On Saturday the Prime Minister was Wile E Coyote — the hungry predator whose cunning plans are never quite cunning enough to catch the Roadrunner. But with the results of the latest Galaxy poll, commentators might wonder whether the campaign is going to become a tortoise and the hare story.
The Australian thinks there might be a trend in the polls — if it continues:
…it means the Government has finally achieved electoral traction after the onset of voter infatuation with Mr Rudd. History shows Labor must now prepare itself for the reality that the Coalition’s fightback has begun.
Reading polls is a tricky business so let’s not get into a debate about what the latest poll means or doesn’t mean (join the debate at Bryan Palmer’s place if you’re keen). But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Oz is right and the Coalition is slowly gaining ground in the polls. And just for fun, let’s assume they can win. Is there a strategy that can get them there?
The tortoise strategy is to methodically identify and neutralise all the issues that your opponent might successfully use against you in the campaign proper. If you are being attacked on workplace relations, then soften your policy. If you are being attacked for not addressing climate change, then address climate change. Then when the election finally arrives, with luck all these issues will have become non-issues. Without a clear conflict between your positions, the media will lose interest in the issue and the election will be about something else.
Naturally your opponent will accuse you of backflipping. They will say that you don’t really mean it and that you will say or do anything to win. But will undecided voters have been paying enough attention to know what policy you had four or five months ago? Will they care? Unless the opposition can develop new issues and positions to replace the ones you’ve killed off, there’s a chance you’ll be able to catch up.
So your opponent may steak ahead in the polls but allow you to identify and neutralise the issues that put them there. To beat a tortoise, you need to hold something back for a sprint to the finish.