right now.
GRAVES: He’s had real difficulty connecting with the public, which is puzzling because he embodies qualities people say they like in a leader. Here you have a guy who is endowed with lots of intelligence and understanding, yet it doesn’t appear to be giving him any advantage. It’s possible that his more reflective and thoughtful approach conveys a lack of decisiveness and certainty. He’s clearly an intellectual, but is he capable of making clear and decisive decisions when he has to? That’s the question with which voters are struggling. Obviously, the public doesn’t know Ignatieff as well as they know Mr. Harper but he’s hardly a neophyte. The Conservatives were successful in framing him in relatively simple, negative terms and he’s had a difficult time transcending those “ just-visiting, elitist-patricianguy” labels because he hasn’t created a comfortable enough picture of himself through the media. He doesn’t do better with women or younger people and, at the beginning of this campaign, they were the only voters available to him. We’ve now seen three successive leaders in Paul Martin, Stephane Dion and now Michael Ignatieff who have failed to make that connection. So maybe it is more about the political marketplace changing than it is about the leaders. His best chance now is Ontario and winning back those voters who have drifted to Mr. Layton.