Movement is not momentum

Friday, 19 October 2007 

Anyone who remembers the worm that went through the roof every time Latham opened his mouth in the 2004 debate will doubt the importance that the debate will have on the election. Howard’s insistence on an early debate this Sunday is for one reason only, for the morale of the core supporters and media who are likely to be the main ones taking notice of it. It gives Howard a chance to remind everyone why his government is wanting another term (in case they have forgotten) and having non-supporters intrude through the worm would not be helpful.

In the first week Howard has fired every shot he has, a flurry of negative ads on the main themes he will attack Labor (economy and unions) and $34bn of tax cuts. The main purpose of the first week has been to stabilise the party rather than necessarily move the polls. So it is probably more important that party supporters (and the media) think Howard has a chance than the polls moved modestly towards the government. The government was posting a 47/53 split in the Galaxy poll last June after the Therese Rein affair.

The problem for the Liberals is where to go from here. Howard is acting like this is a very short campaign rather than a very long one because the need to improve morale was urgent. Finding another $34bn of tax cuts would be difficult. Of the two themes they have attacked Labor on, probably the most effective is the one attacking the union background of Labor’s front bench. This is less because unions are seen as a major influence on Labor and Rudd (Costello was right the public would be surprised at the union background of the front bench because it doesn’t come through in policy). Rather it is effective because it highlights that this is a party that has lost its old role, giving it a feel that it comes from and relates to no firm base in society (a feeling also given by the government’s exposure of Gillard’s Socialist Forum background). Labor has avoided this by personalising its campaign around Rudd. It hasn’t really got the time to do the same for the others. However, in pursuing this attack the government’s problem is, as shown by Rudd’s relaxed ability to refer to the government’s attacks in their own advertising, sustaining such a negative campaign is difficult in an anti-politics climate.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 19 October 2007.

Filed under Tactics

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