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Don Martin: Suddenly, Scheer is on trial by fire
Talk to a true-blue Conservative for more than five minutes and it inevitably comes out.
Their eyes glaze over, they sigh and say something like: “Imagine if we had Rona Ambrose or Lisa Raitt or Peter MacKay as leader. The majority would be in the bag.”
But the leader they’ve got, Andrew Scheer, had a simple path to victory – and it looks like he’s strolling toward a cliff.
Scheer was never supposed to be the big headline in this campaign. Justin Trudeau’s record was the story.
All Scheer had to do was catch every football, post a few easily-understood policies in the window, unleash effective attack ads and calmly watch the Liberals sink under the weight of public weariness with their preachy prime minister.
But suddenly Scheer is on trial by fire. It’s his career background, his religious beliefs, his citizenship and his wince-worthy wiggling-about when confronted with tough questions about himself that’s under scrutiny.
He is gulping on centre stage. Trudeau is clapping from the stands.
Going into the campaign, everyone knew the nice-guy Conservative leader was a Scheer force of well-concealed personality. As one party official described him: “I didn’t know gray came in so many colours.”
And by virtue of winning the leadership on the sway of social conservative votes, his aides must’ve known he was vulnerable to attack on the abortion issue.
But his team has failed to neutralize problem stories in advance or draft coherent leader-like answers to predictable questions, the worst being that ‘nobody asked me’ when queried about why he never revealed his dual citizenship.
And then there’s his policy deficit problem.
The Conservatives had a great gotcha by revealing it takes two campaign planes to hoist Team Trudeau into a battle over climate change plans.
But Scheer’s a-ha! moment was blunted by having a limp word salad for a climate change plan when voters want a firm green plank nailed deep into every leader’s platform.
For having a leader reeling from his resume, a platform nobody remembers and attack ads that lack punch, the Conservative bus wheels are clearly starting to wobble.
If this keeps up for the next two weeks, it won’t be Justin Trudeau winning the election.
Andrew Scheer will lose it.
That’s the last Word.