When you're riding this high in the polls, and you started out almost even with the opposition it's hard to say someone has run a bad campaign even if you don't agree with their tactics. You have to give credit where credit is due.
Of course I am biased but I think McGuinty ran a pretty good campaign that did what it needed to do to keep and enhance his lead.
First of all, he made Tory's biggest weakness the focus of the campaign and played it to his strength. It was a huge issue and it resonated with Ontarians and further cemented McGuinty's reputation as the education premier who would stand up for public education.
Second, he had a progressive agenda that took a lot of the issues Hampton was highlighting (such as poverty, dental care, senior care and so on) and provided realistic solutions for them within a fully costed platform. In fact it was the most fiscally conservative of the 3 main parties (which makes these last ditch tax hike accusations incredibly lame).
Third, he consistently gave a solid defense of the Liberal record and confronted all misinformation put out about it. He was up front about his broken promises, explained his decisions well and why we are all better for it. Big contrast with Tory's equivocations about where his "efficiencies" would come from.
Fourth, he made all the appropriate parallels between Tory and Harris without stretching or going over the top (e.g., he never said Tory wanted to pick on the poor or that he was a right-wing ideologue, etc....) and he consistently provided excellent contrasts between the Liberal record with the PC and NDP records. He excellently framed his party as defenders of the public interest and the Tories as defenders of private interests.
Finally (there are more, but I'll leave that to others) he managed the media incredibly well and much better than the other two leaders. There were no real gaffes or slip-ups, he never went too negative (left that to his surrogates as appropriate and as done in 2003) and it seemed he always got the media focused on what he wanted to talk about (something neither Tory nor Hampton managed to do very well).
However, McGuinty doesn't get an A+ for two reasons. First of all, while it was appropriate to put a lot of focus on religious schools given the monumental nature of what was being proposed I still think the Liberal campaign focused on it more than it needed to. Tory was already being barraged about it each day in the media so he was already doing himself in, McGuinty could have spent more days highlighting different aspects of the Liberal platform than he did and spent less time on the religious schools issue. He would have taken away the same supporters fleeing from Tory over the religious school's issue but also possibly won over others who wanted a more clearly mapped out vision of where the Liberals will take us over the next 4 years. Yes McGuinty mapped out of lots of good policies this campaign and a vision for the future, I'm just saying he should have put a bit more focus on that over talking about Tory's Achilles heel as often as he did.
Second, even though McGuinty is not near as guilty of this as John Tory, I still felt the Liberal campaign was too focused around him. He was in all the ads, pasted on the bus and was the centre of the campaign. Given that McGuinty has what many (even conservative) commentators have agreed to be one of the strongest teams behind him in recent memory I just don't see why there wasn't more focus in his ad campaign and on the campaign trail on the strength of his team as a whole. I don't see how it would have hurt to highlight the strong team McGuinty has versus the incredibly weak and hiding teams that Hampton and Tory had. McGuinty is a great guy and as the leader he's the face of the party so he's got to be the focus of course, I just think they could have added more focus on his team too.
Other than that though, McGuinty has dominated this campaign, controlled the agenda and has gotten results and I'm looking forward to 4 more years and I hope his next campaign in 2011 earns an A+.
So in summary of all 3 leaders, McGuinty definitely ran the best campaign and for those who care to differ take it up with the people of Ontario since it's clear he's earned more support in this campaign than the other two leaders. That said, while each leader had some unique flaws in their campaign, I fault all three of them for focusing their campaigns too much around their own personalities. Who would be in a Tory or Hampton cabinet if they had won? It seems neither wanted to showcase their team. Same for McGuinty though, which makes even less sense to me given the strength of his team.
But regardless of whether you wanted them to win, you always have to give the winner credit (even if you don't agree with their tactics), as it looks pretty damn likely we will see a McGuinty majority tomorrow.
I'll be back later tonight (or tomorrow morning) with my detailed predictions and then tomorrow night we can see just how psychic I really am.
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