03/08/2014 08:45 EST | Updated 05/08/2014 05:59 EDT

Legault has to keep CAQ loyalists onside

These first few days of this campaign have focused on Coalition Avenir Quebec leader ​François Legault’s economic plan for balancing the budget, cutting taxes and reducing government spending. He released an outline of his plan on Thursday — Day 2 of the campaign — and yesterday promised to adopt a Charter for Taxpayers if he’s elected on April 7. Today, he’s talking school boards, and his plan to get rid of them.

I’ve had a chance to see Legault at several public events, glad-handing with supporters and interacting with candidates. At one of these — at a breakfast restaurant near Quebec City — I spoke with some supporters as Legault worked the room. I wanted to know what they thought of this campaign.

One supporter, Gilles Thivierge, told me he is a federalist who voted Liberal for years but in the last election wanted a change, and found the CAQ was a good fit.  Thivierge says he likes the CAQ’s focus on the economy, and he trusts ​François Legault. He really wants to vote for the CAQ again this time, but he might not…

That’s because, with polls showing the PQ could be in majority territory, he’s nervous. For him, it’s more important to vote strategically, against the PQ, than to vote for the party he says he really believes in. So depending on how things look in the days leading up to the election, Thivierge could give his vote back to the Liberals.

In 2012, it was, in part, voters like Thivierge who helped the CAQ win 19 seats and 27 per cent of the popular vote — people who abandoned their usual party loyalties with the PQ or the Liberals, to support the fledgling CAQ. But will those who were looking for change in 2012 keep their votes with the CAQ in 2014?

Across the room, I spoke with another CAQ supporter, unwavering in his support. A PQ supporter in the past, Jacques Charest said his vote stays with the CAQ this time, no matter what the polls say.

The CAQ incumbent in Chauveau, Gérard Deltell, told me he has heard from people like Thivierge, who are planning to vote strategically. To them, he says, “you are selling your vote if you do that. And that’s the worst thing you can do in a democracy.”

Both the Liberals and the PQ want to get votes from the CAQ, but when Legault was asked about that by a reporter in Trois-Rivières yesterday, he said he is confident.

“This is the moment. During the 33 days of a campaign is the moment to tell people about our ideas,” he said.

He has 29 days left to do that.