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Mulcair Will Usurp Harper...If the Attack Ads Don't Get Him First

The polls have spoken -- Stephen Harper is unpopular, and will surely be replaced in no time. But by whom? Thankfully the pundit brigade have lots of fun ideas -- Spoiler Alert: Probably Mulcair. That is, if the Tories' new attack ads against him don't get in the way. Although these televised attacks are a little lacklustre compared to the Conservatives' greatest hits.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed living under Stephen Harper for the last six years, because he's finished, donezo, kaput. A slew of recent recent polls have yielded unanimously bad numbers for the prime minister -- a 35 per cent support rate here, a 49 per cent disapproval rating there -- and since we all know polls don't change over time, the only remaining loose end is determining who exactly is gonna depose him. Thankfully the pundit brigade have lots of fun ideas.

With Canadian politics being such a disjointed mess at the moment, Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star offers a helpfully disjointed article that's practically a cheat-sheet of media truisms about how we're supposed to view the hottest not-Harpers of the day. For those in a hurry, the answers are: Tom Mulcair -- moderate, Bob Rae -- statesman, Martha Hall Findlay -- brilliant, and Justin Trudeau -- promising (though students' answers may vary on that last one). As far as summer memes go, these catchy tropes are no "Call Me Maybe," but I'm sure we'll be hearing them just as loudly and often.

Speaking of Justin Trudeau, let's speak of Justin Trudeau. Everyone else is, after all. With the Liberal leadership contest expected to "heat up" this summer, July will be a real make-or-break time for Justin to introduce himself to the five remaining Canadians who haven't already heard of him, especially if he hopes to compete with the race's latest powerhouse candidate: his dead father's baby mama. Talk about a story rich in incestuous Ottawa insider intrigue! Maybe Andew Coyne will write a column about it -- unless he's worried about offending his cousin.

Jon Ivison at the Post, meanwhile, is so far ahead of himself he's actually wondering how Prime Minister Mulcair will deal with the Senate. His conclusion, the "NDP could start to appoint its own senators," isn't exactly earth-shattering, but hey, it's still fun to think the NDP might someday be capable of appointing people to a body higher than the Manitoba Boxing Commission.

* * *

At this point, Tory attack ads against opposition leaders are so eagerly anticipated the Conservatives may as well throw red carpet premieres. The content may be little more than cloying, manipulative drivel filled with predictable affectations and botched attempts at cuteness, but hey, some people really love that stuff. Just ask Wes Anderson.

This week saw the debut of the Conservatives' first anti-Mulcair ad, but reviews have been mixed. Critics agree this latest offering, with its reference to Mulcair's "economic theories," is a far more complex and challenging work than previous blockbusters Not a Leader and He Didn't Come Back For You (as well as the under-appreciated indie sleeper hit, He Couldn't Run a Province), but caution such high-minded pretentiousness could prove a risky move with audiences.

"Simply put, the Tories have adopted a far more policy-based strategy when it comes to defining this leader of the opposition," writes Dan Arnold of Calgary Grit fame, arguing that the ad's focus on "NDP policies" marks a dramatic departure from their historic oeuvre of unflattering photographs of people shrugging. I mean, it "doesn't even contain so much as a gratuitous 'he's out of touch' pot shot," if you can believe that, says Dan.

Chris Selley at the Post, however, thinks the ad's greatest sin is not boldly departing from staid convention enough. The "tone here is traditional Tory-sneer," he sniffs. "It's like it came out of a template." Agreed. Could it be more 2008? Where's the "why so serious?" reference?

"It looks like it's back to the drawing board for the attack ad producers," sasses Andy Raida at Yahoo!

Of course, the good thing about televised attack ads in this era of Netflix and TiVo is that almost no normal people actually see them anymore. In fact, Canada might be the first country in the world whose political commercials exist almost entirely as irono-hipster Facebook memes.

Sensitive to this fact, the CBC's great Kady O'Malley was courteous enough to start a Twitter hashtag to track offline sightings of the Mulcair spot among poor saps who still watch commercial TV. At at my last count, the dozen or so tweets were about equal parts actual sightings and equal parts media types retweeting each other with pride at how clever the whole idea was.

Who said negative ads can't be uplifting?

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