Underestimating Canada's Justin Trudeau proved fatal for Conservatives

Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:01am EDT
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By Randall Palmer

MONTREAL Oct 20 (Reuters) - The long Canadian election campaign was supposed to highlight just how inexperienced Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was and give the ruling Conservatives an ample supply of gaffes to use in attack ads.

The gambit underestimated Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of charismatic former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and, by setting expectations so low, may have helped him instead.

Trudeau's Liberals will form Canada's next government after defeating Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday.

"I think the Conservative advertising ultimately has backfired," said Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux. "He's more than met the expectations that people had of him."

The seeds of the Liberal victory were sown in July, when the party ran third in polls behind the left-leaning New Democratic Party and the Conservatives.

Before the campaign began on Aug. 2, Liberal strategists said Trudeau was being advised to go negative to counter the bruising Conservative ads that he was "just not ready."

But his inner circle, including campaign co-chairs Katie Telford and Dan Gagnier, principal adviser Gerald Butts, and chief of staff Cyrus Reporter, backed Trudeau's position that they should focus on the positive, as they see it.

"We were not surprised by the negative ads. It wasn't a new thing. But Justin Trudeau's optimistic high-road approach struck a chord," said Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal member of parliament.   Continued...