VANCOUVER — The clawing crowds, the "I love you" shouts and the countless selfies — this election is poised to demonstrate that the recipe for a winning prime ministerial campaign can include much more than just promises.
In fact, a lot of people who tried to fight their way past fellow supporters at Liberal rallies last week to catch a glimpse of Justin Trudeau seemed to know little about the contents of his platform.
Many of them who spoke to The Canadian Press said the Liberal leader has a celebrity-like appeal that should give him an edge over his main rivals — regardless of whether supporters are also interested in his policy proposals.
It's the kind of intangible that doesn't fit into the left-right spectrum.
"I'm not big into politics, but Trudeau's turned me ... to come out to something like this, which I've never done before," said Shannon Van de Keere, who drove 30 minutes across Winnipeg and stood outside in 4C temperatures for an hour in hope of getting into one of his rallies.
Van de Keere, who has always supported the NDP, thinks Trudeau has some good ideas. But on top of that, she says he definitely has star power.
"All the women are coming out (of the rally): 'I'll never wash this hand again,' " she said.
At most of his events last week, jostling partisans mobbed Trudeau in restaurants and banquet halls — often swarming him right up to the steps of his campaign bus.
In several cities, journalists had to intervene to prevent overly enthusiastic partisans from clambering onto media risers to get a better view of Trudeau during his speeches.
Early in the campaign Conservatives tried to cast Trudeau, 43, as merely a celebrity, and a person of little substance.
The party's attack ads, as well as some of leader Stephen Harper's stump speeches, referred to Trudeau simply as "Justin."
"The public views him as a celebrity and celebrities have one name: Oprah, Beyonce, Bono, Justin," the Tories' campaign spokesman Kory Teneycke said in August.
But Dominic LeBlanc, Trudeau's longtime friend and a Liberal incumbent, believes his popularity stems from his ability to connect with voters on a personal level.
LeBlanc said former Liberal prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien had that ability, as did the late NDP leader Jack Layton and also former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney — at least at the start of his political career.
"Mr. Harper and Mr. (NDP Leader Tom) Mulcair have not developed that, sort of, sincere connection on a personal level with Canadians, which I've always thought and believed Justin could — and he has," said LeBlanc after a rally in Saint John, N.B.
Last week, Lee Gathercole and her daughter Lauren were part of one of the many gauntlets of screaming fans that Trudeau walked through on his way to a photo-op.
"He's the son of a legend and look at him, he's gorgeous," Gathercole said in Welland, Ont., where her daughter got a Trudeau autograph.
"He's young, he's fresh and everyone's gotten tired of the same old mantra. It really hasn't gotten us anywhere."
In Hamilton, college student Spencer Wylie, 19, tried unsuccessfully to make his way through a crowd of schoolmates to meet Trudeau.
"Man, I was getting pushed around in there when I went to shake his hand," said Wylie, who likes the Liberals' promise to keep the retirement age at 65 as a way to help young people find jobs after graduation.
Colleen Rose, who attended an Oktoberfest event headlined by Trudeau in Mannheim, Ont., said she's voting for her local Liberal candidate, whom she has a lot of respect for.
"And the fact that his boss is going to be the cutest prime minister in Canada just is the cherry on the sundae."
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In Photos: Canada Election 2015
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