Will Tim Hudak stand by his discredited jobs figure?

Tim Hudak is not a politician who easily abandons a particular line once he has settled on it.

This is the same Progressive Conservative Leader, after all, who spent the first week of the 2011 election campaign insisting the Liberals wanted to reward employers for hiring “foreign workers” –  long past the point at which it had become obvious he was misrepresenting the governing party’s proposal, and that he was doing himself no favours in the process.

It’s no great surprise, then, that on Wednesday he stood by his claim that his policies would create a million jobs, even as  it become inescapable that this claim is predicated on a laughable mathematical error. And considering that the Tories have spent millions of dollars advertising that precise claim already, and named their platform after it, Mr. Hudak may very well keep standing by his number.

If so, his encounters with reporters could get ugly in a hurry. And the Tories also have the small problem that, even as they try to present their leader as the most serious of the three vying for the Premier’s office, his favourite promise has become the fodder for jokes.

But the calculation, on the Tories’ part, may be that their supporters won’t care.

They may be right about that, given the polarization of the electorate. Most of the Ontarians inclined to vote for Mr. Hudak believe so much more in him and his policies than with his opponents and theirs that there is almost nothing he could do to lose them at this point. And most other people already don’t trust him, so this probably won’t make much difference with them either.

Despite his campaign being far more about motivation than persuasion, though, Mr. Hudak has still been trying to win over at least a few swing voters – including some moderately right-leaning voters (notably in the Greater Toronto Area) who could still vote either Liberal or PC, and those (particularly in the province’s southwest) who very much want a change from the Liberals but haven’t decided whether to cast their votes with the Tories or the New Democrats.

To the extent that Mr. Hudak has been trying to reach at all beyond his base, it’s been by presenting himself as the man with the plan. His message (which of course also plays well with dyed-in-the-wool conservatives) is that he may not be the most likable of the party leaders, but he’s the one willing to tell hard truths and do difficult things to help get Ontario out of a rut.

For Mr. Hudak to go out day after day and continue to stand by a claim that even members of his own campaign team acknowledge is inaccurate may not be especially helpful in presenting himself as a straight shooter. And it could sway at least a few voters, as well, who want change from the Liberals but also are nervous about putting their trust in him.

Not that acknowledging he’s spent the past several weeks campaigning on a promise he shouldn’t have made would exactly firm up his leadership credentials among the doubters, either. For a leader reluctant to publicly correct himself at the best of times, the inclination will be to just try to ride it out.

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Update: The best play for a party in a situation like this is to change the channel, if it has any ability to do so. The Tories may have at least partly achieved that on Thursday morning, by releasing documents showing a recent and unannounced cabinet decision to bail out MaRS, the not-for-profit research corporation in downtown Toronto.

They were clearly waiting for an opportune moment to release these documents, and my guess is that all things being equal they would have done so before next Tuesday’s debate. In any event, while not exactly easy to wrap one’s head around, the MaRS story is odd enough that it looks like Thursday might not be a very good day for Tim Hudak or Kathleen Wynne.

Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.

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Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)