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June 15, 2005
The Stephen Harper Road Show, Coming Soon

Yesterday morning I wrote that Stephen Harper needs to get out and engage the Canadian public personally in order to improve his image and the Conservative Party's accessibility to the electorate. Whether the issue of his declining polling numbers lies with a hostile media or himself, clearly Harper needs to actively work to improve the situation. Apparently, I get results (yes, I'm joking), as the Tory leader announced today that he will start making personal appearances around the country:

Get ready for the new and improved Stephen Harper.

The federal Conservative leader will criss-cross the country this summer to bolster his image and counter complaints from some Tories about a recent dramatic decline in party popularity.

People, for all kinds of reasons, have a misperception of Harper, says Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay. And, MacKay adds, Harper knows it.

"He's also come to understand that people have to like you," MacKay said outside the weekly Conservative caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

Clearly, Harper needs to demonstrate that he can respond not just to his own caucus but also to the Canadian people. For those who blame the Canadian media filter for the problem, which may well be true, the solution cannot be for Harper to remain in Ottawa and ignore that. By getting out on the speaking circuit and pressing the flesh, Harper will bypass the media filter that Canadians mistrust and present himself in the best possible light.

Another conservative leader made a career out of doing exactly that. While significant differences exist between Harper and Ronald Reagan, the media filter affected them both in a similar manner. Reagan understood that he had to go over the heads of the reporters and editors (and Congress) and talk directly to the American voters to build his support base. People mistrusted Reagan and accused him of hidden agendas at every step of his political career, but his superior command of public speaking and his enthusiasm for reaching out directly to voters always undermined the conspiratorial blush his political opponents attempted to cast on him.

Expect the Tories to eschew confidence motions for a while, at least until Harper has had the chance to spend significant time working the ridings and re-introducing himself to Canada. If he truly has what it takes to lead the Tories back to power, the party will know it by that time.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 15, 2005 1:28 PM

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