Yesterday, Liberal pollster Michael Marzolini spoke to the caucus retreat in Baddeck, Nova Scotia (have I mentioned it's beautiful here?), giving them all some fodder for cautious optimism. Afterwards, he sat down with me and Joan Bryden of Canadian Press and gave us a rough outline of what he told the MPs, senators and politicos. Here's some more of what he told us (while his son, Mac, pictured here, was catching starfish down at the dock.)
When asked about the overall mood of caucus toward his presentation, he said they were "very pleased with the way the bus tour has gone, very pleased with the momentum. Mr. Harper’s foundations of vote are weakening, the Liberal foundations of support are increasing. Many of the issues that are important today are issues that the Liberals have historically done well at carving out."
More on that: "There’s a lot of basic economic survival issues --looking after the family, sharing values, concern for average Canadians. We looked at to a great extent what Canadians are saying, what their worries are, what their future aspirations are, how we can help Canadians get to that stage. We looked at our political support, which is looking stronger than it was a year ago at the last summer caucus, looked at the distributions, looked at the ceilings of support, where we can go, what it takes to get us there, perceptions of leadership -- Mr. Harper’s leadership, Michael Ignatieff’s leadership, strengths and weaknesses. There’s been a lot of improvements, from a Liberal perspective, on both of those items over the last year."
His advice to Liberals about handling the ups and downs of polls and the punditocracy when Parliament returns: "I don’t think they have to be too reticent. They have great strength. ... The things I keep having to point out to both media and media pollsters is that there are five point swings and ten-point swings, especially in the dead of summer, and that a vote is a very substantial thing. Nobody changes their mind because Chantal Hebert writes a nice story about the Liberals or Stephen Harper plays a Beatles tune or somebody has a good haircut, Mr. Ignatieff wears a good suit in the Calgary Stampede. That’s not going to change a vote. It’s the foundations of the vote you have to look at."
On Harper's emerging campaign to fight an opposition "coalition." Again, Marzolini says you have to think in the long term: "By the time they [he means anyone] get elected, who knows what the lay of the land looks like. We know that it’s more difficult for the Conservatives to form a majority than it is for the Liberals to form a majority. Because of the Tory weakness in Quebec, you need additional support elsewhere in the country for the Tories. That really means you need about 14 points to form a majority, the Liberals need about 12... There’s no magic number, just a magic plurality."