During a 2004 Stephen Harper campaign pitstop in southwestern Ontario, an intensely earnest woman kept circling the media entourage making sure we were sufficiently impressed with the future prime minister’s speech.
She stood out from the usual fan fanatics because she worked as a pediatric surgeon when not moonlighting as a political junkie.
That was Kellie Leitch then.
The Kellie Leitch now fighting to become Harper’s replacement as party leader would never recognize what she has become.
Talk to MPs who know Leitch and the first thing they’ll say is that this candidate, now fixated on values-policing immigrants, banging Donald Trump’s anti-elitism drum, advertising on alt-right American websites and producing a cringe-worthy video which oozes insincerity, is a fake Leitch.
She is, or was in her earlier life, a compassionate, charitable, charismatic personality who saved or repaired hundreds of young lives while educating other doctors on advanced surgical skills.
That does not compute with the person in this week’s bizarre Facebook production.
I wholeheartedly recommend a video viewing, not because it explains her same-old, same-old immigration-vetting policy, but because the production so perfectly captures the horror of this politically tortured soul.
As any backroom operator will tell you, the worst campaign strategy is one when the candidate doesn’t really believe what they’re selling voters. The second biggest mistake is making it obvious.
To watch Leitch flesh out her script with long eyeball-roving silences, which were meant to be dramatic but look awkwardly awful, is to see a candidate twisting on marionette strings while focus-group analysts make her lips move.
Some twisted minds will argue it is mission accomplished to produce a video that becomes must-see material in the middle of a crowded and hotly-contested leadership brawl.
But surely there’s more to lose than to gain when that exposure is driven by people seeking a laugh, a snort or mocking material for social media.
Leitch so completely misses that reality, she opened this week’s debate urging viewers to witness her own petard hoisting.
It seems unlikely Leitch has enough support to win on the first ballot and is unlikely to be anybody’s second choice on the preferential ballot. Her bid appears doomed.
Had the early incarnation of Kellie Leitch pulled off a victory, the Conservatives would’ve had a fighting chance.
But if leadership candidate Leitch seizes the reins of official opposition leader, she will suffer a caucus exodus, endless Liberal ridicule and a lingering public backlash which will defy all her surgical skills to repair.
And that’s the Last Word.