One thing Tim Hudak won’t do this campaign, a member of his team recently volunteered, is chase “shiny objects.”
It was an unsubtle reference to what happened at the start of Ontario’s last campaign, when the Progressive Conservative Leader abandoned whatever his original plan for the first week was, so he could pounce on a Liberal promise to give employers tax credits in return for hiring skilled immigrants. Mr. Hudak’s over-the-top attacks on “foreign workers” didn’t exactly prove the populist gold he thought it was, and his campaign never really got back on track.
There’s been some more recent evidence, too, of Mr. Hudak’s tendency to get a little too excited by opportunities to attack his rivals. When it was revealed that police were pursuing a criminal against Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff, he could have just gotten out of the way; instead, he overplayed his hand with an unsubstantiated claim that Kathleen Wynne had overseen criminal activity.
The idea now is that he’ll hammer away at the issues he wants to talk about – the Liberals’ record, his own proposals to shrink government and cut taxes and make it easier to do business – rather than improvise. More so than those of the other leaders, his campaign team seems to have been meticulous in plotting out a day-to-day message strategy for the duration of the race, even if the longer-than-expected campaign will force some rewriting of it.
But it’s one thing to have a plan going in, and another to stick to it in the heat of the moment. And there’s also some danger of overcompensating for past mistakes by being completely inflexible. Before this campaign is out, probably, there will be perceived gaffes by his opponents or newly-exposed liabilities for them; that’s when we’ll find out if Mr. Hudak has better learned how to pick his spots.