The central problem the opposition parties have with Stephen Harper is that he defines the terms of the debate.He does that, first and foremost, by conducting an eternal campaign. His forces are continually on the attack, defining his opponents as weak, and their policies as un-Canadian.
The recently released attack ads against Bob Rae are the most recent example of his game plan. He has used the same plan against the NDP. Tim Harper writes in today's Toronto Star that:
The Conservatives have been road-testing their anti-NDP message in the House of Commons almost since late leader Jack Layton’s electoral breakthrough of May 2011.
Conservative members have risen time and again in the Commons during a time slot for statements — which are not supposed to be used for partisan attacks — to proclaim the NDP is “not fit to govern.’’
They have parodied the New Democrats as the “No Development Party’’ each time an opposition member has raised questions about the Conservatives energy policies.
They were called the “No Defence Party” when New Democrats rose in the House to question the cost and delivery schedule of the Conservatives’ sole-sourced F-35 fighter jet purchase.
There is a term for this strategy. It's called "Swiftboating;" and it takes its name from the attack Republicans waged against John Kerry. It worked with cynical effectiveness, turning a decorated war veteran into a coward. Kerry lost to a man who worked hard to avoid service in Vietnam, while he flew jets around the southern U.S.
Harper, Bob Rae has said, "throws for the head." But, if the opposition and the press stay on the election fraud story, they'll eventually sink Harper's swiftboat.